Tuesday 25th October Raj Singh on Cochlear Implants
The Help to Hear Fund is a registered Scottish Charity. It was founded by Raj Singh, OBE, FRCS in 1988 for the purpose of establishing a Cochlear Implant Programme for the people of Scotland. This was set-up at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock in 1989, where the charity funded the first twelve cochlear implant operations. When NHS funding became available for Adult cochlear implantation in the early 1990s, the charity continued to fund cochlear implants for Children until NHS monies became available. Raj began by describing a cochlear implant. This is an electronic device consisting of a digital receiver (pictured above) which is implanted into the head and attached to tiny electrodes which are coiled round the cochlea to stimulate the nerves and a sound processor which is worn externally (see picture opposite). The external processor captures sound and transmits it into the coil inside the cochlea which stimulates the hearing nerves. The hearing nerves send messages to the brain which are interpreted as sound. The cochlear implant programme at Crosshouse was established in 1988 by Raj. Today, Crosshouse is the only centre providing implants in Scotland; however patients receive after-care in their own areas. There are currently 938 cochlear implant users in Scotland. Adults in Scotland have been receiving implants since 1989 and the first child to be implanted was in 1994. Various assessments are carried out prior to surgery and in the case of children, rehabilitation experts visit them at home. Only severely to profoundly deaf people whose hearing cannot benefit from hearing aids are considered. Children up to the age of 16 have the option of implantation in both ears (bilateral implantation) but there is only sufficient funding in place for adults to be given one implant and many feel they would benefit from two.
Because of the relatively small number of cochlear operations taking place (125 last year in Scotland) having one specialist centre at Crosshouse means all the experts are at the one site. There is a highly skilled team of surgeons, clinicians, rehabilitation and support experts and funding is allocated to the host NHS board.. For many adults with profound hearing loss, choosing to have a cochlear implant can mean not just restoring their hearing but also many aspects of their lives and the advantages are obvious. When it comes to children, though, some people do have concerns. In the UK, members of the Deaf community share a unique history and cultural identity and perhaps most importantly, they share a language – British Sign Language (BSL). There are deaf people who have struggled through school who say they felt as though they had “come home” when they discovered the Deaf community and they do not want today’s deaf children to miss out