Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California continues to innovate, bringing academic-level care to patients in a community hospital setting.

Dr. Courtney Voelker meets with Zara and her parents before surgery - Saint John's Health Center
Dr. Courtney Voelker meets with Zara and her parents before her surgery at Saint John’s Health Center

Dr. Courtney Voelker, MD, Ph.D., Director, Otology/Neurotology-Lateral Skull Base Surgery, and Director, Adult & Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI), performed the a bilateral cochlear implant on a 7-month-old baby a Saint John’s Health Center on March 18th, 2024.

According to Dr. Voelker, Zara is expected to live a normal life, learning language and responding to sound normally. A cochlear implant is a highly advanced electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing.


“Today will be the first day of a new chapter in her life.”

– Courtney Voelker, MD, Ph.D.


Hearing loss and early intervention

Early intervention for hearing loss is crucial for several reasons. Hearing is essential for speech and language development, especially in children. Without early intervention and treatment, children with hearing loss may experience delays in language acquisition, which can have long-term effects on their academic performance and social development. Early intervention can help mitigate these delays by providing access to auditory input and language stimulation at a critical period of brain development.

“The earlier that a parent can get their child to a specialist for identification as well as intervention, the better.”

– Courtney Voelker, MD, Ph.D.

Early intervention can prevent or reduce the impact of social and emotional difficulties associated with hearing loss. Children with untreated hearing loss may struggle to communicate effectively with their peers, leading to feelings of isolation and frustration. Early intervention can help children develop the communication skills necessary for building relationships and participating in social activities.
Cochlear implants are a highly effective treatment for individuals with severe to profound hearing loss, including children and babies. These devices bypass the damaged parts of the inner ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve, allowing the individual to perceive sound. Research has shown that cochlear implants can significantly improve speech and language development in children with hearing loss, especially when implanted at a young age.

Zara’s Amazing Story

Dr. Voelker provides a recap for Zara’s surgery.

How effective ar cochlear impants?

The effectiveness of cochlear implants depends on various factors, including the age of implantation and the individual’s auditory and cognitive abilities. For children and babies, early implantation is key to maximizing the benefits of the device. Studies have shown that children who receive cochlear implants before the age of 18 months demonstrate significantly better outcomes in speech and language development compared to those implanted at a later age. This highlights the importance of early intervention and timely access to cochlear implantation for children with hearing loss.

Dr. Courtney Voelker and her surgical team - Saint John's Health Center
Dr. Courtney Voelker and her surgical team perform the 1st bilateral cochlear impant on a 7-month-old at Saint John’s Health Center.

Dr. Voelker, a board certified neurotologist and otolaryngology surgeon, treats both adult and pediatric patients for a variety of inner ear conditions.

Learn more about Dr. Courtney Voelker at Pacific Neuroscience Institute:

Learn more about PNI’s Cochlear Implant Program for Hearing Loss:

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