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Bicyclist rides 10,500 miles to raise funds for cochlear implants

by Amy Hamaker
Jacob Landis received his cochlear implant from surgeon John Niparko, who joined Landis during a portion of his ride.
Jacob Landis received his cochlear implant from surgeon John Niparko, who joined Landis during a portion of his ride.

Early childhood is a time for discovery, playing with friends and learning more about the world. But for Jacob Landis, it was also a time for that world to go silent.

At the age of 2, Landis took his first hearing test when his mother felt that his speech development was slower than normal. Landis’ hearing was compromised, and over the next three years, his hearing continued to deteriorate. As a result, he was fitted with his first hearing aids in kindergarten. By fourth grade, Landis had lost his hearing entirely.

After more than 600 appointments with otolaryngology doctors, audiologists and other specialists, Landis was finally referred to surgeon John Niparko. In June 1999, Niparko performed cochlear implant surgery on Landis, who was just 10 years old.

Cochlear implants are medical devices that can bring a sense of sound to those who are deaf or very hard of hearing. The implants are surgically placed under the skin behind the ear. They do not amplify sound like conventional hearing aids — instead, they deliver electrical impulses to the auditory nerve, which sends information to the brain.

Now an adult, Landis helps cochlear implant candidates and speaks at medical conferences and to college engineering students about design and function of the devices. Landis is also a serious baseball fan and an avid bicycler, and he recently combined these passions in a ride across the country to benefit others.

In April, Landis began a coast-to-coast, 10,500-mile cycling tour of all 30 major league baseball stadiums to raise awareness and money for the hearing impaired who would benefit from cochlear implants but cannot afford it. Having started at National Park in Annapolis, Md., Landis will end his tour on Sept. 24 at Marlins Stadium in Miami.

Although Niparko gave Landis his cochlear implant at Johns Hopkins 14 years ago, he jumped at the opportunity to ride in support of his former patient and such an important cause.

“Jacob’s effort in raising national awareness of what can be done to restore hearing to deaf children has been remarkable,” said Niparko, chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and holder of the Leon J. Tiber and David S. Alpert Chair in Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “He’s telling a story of his life made possible by advances in implantable technologies. On our ride, more than 30 riders were inspired by his courage and leadership.”

Funds raised by the ride will go to existing foundations and hospitals that work with cochlear implant candidates. For more information, visit www.jacobsride.com

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