I can hear, I am free!

On the 20th of June 2014 a press breakfast „The Man and the Center of Freedom – I can hear, I am free” took place in the Foksal Press Center. It was aimed to disseminate knowledge and recall achievements of the team of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing within polish medicine in the previous 25 years. Prof. Henryk Skarzynski who has recently been granted the title the „Man of Freedom” participated in the meeting with journalists. Ms. Jadwiga Kaminska Chairwoman of the Journalist’s Health Promotion Club and Mr. Henryk Szrubarz from Polish Radio conducted the meeting.

Speakers presented rich and interesting history of scientific, medical, didactic and organizational developments of Prof. Henryk Skarzynski and his team, mentioning an enormous contribution for the otolaryngology and audiology areas. The success was achieved thanks to tremendous work and political changes in our country.

Lack of freedom may stop progress and research development, it may destroy previous achievements. In 1989 I had an opportunity to go to Paris to learn about modern, at that time, methods of deafness treatment. Later in 1992 I had the possibility to introduce the methods in Poland – recalls Prof. Henryk Skarzynski, who was the first otosurgeon in Poland to perform cochlear implantations.

In 1992 Prof. Skarzynski performed cochlear implantation in a totally deaf adult patient. It was the first of this kind operation in Poland.

We proved then that cochlear implantation allows both prelingual and postlingual patients to come back to the world of sounds – said Prof. Skarzynski.

Since then the Institute’s team performs most innovative operations within otology. In January 1998 Prof. Henryk Skarzynski together with his team performed first in Poland brainstem implantation. Operation lasted 12 hours. The patient had a tumor resected and then the electrode array implanted into the brainstem. After the operation the patient’s level of regained hearing was confirmed to be unique in the world scale. The patient could speak in Polish and German and she has started to learn Italian.

In 2002 Prof. Skarzynski performed first in the world cochlear implantation in a partially deaf adult patient. This surgery was a great challenge, especially in the context of ageing population. In Poland 2/3 of the 70-year-old people suffers from total or begins of partial deafness.

12 years ago such a surgery was controversial and scientists underestimated its necessity, while today there are no doubts – he recalls.

Malgorzata Jeruzalska took part in the meeting with journalists – she is one of the first patients with partial deafness, she was bilaterally implanted with cochlear implants. The first operation took place in 2003 and the second in 2010.

Since the second operation I do not have any communication problems neither with speech nor with understanding of speech of other people – she had emphasized. – I used to have communication problems, I could not fully participate in the social and cultural life. Such situation cannot be understand by a healthy person who have never had any problems with hearing – she added.

Currently Malgosia works in the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing as a pedagogue and helps people to accommodate to the new situation – hearing with cochlear implants.

Further breakthrough in the hearing loss treatment was the first cochlear implantation in a partially deaf child performed by Prof. Skarzynski in 2004.

At that time scientists were afraid that introduction of something to the inner ear destroys its physiological order, its structure. But the effects of these surgeries surpassed our expectations – remembers Prof. Skarzynski. – Since then we have operated over 2 thousand children and adults with partial deafness in Kajetany – this is the biggest group of patients in the world.

In 2008 in Kajetany the first in the world bilateral brainstem implantation was performed. An interdisciplinary international team directed by Prof. Skarzynski implanted the second brainstem device in a musician who lost his hearing after resection of tumors. With two brainstem implants he recorded a long play.

Recently a new generation of implants has been introduced to everyday clinical practice of Kajetany. They are used in cases of patients whose natural auditory pathway is obstructed. The only chance to regain auditory skills is the new system based on bone conduction. The device is implanted under the skin and the external part comprises a microphone and a power supply. These implants are used both in children and adults.

Every day in Kajetany 70 various types of hearing improving surgeries are performed, including these most rare in the world. In May 2014 brainstem implantations were conducted in patients with neurinomas located on their auditory nerves. The only way to restore hearing in such cases is to apply auditory brainstem implant.

The patients were referred to me as a national consultant in the otorhinolaryngology area. They were determined to go abroad for the treatment. This kind of treatment is very expensive abroad so I have decided to organize an international team in the World Hearing Center to operate them in Poland and at the same time elaborate program that would allow us to provide treatment in such cases. – He adds.

These and many other events would not have happened if Poland was not free. It is possible now to cooperate with leading medical centers in the world, we can publish scientific papers in the most influential papers in the world, we can freely exchange our thoughts – Prof. Skarzynski concluded this part of the meeting. – I am happy that I was able to witness this amazing quarter of the century in our country. I am glad that I could work for our common and my own success.
Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy – there is a hard work behind great successes. And I belong to the generation that was lucky to observe the effects of our work and actions in a really free country.

During the meeting newest technological perspectives, new therapies and methods of hearing restoration as well as plans for strengthening Polish position on a scientific and clinical map of the world were presented.

Within the next years the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing will take an active part in promotion of Polish science and medicine in the world. The Institute has been given trust and has been selected to organize several interesting scientific international congresses within otorhinolaryngology, audiology and phoniatrics. This is a unique achievement in the world scale – said Prof. Skarzynski during the second part of the conference.

In 2017 Warsaw will host World Tinnitus Conference and XXV International Evoked Response Audiometry Study Group Biennial Symposium (IERASG), a year later – 5th International Symposium on Otosclerosis and Stapes Surgery, and in 2020– the XXXV World Congress of Audiology.

Polish and our achievements within deafness treatment and other hearing problems are appreciated in the world that is why we won organization of these prestigious scientific meetings – commented at the end of the meeting Prof. Henryk Skarzynski.