Man hears phone ring after 15 years of deafness

The 73-year-old Borivli resident was lucky that the ENT surgeon team at KEM hospital agreed to operate on him, irrespective of his age

‘Aged people in India have no rights to live in India’, says Shrishti Balan (name changed), whose husband underwent cochlear implant two months ago after being deaf for 15 years.

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A cochlear implant

The Borivli resident had a tough time convincing the ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeons that he needs to get cochlear implant — an established, effective and long-term hearing solution for people with moderate to profound hearing loss — in the country.

“Post 60, no doctors are ready to advice cochlear implant for deafness issue,” said Balan.

She said her husband, Mahesh (73), was lucky that the ENT surgeon team at KEM hospital agreed to operate on him, irrespective of his age. “We were discouraged by many doctors, who said he was too old to get the implant. The KEM hospital doctors turned out to be angels in our life as they encouraged us to go for the surgery,” said Balan.

With almost zero hearing ability, Balan said since they didn’t have children, they felt a void in their life. Explaining further she said it was more of the communication gap that made them helpless. “He had a progressive deafness. After the procedure, we finally can have a one-on-one conversation with each other. He can hear the door bell ringing, landline phone ringing. It is such a relief,” added Balan. The couple spent their entire savings on cochlear implant procedure.

“In India, 95% of the contenders for the implant are children, whereas in abroad, around 35% are senior citizens. We need to change this trend,” said Dr Hetal Marfatia, head of the ENT department, KEM hospital.

How the doctors did it

Explaining about the procedure, Marfatia said the implant stimulates the ‘auditory cortex’ of the brain which is responsible for processing auditory information over a wide range of frequencies.

“Neural response telemetry (NRT) and X-rays are done to judge how effective will be the implant. Once the device is surgically implanted, we have to wait for the wound to heal before switching on the device,” Marfatia said.

She added this advanced hearing aid helps the person with hearing loss to hear and understand more speech than was possible with a hearing aid. “It has little receptors that are implanted inside the skin near the ears so as to make it possible for the patients to hear,” said Marfatia.

Hearing aids or cochlear implants need to be followed by auditory training to help maximise hearing abilities. In India, cochlear implant is generally done for children, say health experts.

“Abroad, were life expectancy is high, senior citizen undergoing cochlear implant is very common,” said Marfatia. She added that cochlear implant in senior citizens should be encouraged as it improves the quality of hearing and life.