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June 22, 2021, 11:19 am

Cochlear implants offer hope to those who can afford them Tin ảnh

(14:12:25 PM 10/07/2013)
( - The sounds of a violin played by ten-year-old Nguyen Hoang Gia Bao at the Van Thanh Park last Sunday was music to the ears of her audience, mostly comprising parents of children with hearing impairments.


Nguyen Hoang Gia Bao who used to suffer from congenital deafness, plays the violin at Trang Do Restaurant in Binh Thanh District's Van Thanh Park in HCM City last Sunday. — VNS/Photo.Thien Lang.


It was a miracle of sorts that Bao, born deaf, could play an instrument without frets, which needs a particularly acute sense of hearing. It gave hope to parents of hearing and speech impaired children that the latter have a chance to be part of the hearing and speaking world.


Sunday's entertainment programme was organised by a local distributor of cochlear electrodes —Cochlear Viet Nam, which has helped Bao play the violin.


Bao was diagnosed with congenital deafness when she was nine months old, said her mother, Do Thi Huynh Mai of Thu Duc District.


She said she was "devastated" when she heard it because she had not used drugs or suffered from any diseases that could have caused congenital defects in her baby.


Later, encouraged by her husband and relatives, she calmed down and took the doctors' advice that her baby should use hearing aids.


However, Bao still found it difficult when she began to learn with normal-hearing peers. When she came into contact with strangers, she could not follow what they said because she was not familiar with their voices.


At this stage, her doctor advised that they consider a cochlear implant in order to improve the quality of Bao's hearing. Since the family could afford the high price tag involved, they decided to go ahead.


Currently, Bao is not only achieving excellent academic results at a normal school, she has also become a good violin player.


Pham Hoang Yen was a year old when she began using traditional hearing aids, but they were not very effective, said her mother, Hoang Ngoc Lan.


Lan later read about a pair of twins in Japan who used to suffer from severe hearing loss, but were able to hear and speak later with cochlear implants.


"My daughter still has hope," she thought.


She spent a lot of time researching the implant online. Then she called her friends in Japan to help her contact a hospital that could perform cochlear implants because it was not done in Viet Nam then.


When Yen was four years old, Lan took her to Japan for the cochlear implant, because she could afford it. She was the first person in Viet Nam to benefit from the new medical advance.


One or two months after the implant, Yen was able to clearly hear the sounds of cars, television and her relatives speaking to her, Lan said.


It took two years for Yen to learn to hear and speak with the fluency required to attend normal schools. Currently, she has completed the 12th grade and is going to take university entrance exams.


First in the country


Dr Do Hong Giang, head of Audiology Ward under HCM City Ear Nose Throat Hospital, said that nearly 500-1,000 children are examined by her ward for hearing impairments each year.


There are many reasons for hearing impairments in children including infectious diseases like rubella during pregnancy, Giang said.


Of the children examined, nearly 50 per cent are almost completely deaf and need cochlear implants, which is currently the only way to help children develop a sense of hearing, she added.


Giang's audiology ward was the first in the country to perform a cochlear implant in 1998. Now, many hospitals nation-wide, including the National Eye Nose Throat Hospital and the National Paediatrics Hospital are able to perform the implant.


Giang said her hospital has been working with two companies including Australia-based Cochlear to offer the implants with single and multiple electrodes for children and even adults who are deaf or affected by deafness.


As of now, more than 200,000 deaf children and adults worldwide have received cochlear implants.


Giang's hospital has performed cochlear implants for 200 children since 1998.


Cochlear implants, also called bionic ears, involve a surgically implanted device that helps bypass defects in the inner ear or cochlea. They offer the hope of regaining or restoring the ability to sense sound for people who have experienced significant hearing loss, especially children with congenital impairments, Giang said.


Cochlear implants can be provided for children as young as 12 months old as well as adults.


Proponents of the procedure say that children who receive cochlear implants are better able to recognise speech and this increases their self-esteem.


Children who get the implants before two seem to do even better than those that get them between two and five, they say.


Cochlear implants offer the opportunity for many young deaf children to acquire age- appropriate language skills, and they seem to acquire listening skills with less effort than children with profound hearing losses who use hearing aids, they add.


With time and rehabilitation, children who receive the implants can develop very good speech understanding as well as speech production skills, Giang said.


The majority of these children are able to attend mainstream schools, she added.


She said it is very important that parents should bring their children to prestigious hospitals or medical centres for examination of hearing sense as soon as they suspect their children have hearing problems, she said.


An environment without discrimination for children who receive cochlear implant is also necessary because these children need help from every body around them to integrate into society easily, said Dr Nguyen Lan Anh, an expert with Cat Tuong Hearing Aid Co Ltd, which is the representative of Cochlear in Viet Nam.


Costly procedure


Although the first cochlear implant was performed in 1998, the technique has only become popular over the last three years, because it is a very expensive process.


Mai said that the total cost of cochlear implant for one year for Bao was VND600 million (US$28,571), not including rehabilitation expenses.


Nguyen Hong Cuc of Thu Duc District, whose 28-month-old son received cochlear implants for two ears, said that the implants and rehabilitation costs came up to VND1.5 billion ($ 71,428).


Nguyen Hoang Minh of southern Binh Duong Province, whose 15-month-old daughter suffers from hearing loss, said sadly that he could not afford cochlear implants. He can only afford hearing aids, Minh said.


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