Sharjah: An Indian child born with a hearing difficulty is now able to hear sounds for the first time after completing a successful cochlear implant (CI) procedure at University Hospital Sharjah (UHS).
Eight-year-old Nafiya and her parents couldn’t be happier when the cochlear implant was recently activated for the first time after two weeks of recovery from the operation.
This was the first cochlear implant procedure at UHS which was performed by two renowned surgeons from UHS — Dr Ahmad Munzer Al Waa, Head of ENT Department, and Dr Faheem Tadros, consultant ENT surgeon, who said that there is an increasing number of infants who are born with hearing impairments in the UAE.
The procedure was very delicate and took a couple of hours for the two surgeons. Dr Munzer explained that the ‘golden age’ for an implant is between ages one and three, so the child can be taught language skills easily. However, children above three years also receive CI provided they meet the criteria.
Sharjah TV sponsored the cost of the procedure for the Indian expatriate girl through its charity wing. A cochlear implant costs about Dh150,000.
Most children are surprised when they hear sound for the first time. “Some children will cry, while others will laugh,” said Dr Munzer on the reaction of the patients. The operation can also be performed on adults and it is much easier for these patients to adjust as their speech has already developed.
Discussing the procedure, he said: “An electrode is implanted in the inner ear where the child is able to hear sounds for the first time. Gradually, with the help of special software, sounds are adjusted to near normal level. This would eventually help Nafiya hear all the sounds and cope with the communication demands. Cochlear implants are designed for patients who cannot hear even with a hearing aid.”
There are two components for the operation, the doctors explained — one that is implanted in the inner ear, that receives sounds in the form of vibrations. The technology of the implant is so advanced that the little girl will be able to hear sounds underwater when she swims.
Dr Tadros said he has done many cochlear implant surgeries on children in his long illustrious career as a surgeon, and he feels none matches the beautiful smile of the child, when they hear for the first time. The cochlear implant programme is a team effort in which surgeons, audiologists and other health-care providers play equal role in enhancing the quality of life of hearing-impaired children.
“We are seeing more patients with hearing loss. There are various reasons why children are being born hearing-impaired: it could be hereditary, the mother could have a viral infection during pregnancy, the infant could have received less oxygen during birth, or it could be due to meningitis disease,” he said.
Nafiya’s father, who was emotional after his daughter’s implant was activated, said: “Now my daughter can hear us speak to her. She will listen to music, the birds sing, and all the sounds of the world for the first time. This is a special day for our family and is one that we will never forget.”
He thanked Sharjah TV and UHS doctors for their excellent care during and after the CI surgery.
Hearing loss is a common birth defect in the UAE. UHS has screened 2,000 newborns for hearing over the years.