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World cochlear implant experts visit PHL.

HEARING-IMPAIRED or deaf individuals, mostly young children, were given the chance to hear life through cochlear implantation courtesy of Medical Electronics (Med-El), which brought the world's very first cochlear implant to the Philippines in 1997.

Cochlear implants address hearing loss at birth or congenital hearing loss caused by genetic factors, as well as infection during pregnancy, prematurity, injury at birth and other health conditions.

World experts on cochlear implantation were recently in the country for the 10th edition of the Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology International Academic Conference (Orliac 2018). Medical experts from all over the world attended the highly scientific program and discussed best practices, clinical studies and specializations in their fields of expertise.

Orliac 2018 coincided with the 20th anniversary of Med-El (Philippines) and the formal launch of HearLife Foundation Inc. (HLFI) which aims to support the hearing-impaired individuals' opportunities to listen and speak by offering cochlear implantation as an innovative hearing solution through individualized speech and language services within their means to enable them to fully experience the world of hearing.

Positive developments

DR. Erwin Hochmair, the Austrian scientist and inventor of the cochlear implant, led the experts' visit and expressed his happiness for the positive development in the hearing-impaired community in this side of the world. He assured the Philippines through an interview with select members of the media, including the BusinessMirror, of Med-El's continuous search for breakthroughs in the field of cochlear implantation that will make medicine and digital technology work together to battle deafness.

Hochmair and his wife Ingeborg, a fellow scientist and inventor, developed the very first microelectronic multichannel cochlear implant in Vienna, Austria, and are currently at the helm of Med-El at Innsbruck, Austria.

German surgeon Dr. Joachim Mller-considered to be the cochlear implantation guru who has been training doctors all over the world to become experts in this field-joined the Hochmairs for the event. Muller performed the first cochlear implantation operation in the country in 1997, and he has been coming back to the Philippines since then to lead surgeries of patients both kids and adults. He is the head of Cochlear Implants and Hearing Prosthetics, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at the University Clinic Munich Grosshadern in Germany.

At the helm of Med-El Philippines is Country Manager and concurrent Special Projects Manager Maribel Mueller, the Filipina wife of the late German national Georg Mueller who brought the polio vaccine and cochlear implantation in the Philippines. Georg was designated by the Hochmairs to set up the Med-El Asia-Pacific headquarters.

Continuing a legacy

IN the Philippines current available statistics approximate 28 percent of the population-roughly a total of 26 million Filipinos-as having hearing loss. A total of 2.3 million, or 8.8 percent, are hearing disabled, meaning they are possible candidates for cochlear implantation.

The high cost of cochlear implantation, which could reach to about P1.2 million covering the implant, doctor's surgical fees and therapy fees, is difficult to achieve. The goal of the government to address the problem of hearing health remains to be a dream to a lot of Filipino families, especially the underprivileged.

This situation has led to the establishment of HLFI, which is keen to continue Georg Mueller's legacy: to fully support the hearing impaired, whose only hope to hear and speak is through cochlear implantation.

To kick off the official launch, HFLI has set up intervention therapy centers in Cebu City, Alabang, Muntinlupa and Quezon City that are currently operational, while Davao's and Pampanga's centers will open within the year.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:May 2, 2018
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