DEAFNESS is one of the most difficult disabilities as it deprives an individual from speaking and hearing.
While hearing aids do help, they are not for patients with severe hearing loss because the kit amplifies sounds to be louder but not clearer.
Today, however, there is greater hope for individuals with such hearing impairment with the cochlear implants.
This electronic device restores partial hearing to the deaf. It is surgically implanted into the inner ear and is activated by a device worn outside the ear.
Unlike a hearing aid, it does not make sounds louder as the device bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve, allowing patients to receive the sound.
It’s a process where an external sound processor captures sounds and converts them into digital signals, which are sent to the internal implant.
The internal implant converts signals into electrical energy and delivers this directly to the spiral ganglion cells bypassing the damaged hair cells within the cochlear where the hearing nerve delivers the signal to the brain, and sound is heard.
LohGuanLye Specialists Centre consul-tant ENT, Head and Neck surgeon Datuk Dr Lim Seh Guan said cochlear implants had revolutionised the way individuals with the hearing impairments were aided as they totally gave them a sense of involvement with daily life, something which they were detached from.
Dr Lim has done 84 cochlear implant surgeries to date.
He said while the technology had been available for more than a decade, there seemed to be more awareness today for such implants as people were seeking better hearing capabilities for hearing impairments caused by nerve damage, something which could not be rectified years ago.
Furthermore, the hospital has also introduced the revolutionary ‘Rondo’ by Aus-trian company Medel, which is fully waterproof.
Rondo, said Dr Lim, lets you connect wirelessly to a wide variety of audio-streaming systems.
“It makes space for glasses, sunglasses or your favourite accessory, and is easy to conceal,” said Dr Lim.
While the cochlear implant technology has helped thousands around the world lead a better life, the implants are not cheap as each surgery costs somewhere between RM70,000 and RM100,000.
The Rondo itself costs RM20,000.
“Each cochlear implant electronic device is man-made as it’s highly sensitive and involves a delicate process, thus the heavy cost,” he added.
He said: “We have done implant surgeries on patients aged from three months old to 74 with a 100% success rate.”