CHENNAI: Hearing is something that is essential for absolutely anybody. But in cases where young children have congenital defects that lead to them losing out on the sense of sound because their external ear is not formed properly, it is a tragedy indeed. Luckily, this can be corrected quite easily by a combination of simple surgical skills and acquiring the advanced medical implants that are available in the market today. We have done nearly 1, 000 cochlear implants under the CM’s Health Insurance Scheme of which half were done this year itself.
For instance, this week we operated on a child from Mauritius who had absolutely no pinna (external part of the ear) and though the inner ear was relatively fine, hearing was reduced by some 30 to 40 per cent, at the very least. We must understand that when a sensory ability like hearing is impaired at a young age, the development of that sense is greatly affected.
These things have to be caught early and rectified, or else it may be relatively more difficult to correct when they reach their teens or even early adulthood.
This field of implant otology has been rapidly progressing in quality and sophistication over the years. Hearing devices like hearing aids, baha implant, middle ear implant and cochlear implants are examples of this improvement in technology and hearing functions. These devices are implanted into the human body and it is important for the ear surgeons (otologists) to be abreast with the implants and the latest technology used in the surgical enhancement of quality of life of such aurally challenged patients.
For this Mauritian girl, who was referred to me by the doctors there, we decided to try the new Baha 4 attract system. This features a completely implantable portion which is invisible below the skin and has a magnetic link between the external sound processor and the internal component. Baha is specifically used to help children born with congenital deformities, which makes their ear canals unsuitable for conventional hearing aids. Not only is this completely implantable under the skin behind the ear, it uses a magnetic link to transfer the sound from outside to the inner ear — resulting in near perfect hearing.
Dr Ravi Ramalingam works with KKR ENT Hospital and Research Institute