Lecture about hearing at the University of Warsaw

“Hearing is the foundation of the development of the modern society, determining the quality of every sphere of our lives – education, communication, work and social life, said Prof. Henryk Skarżyński during his lecture titled “The role of hearing in the development of the modern society” in the Auditorium Maximum of the University of Warsaw on 18th November. This meeting was a part of a series ‘Eight lectures for the new millennium’.

Prof. Skarżyński’s lecture was very colourful, supported with research and illustrated with music, and it explained the functioning, anatomy and development of hearing from the prenatal period to the old age. He underscored the crucial role of the first years of life in the development of hearing, voice and speech.
Research conducted at the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing shows that two children in a thousand are born with a serious hearing disorders, whereas among schoolchildren as many as 20% have different kinds of hearing dysfunctions.

These are the challenges and problems that we have to face, said Prof. Skarżyński, especially considering that our society is ageing and we need to address the health problems of this group of citizens. Problems of hearing are also a chance for development of the new technologies and devices. Prof. Skarżyński mentioned also the need for continued development of medicine, to be able to meet the evolving, ever-new problems of the today’s patients.

Hearing is inseparable from the brain and its lateralization. Prof. Skarżyński, using many examples, presented the map of brain functions and the way they influence our lives, our hearing and listening. A very interesting example was the musicians, in whom both brain hemispheres are often equal. It is worth adding that music, suited to the time of the day and situation, strongly influences our mood and ability to focus and work.

Music, however, as Prof. Skarżyński said, has also a bad side. It may be detrimental to hearing, if played too loud, for too long and on the earphones. This problem is very common among young people, exacerbated by the level of noise in schools which sometimes exceeds 90dB.

On the other hand, music can have a therapeutical function, for example in tinnitus, where sometimes it is more effective than a pharmacological treatment. Music is also a very good therapy for hyperactive children, helping them to focus and concentrate.

During the lecture, Prof. Skarżyński devoted much attention to the ways of reaching as many people as possible to persuade them that early commencement of treatment is almost in 100% of cases successful. Therefore it is of key importance to popularize prophylactic examinations among the adults and elderly, as well as the newborn hearing screening. Early recognition and hearing disorders in children enables early start of the treatment and thus gives them the chance of normal, unrestricted development same as their hearing peers.

It is worth mentioning that the team of the Institute has introduced the hearing screening programs also in the developing countries. An International Consortium of Hearing Screening has been created, comprising beside the Institute, representatives of countries from three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. The results of studies performed in these countries confirm the scale of the problem, with the incidence of hearing dysfunctions among the schoolchildren at the level of 13 to even 30%.

Another important issue addressed by Prof. Skarżyński were the hearing problems among the elderly. He underscored that they should not be underestimated, as in time they will touch almost all of us.

Prof. Skarżyński lecture was also a lesson in management, as he recalled the history of creation and development of the World Hearing Center. The years of hard work, risk taking and effort resulted in creation of the unique entity combining hospital with the science and research center. The WHC is also the first teleaudiology network in the world, demonstrating the contemporary capabilities of telemedicine. It is also the range of educational facilities, such as the opportunity to observe live surgical operations performed in the WHC in Kajetany (there are 70 surgeries performed daily).

As Prof. Skarżyński underlined, it is worth talking about our success. We created something that will have a significant impact on the development of medicine, not only in Poland, but around the world. Polish patients will be the first to take advantage of the newest solutions and treatments. We are the authors, the witnesses and the beneficiaries of success – said Prof. Skarżyński.

Medicine – concluded Prof. Skarżyński – will always be an art, because it works with living people, not plastic models. We must always move forward and stay ahead, we must have our own way and goals. The World Hearing Center has weathered many storms and built a port which we could always call at – finished Prof. Skarżyński.