I was invited to a media roundtable for the results of the “Hear I am” survey by MED-EL Medical Electronics – the leading provider of hearing implants in the Middle East, supported by the Ministry of Health and Prevention in the UAE and in cooperation with The Emirates Medical Association, ORL, Head & Neck Society. Conducted today: January 16th, 2017.
H.E. Dr. Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand – Msc (Cairo), German Board (Facharzt), FRCS Assistant Under secretary, Health Centers And Clinics , Ministry of Health, UAE and David Raetz – CEO MED-EL Middle East and Regional Director presented the survey. It’s MED-EL’s third survey, which is why Mariecar (from Gulf Today) asked the reason MED-EL holds such surveys on regular base. I was impressed with the answer of David Raetz, who shared few facts from the history of MED-EL:
In 1977, Ingeborg J. Hochmair-Desoyer (born 1953) is an Austrian electrical engineer with her husband, Prof. Erwin Hochmair created the first microelectronic multi-channel cochlear implant in the world at Technical University of Vienna. The overall goal of the cochlear implant is to enable the user to actually understand the speech instead of just hearing the sounds. They later (in 1980 Wikipedia says) co-founded the company MED-EL for producing the medical device (the first microelectronic multi-channel cochlear implant) as to raise an awareness that people who lost their hearing abilities or born with it can actually have the proper hearing by understanding. Therefore MED-EL is still keen to raise an awareness as much as possible by conducting surveys and many other ways, as yet not many people are aware of the existence of such implants.
The “Hear I am” survey, was conducted by the Pan Arab Research Center, with the total of the results from 451 members of the general public, individuals with hearing loss and parents of children with hearing loss from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Western UAE, face to face and online. Surprisingly 62% of the total respondents (public, individuals with hearing loss and parents of children with hearing loss altogether) believe that aging is the main cause of hearing loss, however, most of us know well that there are many other ways of hearing loss and it’s important to spread the awareness on the same. By the estimations of WHO (World Health Organization) approximately 3% have the disabling hearing loss in the Middle East and North Africa, however, the MED-El’s survey says it’s 4% from the UAE’s community, and the figure is high. Thanks to today’s advanced technologies there are many ways to overcome the hearing loss and let people with hearing loss live their lives in full such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, middles ear implants, bone conduction and auditory brainstem implants. Survey also shows that 41% of patients wait for 6 months and above for seeking the professional help in case of noticing the hearing loss (when partial or gradual). Parents of the patients claimed the followings for the delayed diagnosis: parents did not think that there was an issue, parents thought that the child would catch up to the other children in time, other family members said they could not see anything wrong with the child’s hearing, and people saying that some children learn to talk more quickly than others.
It’s very important to have the immediate checkup when adults notice differences in their hearing abilities and when parents doubt about their child’s hearing abilities (no reaction to sounds is the first sign). The earlier the parents notice and look for professional help the most is the result of establishing the hearing abilities in maximum percentage. Those are the reasons MED-EL emphasizes in the newborn hearing screening and constantly arranges the “Hear I am” survey that helps to spread the awareness. David Raetz told in roundtable conference that “Untreated hearing loss is a permanent inability of adequately communicating with the world and its surroundings. But through our purposeful work with our partners in the UAE and the extended region, we collectively granted hope to many individuals, helping them overcome this inability.” He also mentioned that parents and the patients been included in this year’s survey targeting the point in real stories of overcoming the hearing loss with all the truth that can’t be thought of by unaffected.
There were the actual patients in the roundtable too.
I was very proud of two attendants of the conference: Anas and Renita. They both are fitted with cochlear implants and can be the real examples of the successful hearing loss treatment by doctors and their personal overcome.
Anas, 11 years old, thanked his doctors and his mother for giving him the opportunity to socialize the way he used to. He pointed out that mathematics is his favorite subject and he loves listening to music. Anas’s mother attended the conference too and she encouraged all the parents to make the treatment and fit in the cochlear implants if necessary as the operation is very simple and easy. She is very proud that her child is back to normal. She admitted that there were many negative impacts when they first discovered the hearing loss in Anas. She pointed out that it’s not a disability and just a matter of an operation of which parents shouldn’t fear. She stated that her son is a lifetime prove. She also proudly mentioned that Anas exceeds his peers in most of the skills.
Another amazing example is Renita, 26 years old. She started losing her hearing abilities from age of 7 as consequences of banned antibiotics and discovered full deafness by age of 14. She got isolated from peers and turned into the introvert. Her family and friends helped her to graduate the school but it was really tough. When she discovered about the cochlear implants she flew to India to fit in her first cochlear implant (on one side) and her life changed from the year 2010. She successfully obtained the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in HR and been working in MED-EL for the past 3.5 years. Exactly two years ago she had her second cochlear implant (on another side).
So they are the true examples that hearing loss is not a disability and anyone can overcome it if treated properly. Most important parents shouldn’t miss a chance of noticing the hearing issues or the deafness at early ages for doctors and the technologies to help to maintain the development of the child (in terms of speaking and related) according to the age. It can only be achieved by early determination of an issue.
I know well from my friend’s experience that people still have a stigma and/or negative reaction towards people with hearing issues/loss in few countries and most parents get affected by this wrong reaction and decide to hide the issue or else pretend there is no problem with child’s hearing abilities by avoiding the situation and simply wasting the time. It’s all about your child’s health and the abilities. First of all, it’s not a disability and the above examples are perfect proves on how people are actually overcoming it and maybe are even better than their peers. I am not shy to say that Renita is the same age as me and holds a Master degree, which is a big shame to me by not having one, and my admirations to Renita. Also, while chatting, I noticed that Renita’s implant looks like a wireless blootoeth and can be hidden with her long hair. When I mentioned this to David Raetz (CEO MED – EL) he surprised me by showing their latest cochlear implant which actually reminds a hair clip and gives an impression of having no connection with hearing loss at all, this is most incredible device that can help many children and adults to avoid those negative stigmas from few people. This matters the most (I believe) for a teenage group of people when they get quite sensitive and want to be the same as their peers (without extra devices showing their little issues).
All I mean is the technologies are developing fast and providing all the possibilities for you or your children with hearing loss and it’s your responsibility to be aware of it as early as possible and to take the actions as fast as possible for you and/or your children to hear, hspeak and feel as confident as their peers do!
Good to know:
“A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing in both ears.Cochlear implants bypass the normal hearing process; they have a microphone and some electronics that reside outside the skin, generally behind the ear, which transmits a signal to an array of electrodes placed in the cochlea, which stimulate the cochlear nerve.”