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April 7, 2004

Three Deaf Armenian Children Receive Region's First Cochlear Implants, Thanks to UCLA Medical Mission

From: UC Los Angeles (press release) - Los Angeles,CA,USA - Apr 7, 2004

Date: April 7, 2004
Contact: Elaine Schmidt ( )
Phone: 310-794-2272

Three hearing-impaired Armenian children now can hear, thanks to a medical mission led by the UCLA Department of Head and Neck Surgery. The medical team performed the region's first cochlear implant surgeries in the youngsters, aged 2, 3 and 4.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that restores partial hearing in deaf people.

"Three out of every 1,000 Armenians suffer hearing impairment, but local medical centers are not equipped to address this devastating problem," said Dr. Akira Ishiyama, associate professor of head and neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"Armenia and the general Caucuses region have no cochlear implant centers and hearing-test equipment is very primitive," he said. "People often use hearing aids intended for their relatives, making the devices inappropriate in size and frequency."

The UCLA trip followed two years of international exchanges between medical teams in UCLA and Erebouni Medical Center in Armenia. A year ago, UCLA Medical Center provided cochlear-implant surgical training to Armenian otolaryngologists Dr. Artur Shukuryan and Dr. Vigen Bakshinyan.

Last fall, UCLA audiologist Stanton Jones visited the Armenian hospital to train his professional counterparts. UCLA also sent eight hearing aids to the medical center, which screened potential cochlear-implant candidates.

UCLA physicians and nurses donated their time and services to travel to Armenia and perform the implant surgeries. In addition to Ishiyama and Jones, team members comprised anesthesiologist Dr. Denise Hawkins, surgical nurse Diane Sennott and nurse Salpy Akaragian, director of the UCLA International Nursing Center.

The UCLA mission was sponsored by the Armenian International Medical (AIM) Fund, which formed last year to help Armenia rebuild its health-care system. AIM Fund, Southern California Kaiser Permanente, RENEW and other organizations donated equipment and supplies for the surgeries. These resources will remain in Armenia to enable local physicians to perform future cochlear implant surgeries under modern conditions. Vram Aslanian, the Madikians family and the Republic of Armenia provided additional financial support.

The UCLA team will be honored by the AIM Fund at a May 23 fund-raising dinner at the Glendale Hilton Hotel. For tickets and more information, please call (818) 244-7200.