XI Hearing Preservation Workshop

On 18th – 21st October 2012, in Toronto, took place an exclusive meeting of the prominent specialists entitled the Hearing Preservation Workshop, organized periodically with the cochlear implant company Med-El.

There were 180 participants from all over the world attending the Workshop this year. They presented 35 papers: 17 from Canada and the USA and 16 from Europe, in which an impressive share had the papers from the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing – 5 presentations. The Institute was represented by: Prof. Henryk Skarzynski, Dr Piotr H. Skarzynski, Dr Anna Piotrowska and Dr Artur Lorens.

In the session of opening lectures Prof. H. Skarzynski presented the longitudinal results of the partial deafness treatment with cochlear implants. The study focused on the assessment of speech understanding of the cochlear implant users with partial deafness within 10 years after the implantation.

– In partially deafened patients we can, unfortunately, expect that in longer term a progression of the inner ear problems and thus deterioration of the natural hearing both in implanted and in the other ear. Hearing threshold tests confirm this. But what is particularly interesting is a fact that speech understanding in silence does not deteriorate in long term perspective, and the speech understanding in noise even improves gradually – emphasized Prof. H. Skarzyński.

This observation demonstrates, that in these patients deterioration of the natural hearing may be compensated by modifying the settings of the speech processor (nowadays called audio processor), which is especially designed for the cases of partial deafness. Progressive improvement of the speech understanding in noise Prof. H. Skarżyński explains by the fact of the brain plasticity, which is the ability of certain structures in brain responsible for understanding of speech to change slowly and improve their functioning.

Research presented in this presentation has been the first in the world observation study of the efficacy of the partial deafness treatment using cochlear implants. Until now, all research focused only on experimental studies of the efficacy of safety of this treatment method.

Evidence-based medicine promoted these days recommends clinical management based on the best available research results on its efficacy and safety. Such results are collected in experimental and observation studies. Research results presented by Prof. Skarżyński fills a gap in our knowledge on the partial deafness treatment method, allowing us to confirm that this method if safe and effective and therefore recommended for clinical practice.

Other presentations from the Institute focused also on the topic of the partial deafness. Dr. Piotr Skarżyński presented a study on efficacy and safety of the partial deafness treatment method in children.

The topic of hearing loss in children was continued by dr. Anna Piotrowska in presentation on the hearing screening in school-age children. Her presentation referred to the two important documents initiated by prof. H. Skarżyński with the team of the Institute: the European Consensus on hearing, vision and speech screening in pre-school and school age children and the EU Council Conclusions on Early detection and treatment of Communication Disorders in Children, Including the Use of e-Health Tools and Innovative Solutions.

Dr Artur Lorens presented the preliminary results of the innovative experimental research aimed at explaining the mechanisms of reception by the auditory system of the information transmitted simultaneously in the acoustic (sound) and electrical (electric stimulation) mode. In this study there was performed for the first time in patients with the partial deafness a clinical experiment of joint electric-acoustic stimulation of the same area of the auditory receptor. Preliminary results demonstrate the possibility of using the joint stimulation, showing that the information transmitted electrically does not disturb information transmitted acoustically and vice versa.

Information about the partial deafness treatment method has been complemented by Dr Rene Gifford from the Vanderbilt University, who presented the multicenter American-Polish research project in which Poland has been represented by the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing. Study of the simultaneous electric and acoustic stimulation conducted on Polish and American patients showed significant improvement of speech understanding compared to the electric-only and acoustic-only stimulation, particularly in difficult hearing conditions created experimentally by introducing sound reverberation (echo) and multiple disrupting signals from different directions.

The Toronto meeting has been a unique occasion to exchange information and experiences both on the clinical and basic research. Wide range of topics of this workshop included besides the surgical studies, also reports from the fields of genetics, molecular biology and biomedical engineering.