7-year-old’s hearing restored with cochlear implants

Sanford Health providers in Dakotas and Minnesota coordinate girl’s care

7-year-old’s hearing restored with cochlear implants

It’s a special day for Kentaleen Akiuo at the Sanford Audiology clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Smiling from ear to ear, the 7-year-old can once again hear.

“When she got sick, that’s what happened. She got hearing loss,” mom JoeAnn Wengu said about her daughter’s traumatic journey.

Hearing loss in both ears

After falling off her bike, Kentaleen went to the Sanford Worthington Medical Center near her home in Minnesota. While a CT scan was negative, she’d later show new symptoms including hearing loss. Turns out she had meningitis.

“I saw her when we were in the (Sanford Children’s) Castle when she was hospitalized,” said Sanford audiology specialist Jessica Hagg, Au.D.

“I diagnosed her with bilateral hearing loss after having meningitis, which was a very hard topic to have with her family to know that she could not hear at all.”

The young girl, just starting school, needed cochlear implant surgery fast.

“They said she’s going to get surgery. I was really, really scared,” Wengu said.

From 0% to 89%

Sanford Fargo in North Dakota is home to the region’s only board-certified ear, nose and throat physicians performing same-day, cochlear implants. Matthew Miller, M.D., and team do more than 100 a year.

“We are the only implant center in North Dakota and extend into much of northern Minnesota, eastern Montana, and also into South Dakota,” Dr. Miller said.

“I think that’s one of the main benefits of working with Sanford and in the Sanford system. We really do cast a broad net over the region.”

Bringing access to care to people across the Sanford footprint.

“Today, with both of her ears on, she went from 0% to 89% of understanding speech in a quiet room with no background noise, which is fantastic,” Dr. Hagg said.

An accomplishment that sounds great to this family.

“I was thinking she’s not going to hear anymore,” Wengu said. “Excited for what they do to her. Really happy. They are very good.”

Dr. Miller said, “nothing makes me happier than seeing our patients out there with their processors on for the world and having folks come up and ask them about it and just kind of serve as ambassadors for the program as well.”

The doctor sure has one smiley ambassador with Kentaleen, who knows what she’ll be doing on her upcoming birthday.

“Chatting with my friends,” Kentaleen said.

Dr. Hagg added, “It makes me so proud. You can tell with every person if they’ve found their profession that they love. It just comes out in everything they do. Patients, first and foremost, are my reason why I do this.”

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Posted In Children's, Ear, Nose & Throat, Fargo, Sioux Falls, Worthington