The hearing impaired used to have little to no choice but to withdraw into silent communication. Yet, recent medical technological advancements are offering new faith to those experiencing significant hearing loss. Doctor Ho Eu Chin, a consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ENT) said, hearing implants, such as cochlear or auditory brainstem implants, have transformed the management of hearing impairment.
These surgically implanted devices do not amplify sounds the way traditional hearing aids do. Rather, they supply the individual with a sense of sound by directly stimulating the hearing nerves (cochlear implants), or the part of the brain involved with hearing (auditory brainstem implants). Doctor Annabelle Leong, consultant at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s (KTPH) Department of Otolaryngology said, cochlear implants allow patients to hear sounds as well as a person with good hearing.
Doctor Leong said, recent improvements in cochlear implant technology include more visually discrete models that allow the individual to stream sound inputs, from phone clips or television directly for example, to the sound processors. Doctor Ho noted that the suitable hearing device would help the hearing-impaired integrate into society. Additionally, there is now strong evidence from many developed countries to prove that the majority of deaf children who receive bilateral cochlear implants before the age of one can go on to develop as normally as a normal-hearing child.
Associate Professor Henry Tan, head and senior consultant at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s Department of Otolaryngology said, around four in one thousand babies here are born with hearing loss. This does not count those children who develop hearing loss after birth, which can occur due to causes such as severe and long-lasting middle-ear infections, for example. Assoc Professor Tan said that hearing plays an important role in the development of speech, as well as learning and communication skills. Research has shown that children born with hearing loss, who received late intervention, generally fared poorly in their Primary School Leaving Examinations in comparison to their peers with normal hearing.