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February 8, 2006

AIIMS does country's first bilateral cochlear implant

From: Times of India, India - Feb 8, 2006

NEW DELHI: Doctors at All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) claimed to have successfully carried out country's first "bilateral cochlear implantation" surgery, in which electronic devices called "cochlear implants" were fitted in both ears of a hearing impaired patient. The patient now has "almost normal" hearing capabilities.

Research in US, UK, Australia and Germany has established benefits of bilateral cochlear implants which allow deaf even to enjoy music with stereophonic effect," R C Deka, the ENT specialist who carried out the surgery, said.

Hearing is a two-side phenomenon. When cochlear implant is fitted in only one side (unilateral implant), a patient can hear and comprehend only from that side, he said.

"Hearing becomes difficult in noisy situation for the deaf who have got cochlear implant only on one side," he said. Thus, bilateral cochlear implant is coming up as a new concept as it imparts the deaf with almost normal ability to perceive and discriminate sounds, he said.

Especially in children, bilateral implantation is recommended. With this they can learn linguistic and communication skills faster and grow into normal productive adults, and even go to normal schools, he said.

Deka said the cost was a prohibitive factor with a cochlear implant costing between Rs 5 lakh and 9.5 lakh. Cost for bilateral implants goes up to Rs 15 lakh. There are three companies which make cochlear implant - cochlear (Australia) advance bionics (US) and medel (Austria).

The patient was a 50-year-old man who was rendered deaf due to meningitis. There are about 1.2 million people in India with severe hearing disability.

"Bilateral cochlear implantation has been accepted as an effective method of dealing with bilaterally deaf patients in developed countries like US, Europe and Australia where funding is available for such patient care services," the ENT specialist said.

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