Hearing loss is a significant problem across the globe, affecting 1.5 Billion people and constitutes the 3rd major cause of disability world-wide Progressive hearing difficulties can impact patients profoundly, limiting social interaction, leading to frustration, feeling of embarrassment and social isolation.
77 year-old Robert Bailey put up with gradual hearing loss for 30 years.
The Mentone man has worn hearing aids in both ears for 25 years and decided to undergo surgery to have a cochlear implant.
“It was a gradual thing, but it kept getting worse and worse,” Mr Bailey said.
He struggled through the pandemic, with requirements for masks and screens in shops to keep people safe, making it impossible to understand what was said.
“Masks and screens are hopeless from a hearing perspective, because it doesn’t allow you to lip read, so you’ve got to do a lot of guessing and you get some things right and some things wrong. If you get it wrong, you get a weird look so you know you’ve given the wrong answer.”
Mr Bailey isn’t alone in suffering with hearing loss.
The Burden of Hearing Loss
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates one in three people over the age of 65 are affected by hearing loss. WHO estimates 120,000 Australians aged over 65 have severe to profound hearing loss.
Cochlear estimates less than 5 percent of adults who may benefit from a hearing implant device have received one.
Mr Bailey was the first person to receive a cochlear implant at Epworth Richmond, in a procedure by Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon, Mr Guillermo Hurtado. Mr Hurtado also performed the first Bone Conduction Hearing Implant at Epworth Richmond in 2014.
“Mr Bailey’s gradual hearing loss has impacted his daily activities and social interactions with family and friends, which was made worse by the use of masks during the pandemic,” Mr Hurtado said.
“The progressive hearing loss has affected his quality of life significantly, despite the continued adjustment of his hearing aids to the maximum level; which prompted him to consider the option of receiving a bionic ear implant.”
Mr Hurtado said hearing loss in older people has a profound impact on their life.
“Hearing loss is a significant problem across the globe, affecting 1.5 Billion people and constitutes the 3rd major cause of disability world-wide. Unfortunately, there is a large number of people who struggle with hearing aids, sometimes accepting with resignation the fact of becoming deaf with age. Progressive hearing difficulties can impact patients profoundly, limiting social interaction, leading to frustration, feeling of embarrassment and social isolation. Treating hearing loss is cost effective and can also reduce risk of dementia by 8%”
Difference between a hearing aid and bionic ear
A hearing aid allows the wearer to perceive sounds with a higher intensity, while boosting certain frequencies depending on your hearing loss. Unfortunately, there’s a limit to how much amplification of sound hearing aids can provide. A bionic ear gives you artificial sound generated by complex microprocessors in the implant, which sends an electronic impulse to the hearing nerve, so the brain receives sound signals again.
“The cochlear implant surgery is usually performed under two hours” Mr Hurtado said.
“Once switched on, patients will then undergo a rehabilitation program, learning to hear again using the implant. This allows ongoing improvement of speech perception, that can sometimes last up to 12 months.”
Epworth HealthCare and the VCIP
Epworth HealthCare joining the Victorian Cochlear Implant Program in the middle of this year. Since then, ten people ranging in age from 67 to 89 years, have now received a Cochlear Implant at Epworth Richmond.