Dubai: A patient from Saudi Arabia has become the first to undergo a middle ear implant in the UAE and will be able to hear within four weeks, his surgeon said.

The Vibrant Soundbridge (VSB) implant is an amazing device and is streets ahead of what current hearing aids offer, said Dr Georg Sprinzl, consulting ENT surgeon at the hearLIFE Clinic at Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC).

The surgical procedure on the man, who is in his 60s, was conducted at Mediclinic City Hospital at Healthcare City.

The surgeon will activate the implant in four weeks as the healing process in the implant area is still progressing. “The patient will start to hear in a natural way,” he said. “The sound [he will hear] will be of high quality.”

Dr Sprinzl said hearing aids did not have good sound amplification.

The surgeon, who has conducted 180 such implants in various countries, said his youngest patient was two years old, and the oldest was 88. “The implant can be used in varying circumstances,” he said.

He said that hearing loss among the younger population is mainly due to sound pollution (such as the prolonged use of iPods).

“The ageing population is growing, and besides the genetic predispositions, hearing loss starts at 45 years,” he said.

New life

The surgeon said the implant is fitted when the patient has had chronic infections of the inner or the outer ear, or has undergone repeated operations.

“The implant’s battery is outside the patient’s body,” said the surgeon, adding the device is simple to operate. 
He said he had a patient who got an fitted implant 17 years ago and it is still working.

Dr Sprinzl said the technology in this field was progressing quickly.

“We are able to help patients in a way we could not do ten years ago,” he said, referring to giving hearing back to children through cochlear implants.

The cochlear implant is also known as a “bionic ear” and can restore hearing for many types of hearing loss.

“Hearing is important [to us] and if you lose your hearing, you lose the people around you,” he said.

“When you help connect people who are desperate to connect you have given a new life to the patient,” he said.

David Raetz, CEO of MED-EL Middle East said the history of the VSB was very personal to the company as it was developed by its chief technology officer, Geoffrey Ball, who created it to treat his own deafness.

The VSB implant allows for the ear canal to be open to eliminate whistling or interference as hearing aids might do, and can be adjusted as per the patient’s requirements, he said.