Father Receives "Life-Altering" Hearing Implant | Loyola Medicine
Thursday, July 16, 2020

Father Receives One of First “Life-Altering” Hearing Implants in Illinois at Loyola Medicine

image of Douglas Kerkman

MAYWOOD, IL. –For 22 years, Douglas Kerkman lived with significant hearing loss in his right ear, the result of a cholesteatoma (a benign, infectious cyst) that significantly damaged his auditory ossicles, or “ear bones,” the three tiny bones in the middle ear.

“I just adapted over the years,” says Mr. Kerkman, a 58-year-old, married father of two from Algonquin, Illinois, of his hearing loss. “I became a pro at positioning myself where to sit. People always had to be on my left. And I would try to read people’s lips.

“I was in front of people and customers all the time. But I couldn’t hear people approaching me, and I felt like people thought I was ignoring them,” says Mr. Kerkman, the co-owner of an aviation products company. “And I’m not that person. I’m always open. I’m boisterous. I just felt like I was mistreating people.”

Last fall, Mr. Kerkman received a call from his doctor, Sam J. Marzo, MD, Loyola Medicine otolaryngologist, and dean and professor, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, letting him know about a first-of-its-kind hearing implant system that he believed could restore Mr. Kerkman’s ability to fully hear.

Unlike other hearing devices, the Cochlear ™ Osia® 2 System sends sound vibrations directly to the inner ear, or cochlea.

“The benefit of this device is that it bypasses the middle ear and ear canal, sending vibrations directly to the inner ear (cochlea), which is critical for patients who have had frequent ear infections or damage to the ear bone,” says Dr. Marzo.

The system, a new category of bone conduction hearing solutions, includes an exterior processor, which magnetically attaches to a surgically implanted receiver/stimulator. The processor captures exterior sounds, sending them to the receiver, which decodes and delivers the vibrations directly to the cochlea.

The receiver was surgically implanted underneath Mr. Kerkman’s scalp late last year—an outpatient procedure done under mild sedation. He then returned to Loyola Medicine in 2020 to receive the exterior processor, which matches Mr. Kerkman’s hair color.

Dr. Marzo turned on the system, “and boom, I could hear. I could actually hear shoes shuffling on the carpet.”

He says the device is “life altering. I have the ability to hear 360 again.”

Mr. Kerkman says he can easily and painlessly remove and magnetically reattach the exterior component to the interior implant. The device is controlled through a mobile phone application which allows him to modulate sound, and when necessary, diminish background noise.

“It’s been very easy. There have been no functionality problems; no frustration in trying to learn the new technology. When I’m at work, I don’t think about it at all.”

The exterior processor is often “a conversation piece,” says Mr. Kerkman. “But I’m glad people can see it because now I can share my story.”

Mr. Kerkman also lauded Dr. Marzo, who was confident that the new system would restore his hearing. “When you go to see your doctor, and he lights up talking about a new treatment, you know you’re involved in something special.”

The Cochlear ™ Osia® 2 System received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval on Dec. 11, 2019, and is recommended for anyone age 12 or older with single-sided deafness (SSD), conductive or mixed hearing loss. Dr. Marzo said the system is particularly effective for those individuals who cannot wear a hearing aid.

Mr. Kerkman is one of just three recipients in Illinois and 15 in the U.S., to date, to receive the new implants.

Dr. Marzo has no financial interest in Cochlear Limited or the Cochlear ™ Osia® 2 System.

To schedule a hearing test at Loyola, please call the Loyola audiology department at 708-216-3821. If you would like to find out if you are a candidate for this new hearing system, please call 888-584-7888 to make an appointment with a Loyola ear surgeon.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.