This World Hearing Day, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) is sharing the story of how a two-year-old Emirati girl, born prematurely with complications, successfully underwent a bilateral cochlear implantation at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC).
The surgery markedly improved her hearing and quality of life. Hoor, now five years of age, attended post-operative auditory verbal rehabilitation sessions at SKMC aimed at improving her communication and speaking abilities.
Owing to other complications during birth and after receiving reassurance about failed hearing tests being normal in premature births, from doctors at another hospital, Hoor’s hearing issues took a back seat. It was only a year later when Hoor’s parents noticed a visible delay in her speaking, that they took a second opinion at SKMC where Hoor was diagnosed with hearing loss.
The entire journey, since the time of Hoor’s birth, has been emotionally challenging for her parents. Speaking further to this, her mother, Amal, said, “It was extremely difficult. Seeing your child suffer from day one of her existence is something no parent can bear to see or ever truly prepare for. Hospital visits became a weekly occurrence for her and then soon after, we received the news that she can’t hear, it broke my heart, and with it came a wave of guilt and remorse. Somehow, I felt like it was my fault for delaying early detection and diagnosis. At the same time, I was certain that I had tried my best to understand what was wrong.”
After consultations with SKMC, Hoor received bilateral cochlear implants when she was two years old. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that partially restores hearing. The cochlear implantation surgery was conducted at SKMC under general anesthesia. The surgery involves making a 3-4 cm incision behind the patient’s ear, and the implant is placed into a tight pocket. Next, a small opening is created in the cochlea, a part of the inner ear involved in hearing, to thread the electrode of the internal device. The incisions are then stitched close. Most patients are discharged the next morning. The implants are turned on a few weeks after the surgery to allow time for the surgery site to sufficiently heal.
Three weeks after the surgery, the implants were turned on for the first time. The child’s mother said, “When the implants were turned on for the first time, her reaction was minimal. She was very shy, but I knew she was able to hear us. She would turn her head around when someone talked without being able to locate the source of sound. It was a triumphant moment for all of us and a huge milestone in her life. Watching her being able to respond to even the tiniest whisper feels like a miracle every day. She enjoys listening to everything, especially stories!”
While results of cochlear implantation vary from person to person, in children, the best results generally occur with getting a cochlear implant at a young age. Adding to this, Dr. Shaik Irfan Basha, ENT Consultant and Chair of Surgery, SKMC, at SEHA, said, “Bilateral cochlear implantation, when done at a young age, is proven to improve hearing and quality of life. This surgery is very safe and successful. After the surgery, Hoor attended auditory verbal rehabilitation sessions to strengthen her communication and ability to speak. At SEHA, we provide exceptional screening and surgical services to ensure early diagnosis and better hearing outcomes for our patients. Children deserve to experience the joy of sound and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure just that.”