Breaking The Silence

Cochlear implant

In Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound Of Silence, the beauty of the song lies in the multi-layered intent of the lyrics and the accompanying music.

The actual sound of silence can be very frightening.

That was the experience for Audrey Heng who has suffered issues with her hearing before losing it altogether while on holiday in Canada with her sister.

Unable to hear anything in a strange environment can be an extremely unsettling and distressing situation for anyone.

Audrey’s husband dropped everything and went to her rescue, accompanying her back to Singapore. After undergoing cochlear implant surgery, Audrey is now able to hear again.

She was sharing her experience at the product launch of the Nucleus Kanso 2 Sound Processor, developed by Australian brand Cochlear Ltd.

Dr Barrie Tan, who is Audrey’s physician, has performed more than 200 cochlear operations. 

“Hearing loss is an unnecessary disability,” says Dr Tan, who runs his own ENT practice.

Unlike a hearing aid which amplifies sound for those with moderate hearing loss, the cochlear implant is meant for those with profound hearing loss, and requires surgery to insert an electrode into the cochlear.

It’s a two-hour, S$40,000 procedure (there are government grants providing up to 90% subsidies) that requires recuperation and intense rehabilitation with a verbal specialist.

Audrey’s hearing stabilised after eight months of therapy.

The Kanso 2 external sound processor is connected via a magnet to the implant and is available in hues that match hair colours, to blend in as much as possible as a 14gm lump can. Or you can wear it proudly, and loudly, with after-market stickers and options that will allow you to make a fashion statement.

You can use the Nucleus Smart App on your smartphone to stream calls, music and entertainment, and you can swim up to a depth of three metres with the Kanso 2. Battery life is up to 18 hours, good for a day’s activities, and it can be charged wirelessly in its case.

Hearing Levels

Cochlear audiogram
Hearing aids are suitable for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. Cochlear implants are necessary for profound hearing loss.

While the current beneficiaries of cochlear implants are largely children, Cochlear Ltd notes that the device has a significant role to play in ageing societies.

It is estimated that 422,000 older adults in Singapore suffer from hearing loss, of which about a quarter may have a disabling hearing impairment. The result of this, if untreated, would be increased social isolation, loneliness and the increased risks of developing dementia.

Globally, it is estimated that over 700 million people will suffer from disabling hearing loss by 2050.

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