Is there a cure for deafness? A first-ever medical breakthrough holds the answer. In a revolutionary procedure years in the making, a team of doctors in South Africa cured a 35-year-old male of deafness with a middle ear transplant, without the need for a live donor! The procedure was a resounding success and is giving hope to those who have a particular type of deafness.
The patient had trauma-induced deafness and the procedure replaced the smallest bones in his middle ear with replacement parts created by a 3D printer. Doctors are hopeful more people will benefit from this procedure after it becomes less expensive and more widely available. Who is eligible for this procedure?
The Procedure Explained
A team of surgeons and medical professionals, made up of individuals from the University of Pretoria’s Steve Biko Academic Hospital’s otorhinolaryngology department, made medical history with a relatively quick procedure that has changed the life of the recipient.
The delicate procedure utilized endoscopy to replace the ossicles (small bones) of the middle ear --- known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup --- with titanium replacement parts created on a 3D printer. It took the team, headed by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo, an hour and a half to replace the bones that had been devastated in an automobile accident.
This revolutionary procedure works for people with conductive hearing loss, which is caused by obstruction, damage or degeneration of the components making up the outer or middle ear. It is not applicable for sensorineural hearing loss or individuals with mixed (conductive and sensorineural) hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when nerve signals are prevented from traveling to the brain.
Individuals of all ages, even babies, can undergo this procedure. This is great news for anyone living with congenital or trauma-induced hearing loss originating in the middle ear.
A Cure for Everyone?
For now, the procedure has only been performed in South Africa, and it is very expensive. Many people in the region simply cannot afford it. Even the man who did undergo the procedure had to wait several years for the surgery due to its cost. However, the team hopes to reduce manufacturing costs and train surgeons so that the surgery will be more accessible for those who need it.
Currently, there is no word on how long it will take for surgeons in the United States to begin doing the procedure. However, titanium parts have been used to replace eardrums with some success in other countries, proving that titanium is the new go-to material for hearing loss treatment.
~Here’s to Your Health and Wellness