implant

A World Health Organisation report has found that increasing access to hearing devices is ‘a sound investment’. Are decision-makers listening? For individuals, hearing loss can have a profound impact on quality of life: they lose independence, educational opportunities and earning power. Some people also suffer social isolation, lost confidence and a decline in wellbeing. Now consider the fact that over 5% of the world’s population – that’s 360 million people – are living with disabling hearing loss. In addition to the personal burden borne by millions, the global impact on societies and economies is enormous. Many of those 360 million people require support from their families, communities and – where available – social insurance funds. But there are actions that can be taken to address this serious issue. A sound investment The burden of deafness and hearing problems has come into sharp focus in the wake of a WHO report entitled ‘ Action for hearing loss: make a sound investment ’. The report looks at the economic impact of hearing loss and the cost of intervening to restore hearing using devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. These technologies require investment. The big question for the WHO experts behind the report was how the cost of treating hearing loss compares to the cost of inaction. The answer was clear: doing nothing is simply not an option . According to the WHO, the cost of hearing loss runs to around $750 billion per year. On the other side of the scales, the total cost of hearing care globally is estimated to be around $15 billion annually. ‘Provision of hearing devices is a cost-effective strategy, especially when used regularly and supported with rehabilitation service,’ according to the report. Screening children and adults aged over 50 is also considered to be a...
People with a rare eye disease known as retinitis pigmentosa (RP) suffer a gradual loss of vision; some become completely blind. Now, an innovative new approach to treatment has given dozens of people the chance to see again. With the help of a retinal implant, special glasses and intensive training, people who were blind have a new way of viewing the world which could one day benefit people with other degenerative eye diseases. We spoke to Professor Marie-Noelle Delyfer, University Hospital of Bordeaux, who has already performed eight such operations. What is retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and what is the prognosis for patients? RP is actually around 300 distinct genetic disorders that lead to the loss of photoreceptors on the retina. Some affected individuals have a reduction in their visual field while others become blind. With such a rare disease, it is difficult to describe a typical patient. Some lose their sight early in life or in early adulthood but there are others who become blind only in their 70s or 80s. Until 20 years ago, there were no treatments at all and the disease was not well understood. The first genetic cause of the disease was identified in 1984 – before that it was thought of as an inflammatory disease. What treatments are available? Some pharmaceutical therapies help to maintain photoreceptors but this only slows the progression of the disease – it’s not a cure. In the longer-term, there is some research on gene therapy targeting the mutations responsible for RP. How can technology help? I have used a new technology, from SecondSight, with eight carefully selected patients living with end-stage RP. These patients have an electrode array implanted in their retina. They wear glasses that are fitted with a camera that ‘sees’ their surrounding environment. This signal is sent...