Five Hundredth 'bionic ear' in UMCG

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The UMC Groningen (Universitair Medisch Centrum) celebrates with a symposium Friday that already the five hundredth patient has received a cochlear implant. A 'bionic ear', that enables deaf and the severely hard of hearing to hear speech. The devices are on the market since 1985 and are fitted on an increasing number of patients since the turn of the century. Nowadays every child that is born deaf actually gets  two cochlear implants with nine months.

Maxim Razin
Wikimedia commons

For adults who were born deaf the device is actually useless. Their brains have never learned to translate sound and has a hard time doing so at a later age. The first four years are crucial for development of speech and language, according to audiologist ir Bert Maat. Most children, who receive an implant at an early age, can attend a normal school. Until the age of twelve, there is something to gain from wearing the device, after that it gets difficult. Children who have always worn hearing aids develop favorably.

Adults and elderly who gradually lose their hearing, or by a sudden illness or accident, can also benefit from a cochlear implant. Their brains are able to translate sound. They will never regain their normal hearing but they can at least understand speech again.

More and more elderly get a cochlear implant. Problem is that insurers reimburse only one ear, except in children under five.