When a part of our body somehow struggles to fully function, we should not hesitate to have it checked.
Dr. Barrie Tan, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon practicing at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore, reminded in an interview with BusinessWorld that patients should not disregard deterioration in terms of the function of their organs.
This is very true with the ears, the organ that enables our hearing as well as brings us a sense of balance. When one gets to a point where they raise the volume of their devices to hear the sound, or when people have to speak louder to them, a possibility of hearing loss has to be considered.
“I would argue that a loss of function deprives you of the opportunity to live life independently and to the fullest without having to require others to accommodate you,” Dr. Tan stressed.
There should be no hesitation in getting oneself check when such conditions occur. The earlier this loss of function is diagnosed, the earlier an appropriate treatment be found. Furthermore, with the latest advances in surgery techniques and hearing implant technologies, almost every type of hearing loss can be fully restored to good hearing.
Dr. Tan recently treated a pair of boy twins from the Philippines who had delayed speech and language development. The twins’ parents discovered that the twins were not speaking well because they could not hear, and that their hearing loss was so severe that hearing aids were not sufficiently beneficial.
The twins were diagnosed to have problems with their cochlea, the hearing organ that transforms sound waves into electrical impulses which are sent onwards along the hearing nerve to the brain.
So, it was decided that the twins will undergo an advanced type of hearing implant surgery, known as cochlear implants. The implant consists of an external component and an internal component that is surgically implanted. The 2 components couple and attach to each other via magnets. The external component has a microphone that collects the environmental sounds, and digital technology to process those sounds into electrical signals that are transmitted to the internal component. The internal component sends these electrical signals to several tiny electrical discharge plates along a slim electrode that is inserted into the cochlea. These then stimulate the endings of the hearing nerve located within the cochlea and the hearing nerve carries these electrical sound signals onwards towards the brain.
“Previously, patients used to wear very large speech processors. In fact, some of these processors were so large and contained in a box that had to be either slung and carried on the shoulder or worn on the belt. Thankfully through evolution in materials as well as in sound processing technology, everything has now been miniaturized and the entire speech processor can be worn just on a disc like magnet on the scalp,” Dr. Tan explained.
Another advanced surgical treatment for hearing loss is the bone conduction implant, which allows patients to receive and comprehend sound through bone vibrations transmitted directly through the skull to the inner ear, bypassing the vibration mechanism of the middle ear bones.
“There are certain types of conditions where bone conduction implants are very beneficial. These include children born with microtia — deformed ears with closed up ear canals; or adults who have certain conditions which have eroded their middle ear bones, [impairing] the conduction of the vibrations,” Dr. Tan said.
Endoscopes are also making ear surgery minimally invasive, compared to older methods which used to involve large incisions behind the ear. Often, these older microscopic techniques required drilling the skull bone behind the ear to reach the middle ear where the disease was.
“Instead of creating a very large bone cavity in order to reach the area of interest, we actually start at the area of interest for the surgery. So, it minimizes the incisions which are necessary,” the ENT specialist shared.
These advanced treatments can be availed at Gleneagles Hospital. With its investments in the state-of-the-art equipment, coupled with expertise like that of Dr. Tan’s, the hospital stands ready to help ENT patients have a better quality of life.
“Prior to my joining private practice, that investment in the latest ear surgery techniques and surgical hearing implants was not yet evident; but because I brought that surgical expertise with me into my practice in Gleneagles Hospital, the hospital has supported me and invested in buying the necessary endoscopes as well as microsurgical instruments in order to support the work that I do,” he said.
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