Apelian Center celebrates 10 years of making life beautiful

Maddie thanks LIJ for allowing her to hear again.

One morning about eight years ago, Modesto Rivera, 51, of Mineola, woke up unable to hear. After trying various medications and hearing aids, Mr. Rivera received a cochlear implant a little more than a year ago at LIJ Medical Center, thanks to a fund created by the Hagedorn Foundation.

Cochlear Implant Restores Hearing

During a news conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of LIJ’s Apelian Cochlear Implant Center, Mr. Rivera spoke emotionally about how the loss of his hearing affected his relationships at home and at work. “Now,” he said, “the best sound for me is my daughter’s voice. Everything is beautiful again.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Paul Kim, of Bayside, who spoke on behalf of his 3-year-old daughter, Madeline. Maddie was born at LIJ on Christmas Eve 2007. Thanks to the North Shore-LIJ Health System’s policy of screening all newborns for hearing proficiency, Maddie’s parents learned that their baby daughter was hearing impaired. Hearing aids only amplified sound and offered no real solution. So in August 2009, when Maddie was 18 months old, she received a cochlear implant. Now attending a specialized school for the deaf, Maddie is an energetic child, as she proved by holding up a hand-drawn sign during a news conference that read “I can hear … thank you, LIJ.” Severe-to-profound hearing impairments affect more than three million Americans. To date, the Apelian Cochlear Implant Center has performed more than 250 implant surgeries, according to Andrea Vambutas, MD, the center’s medical director.

Cochlear implants are surgically placed within the inner ear, directly stimulating the ending of the auditory nerve. The design of an implant includes an external microphone, processor and transmitter, as well as an internal receiver/stimulator and electrode array.

Following the operation, patients return to the center within four weeks to have the implant stimulated. Additional follow-up care includes periodic evaluations to assist in gauging efficacy and progress and determining rehabilitation, as well as occasional visits to make other adjustments to the implant.

Hagedorn Foundation Funds Surgery

To help cover the cost of cochlear implant surgery for hearing-impaired individuals, like Mr. Rivera, who cannot afford it, the Hagedorn Foundation partnered with LIJ Medical Center to establish a grants program. “Mr. Rivera’s outcome was made possible through the generosity of the Hagedorns,” Dr. Vambutas said. Speaking of the life-altering impact of cochlear impacts, Mr. Kim said, “The best part of all this is that I can tell my daughter that I love her — and she can hear me.”

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