Pioneering surgery helps restore hearing
Surgical team performs Bonebridge bone conductor implant op
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.
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.