First cochlear surgeries carried out in country

The National Referral Hospital in the capital has carried out the first cochlear implant surgeries in the country. A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that helps improve hearing for people with severe hearing loss. Three patients from about 20 adult applicants were selected to undergo the surgery. The first surgery was carried out yesterday and the second one today.

A team comprising two German doctors, a Bhutanese doctor and other medical staff conducted the cochlear implant surgeries.

The team took about three hours to complete each of the two surgeries.

“I am lucky to be among the three people selected for the cochlear implant. I feel that I have been second chance to lead a meaningful and productive life. I am thankful to the hospital and the doctors for making this possible,” said one of the patients, Ugyen Lhendup.

“I have had a hearing problem since I was small. I couldn’t hear when I was in class Xll when it was time to write our exams. It has been about two years since then,” said Yeshi Tshering.

According to the Head of the ENT and Head Neck Surgery Department, cochlear implant surgeries are carried out for people who are born deaf as well as for those who lose their hearing over time.

However, he said, the surgeries have to be carried out before a certain period of time, depending on the patient’s case, to ensure their success.

“The timing of the surgery is very important to achieve good hearing possibilities. The longer the duration of total deafness, the lesser the chance of giving back hearing. So, the earlier the better. In children, born deaf, the most ideal time to implant is around one year of age,” said Dr Phub Tshering, the ENT and Head Neck Surgery Department head.

He added for those born with hearing impairment, the ideal period for the surgery is within a year after birth.

Meanwhile, the three patients will undergo rehabilitation programmes for at least three months during which they will be given speech therapy.

“After we do the cochlear implant surgery, the next important thing is to rehabilitate the patient because the person cannot hear the next day after we have done surgical implantation, it takes time. So normally after two to three weeks of surgery we switch on the machine and there is an entire process of rehabilitation,” said Dr Phub.

The cost of one device is estimated to be around Nu 800,000 in the market. The three implants for the surgeries costing Nu 2.5 million were donated by an Austrian company called the MED-EL Implant Company which is one of the leading manufacturers of cochlear implants in the world.

The next batch of surgery is expected to be carried out in September.

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