Over 5% of the world’s population (that’s 360 million people) is affected by hearing loss. Luckily we live in a time when persons with hearing loss can continue living normal, full lives, thanks to advanced modern technology…
A cochlear implant is an implantable prosthesis that bypasses a malfunctioning inner ear and provides auditory information to the brain by directly stimulating the hearing nerves. These devices have been available worldwide since the early 1980’s with the first South African recipient being implanted in 1986. To date, over 1500 South Africans have benefited from these miracle devices.
Cochlear implants changes lives! Deaf children can regain their hearing and thus develop normal speech and language in most cases. It enables adults who have lost their hearing to claim back their lives by restoring their lost hearing.
“I burst out laughing! My dad’s voice sounded like Mickey Mouse on the first day my implant was switched-on!” – Teenage Cochlear Implant Recipient
You might wonder why a regular hearing aid can’t do the same for people with hearing loss? A hearing aid can help people with mild to severe hearing loss, however, for people with severe to profound hearing loss a cochlear implant is the only way to restore their hearing. While hearing aids amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass the damaged part of the inner ear. Using a highly advanced system of microphones and sound processors, it’s the only technology that is capable of functionally restoring one of the five senses.
So why do some people describe the sound like that of a cartoon character? In the beginning the hearing nerve and the brain is not used to receiving all the frequencies. This causes a strange perception which will eventually return to normal within the first few weeks.
Each one reacts different to the first day of activation, because people have different hearing experiences. Sometimes children will spontaneously laugh, some will be very confused, but often everyone ends up in tears of joy and astonishment!
Why don’t more people undergo cochlear implant surgery? The sad reality is that in South Africa, the majority of medical aid schemes don’t fund the full amount for this expensive operation. Therefore, most people turn to non-profit, fundraising organisations who are dependent on donations and monitory gifts, to make this phenomenal procedure possible for people in need.
Deafness is indeed a silent disability, but this gift of hearing changes quality of life, creates independence, offers equal opportunities and is a passport to a better future where deaf people can feel part of society.
How can you help? Become a Cochlear Implant donor for those who can’t afford it! Visit www.hearingloss.org.za for more information.
Contact Hearing Loss today to get involved:
Tel: (+27) (0) 12-333-3130
Fax: (+27) (0) 12-333-1117
Written by: Erika Basson