A growing number of UAE patients are benefitting from the increased local availability of high-tech devices to treat hearing loss, the top ENT specialist at Healthpoint, a leading specialty hospital in Abu Dhabi, said today.
The World Health Organization estimates that 5.2 percent of the world’s population suffers from hearing loss. According to Dr. Bernard Hoffman, Head of the ENT department at Healthpoint, many patients will find their condition will grow worse over time. As hearing deteriorates, the most common treatment – wearing a hearing aid to amplify sound entering the ear – will gradually become less effective.
However, Dr. Hoffman says more advanced devices are giving patients hope of a more lasting solution, and are increasingly available in the UAE. Among the most successful alternatives is the Cochlear Implant which, rather than simply amplifying sound, uses electrical signals to stimulate the auditory nerve.
“The exponential growth of technology has given individuals a new lease, by removing any obstacles that stop them from experiencing life with all of their physical faculties, and in good health,” said Dr. Hoffman.
At the age of 32, Eisa Khamis is one UAE patient who can finally hear clearly, thanks to advances in technology. Eisa’s condition began to take effect when he was only eight years old, gradually getting worse until a hearing aid was of little help in breaking through the silence. With the loss of hearing, his speech also lost some of its clarity.
Eisa suffers from progressive sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, brought on by an enlarged vestibular aqueduct. This is the area that houses the cochlea, which detects sound waves, enabling us to hear. In December 2017, Eisa underwent a quick surgery at Healthpoint to fit a Cochlear Implant. Dr. Hoffman says the results have been dramatic. It was like Eisa had never suffered from hearing loss at all.
“Eisa was emotional when we activated the Cochlear Implant for the first time, as he couldn’t imagine the possibility of being able to hear with such clarity again,” said Dr. Hoffman. “The implant not only has the ability to provide close-to-real sound transmission, but can also connect to other forms of technology, and integrate into the patient’s everyday life, thus enhancing the overall quality of living. Such is the leap technology has taken from the humble hearing aid that was Eisa’s only option back in 1994.”
The Cochlear Implant treats sensorineural hearing loss, caused by damage to the nerves that process sound and which is the most common form of hearing loss, rather than the conductive hearing loss caused by a blockage or obstruction within the ear.
The device has two parts. An external part works like a hearing aid by collecting the sound, which it transmits via the skin to the receiver or stimulator implanted surgically into the inner ear. The receiver converts the sound signals into electric signals which stimulate the hearing nerve.
Eisa is carrying one of the latest versions, which is slimmer than early models, allowing for better stimulation of the nerves and resulting in better sound quality. It can also connect to smart devices for fine-tuning, and sound levels can be pre-adjusted depending on the environment or ambient sounds.