By Poh Boon Fong
Audiologist, B. Audiology (Hons) UKM, MASH (M’sia), AAA (USA)
Prevalence of Hearing Loss
As many as 3 of every 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss and another 3 will acquire hearing impairment in early childhood due to illness, infection or accident. Babies can’t tell you if they can’t hear. Babies who do not hear our voices, a lullaby or a nursery rhyme may have problems learning to talk. As for the elderly population, about 1 in 3 individuals over the age of 65 years old have some degree of hearing loss.
What is Cochlear Implant Programme?
Cochlear implant is an alternative which provides greater access of hearing to those suffering from severe to profound hearing loss. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that restores partial hearing to the deaf. It is surgically implanted in the inner ear and activated by a device worn outside the ear. Unlike a hearing aid, it does not make sound louder or clearer. Instead, the device bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve, allowing individuals who are severely hearing impaired to receive sound. Cochlear Implant Programme involves the expertise of an Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeon, audiologist and speech-language therapist/auditory verbal therapist and other allied health professionals such as occupational therapist and psychologist.
Who can benefit from a cochlear implant?
Individuals who are
- severely or profoundly deaf
- who receive little or no benefit from hearing aids
- who communicate through hearing and/or speech-reading
- who want to be part of the hearing world
- are the best candidates for cochlear implantation.
LSC Cochlear Implant programme
The Cochlear Implant programme was initiated by LohGuanLye SPECIALISTS CENTRE (LSC) in 2005. It was then, the only centre in the northern region providing cochlear implant surgery including the full rehabilitation programme.
Cochlear implant provides a sound beginning to the deaf children and new light of hope for the deaf adults. This programme entails a lot of planning, counselling, long rehabilitation process following the operation, hard work, dedication and commitment from the team.
Since then, the LSC cochlear implant programme has successfully helped 62 children and 4 adults to hear again. We have conducted 84 surgeries and rehabilitation programmes with 48 unilateral and 18 bilateral cochlear implant recipients.
Helen Keller once said,
“Deafness is worse than blindness.”
She felt she could compensate for her lack of eyesight by learning Braille, but there was no getting around her inability to hear. She found deafness to be a much greater handicap than blindness.
- We have the first bilateral cochlear implant recipient in Malaysia.
- We have the oldest cochlear implant recipient in Malaysia who was implanted when he was 78 years old.
- Our youngest patient was implanted at the age of 13 months
LSC Cochlear Implant Parents’ Support Group
The LSC Cochlear Implant Parents’ Support Group was established in 2006, to serve as a platform for sharing information and experiences among parents and professionals. LSC is offering a comprehensive cochlear implant programme which focus on the success of the children by working closely with their family members. With this support group, we hope to bring involved parents together to share their experiences, success stories, and discuss concerns or problems with the team.
We have also conducted educational sessions and workshops for parents to learn about devices trouble-shooting, home practice, behavioural training, welfare card application and various parent-child development.
Current situation in the country
- There is a lack of awareness among the public that hearing impairment can be now surgically treated.
- Early diagnosis and intervention is crucial for the success of cochlear implant patients. Therefore, patients should not wait for too long without getting any help. For example, the golden age to learn language is from 0-3 years old. Children implanted after 3 years old might have developed behavioural problems, cognitive and speech language delayed.
- Adults who acquire hearing impairment due to accident, aging or medication were not aware that cochlear implant will be able to restore their hearing so that they can be functional in society again.
LohGuanLye SPECIALISTS CENTRE (LSC) will continue to provide more speech and hearing services to the needy community in the hope that those with hearing and speech problems will be detected early and receive appropriate intervention. Without appropriate opportunities to learn language, children who are hard of hearing or with speech disorders will fall behind their hearing and speaking peers in language, cognition, and social-emotional development. Such delays may result in academic under-achievement, lower educational level, unemployment or lower lifetime earning and thus they will be unable to contribute optimally to the socio-economy of the country. We hope the government and NGOs will consider funding the Cochlear Implant Programme and subsidise the cost of hearing devices because the money needed to support a hearing impaired child in the long run, is much more expensive. We urge the government to revise our educational programme to help these children to learn better in the mainstream class. We also hope the society will help these children to grow and be successful in life. Together, we provide the gift of hearing to the community.