China Medical University Hospital -Comprehensive Hearing Health Center Doctor Kuan-Hua Chen
“Doctor, I have a tough time now. I already have hearing impairment, but now that everyone wears facial mask or face shield, I could not hear well even with the most expensive and high-powered hearing aids. I often misunderstand when students ask me questions or the store clerks talk to me, as I could not hear them correctly. I pray that no-one talks to me all day or the students not to ask me questions. If I had known, I would have taken your advice for the cochlear implants in both ears. Then I wouldn’t have felt so painful now. The professor of a famous university cried in the clinic and who could have foreseen the severe impact of the pandemic on cases of hearing impairment.
China Medical University Hospital - Comprehensive Hearing Health Center Doctor Kuan-Hua Chen stated that voice comprehension requires clear hearing and lips reading and the interpretation of the facial expression. Patients with hearing loss often need to get close to the sound of course and read lips to comprehend the content of conservation even if they have the hearing aids on, while wearing masks will lower the volume and block the lips and expression. The sounds from online video conferencing could easily be distorted when broadcasted via electronic device, which worsens the situations of hearing impaired. Many cases of hearing impairment makes mistakes at work, have communication problems and even result in social withdrawal and emotional because they could not hear well. More students could just give up video conferencing courses. These cases seeking medical treatment have increased substantially since early pandemic period. The Cochlear implant (electric hearing aids) is then considered the safe and effective choice of treatment.
Doctor Kuan-Hua Chen pointed out that cochlear implant is the preferred choice of therapy for persons with severe hearing loss (＞70 dB HL). Cochlear implant is divided into two parts, including the internal “receptor and electrode” that require the implantation by professional ENT doctor into inner ear. The external “coil and sound processor” need to be turned on and adjusted by and audiologist after the surgery. The principle of cochlear implant is based on the reception of acoustic wave through the processor hanging on the ears, and the signal will be transmitted to the electrode in inner ear to stimulate the auditory nerve and generate hearing. Compared with hearing aids, the cochlear implant offers clearer voice and reduces environmental noises, which lowers the reliance of hearing impaired on the lips and facial expression.
The new “all-in-one device” is smaller in size and highly invisible when putting on. It comes with waterproof function, wireless charging, and wireless connection so that the sounds of speakers will directly be transmitted to the inner ear of the users, which overcomes influence of distance and noises. When someone speaks with a mask on during class or meeting, or via video conferencing, the sound of speaking will also directly and clearly be transmitted to the electric hearing aids of the user, reducing sound distortion and noise interference.
Regardless of acquired or congenital severe hearing loss or severe tinnitus, the combination of cochlear implant and hearing rehabilitation will provide clearer hearing than the hearing aids. CMUH’s Comprehensive Hearing Health Center team has implanted cochlear implant for one thousand cases in Taiwan and overseas, so that we could still have good hearing quality under the pandemic, even with the face masks on. We could re-establish the communication and exchange between people and hear the sounds again.