Pi­o­neer­ing surgery helps re­store hear­ing

Sur­gi­cal team per­forms Bone­bridge bone con­duc­tor im­plant op

Daily Dispatch - - News - NONSINDISO QWABE non­[email protected]­patch.co.za

Christ­mas came early for two East Lon­don women who will soon have their hear­ing re­stored, thanks to high-per­for­mance hear­ing im­plants sur­gi­cally in­serted into their skull bones at a pri­vate hos­pi­tal on Tues­day.

Three pri­vate ear, nose, and throat spe­cial­ists Tues­day pi­o­neered a new be­gin­ning for Bor­der-Kei Life re­gion hos­pi­tals when they per­formed the group’s first-ever surgery to in­sert Med-El Bone­bridge bone con­duc­tor im­plants.

Doc­tors John James, Mark Richard­son and Paul Steyn re­cently re­ceived train­ing on the the­ory and sur­gi­cal tech­nique of the Bone­bridge im­plant, and on Tues­day put the­ory to prac­tice for the first time.

The im­plant curbs hear­ing loss by us­ing bone con­duc­tion to fil­ter sound straight to the in­ner ear. It is the only ac­tive bone con­duc­tion im­plant that is placed fully un­der the skin through surgery. The ex­ter­nal de­vice, called an au­dio pro­ces­sor, re­ceives ex­ter­nal sound and trans­mits it to the in­ter­nal im­plant. This sound is then sent to the in­ner ear.

The Dis­patch on Tues­day got a be­hind-the-scenes view of the two-hour surgery. With the pa­tient com­pletely un­der anaes­the­sia, a hole was drilled into the bone be­hind the ear. The in­ter­nal part of the im­plant was in­serted di­rectly into the skull bone with a lit­tle por­tion stick­ing out and run­ning flat against the out­side of the skull which houses a mag­net.

Once the in­ci­sion has healed, an ex­ter­nal au­dio pro­ces­sor will be placed on the pa­tient’s head, held by the mag­net.

Speak­ing to the Dis­patch af­ter the in­ten­sive surgery, Inga van Dor­drecht said she was most ex­cited about hear­ing fully again. Dor­drecht, 59, said she suf­fered se­vere hear­ing loss in her left ear while in her thir­ties and strug­gled for years to find a suit­able hear­ing-aid.

Dr Richard­son said: “This was chal­leng­ing but ex­tremely re­ward­ing and sat­is­fy­ing.”

Med-EL clinic en­gi­neer Enzo Bernarda, who flew in from Jo­han­nes­burg to over­see the surgery, said the Bone­bridge bone con­duc­tor was fast gain­ing trac­tion as a pre­ferred hear­ing de­vice. He said the de­vice dif­fered to a cochlear im­plant in that it was im­planted into the bone, which en­ables it to by­pass the outer and mid­dle ear, and di­rectly stim­u­late the in­ner ear, al­low­ing the user to hear sounds more nat­u­rally.

Pic­ture: BHONGO JACOBS

GROUND­BREAK­ING: East Lon­don ENT spe­cial­ist Dr Mark Richard­son and Durban-based vis­it­ing sur­geon Dr Kurt Sch­lem­mer in­sert­ing the Bone­bridge bone con­duc­tor im­plant at St James Hos­pi­tal on Tues­day.

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