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May 11, 2006

Cuba has highest number of children with electronic hearing implants

From: Granma International - La Habana,Cuba - May 11, 2006

THE application in Cuba of minimum-access surgery for cochlear implants has enabled 53 children – 18 deaf-mutes and 35 deaf – to have partial hearing, providing them with a means of communication that empowers their development and improves their quality of life.

This important achievement, unprecedented in Cuba, was announced May 10 during the evening session of the 1st International Conference on Community Genetics, which lasted until the early hours of May 11, in the presence of President Fidel Castro.

Experts noted that this is the largest group of deaf-mute children with implants in the world, putting Cuba in an outstanding position in the development of these extremely costly techniques, which use highly complex procedures.

The cochlear implant is an electronic device, scientifically proven, that acts as a substitute in the ear’s receptor organ for what is damaged in most people who are deaf.

This procedure uses parts that are placed via surgery inside the ear and includes an external component, a sort of microcomputer that captures sound from the environment and translates it into electronic impulses near the auditory nerve.

The first experiments with this type of device began in 1957, and stimulated the cochlea (where the auditory receptor is located), but it was not until 1985 that these implants were approved for the first time for adults with profound hearing loss, those who could hear almost nothing.

Currently, cochlear implants are used for “nerve deafness” (neurosensory) and also when the ear’s receptor is damaged bilaterally, severely or totally. These are patients who cannot benefit from conventional hearing aids, which are sound amplifiers that solve hearing problems for the majority of deaf patients.

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