The International Cochlear Implant Day

February 25th, the 60th anniversary of the first in the world cochlear implantation, was the International Cochlear Implant Day. In Poland, the first surgery restoring hearing to a totally deaf person with application of a cochlear implant was performed by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński on July 16, 1992. One day later a cochlear implant, for the first time in Poland, was implanted in a deaf child. The International Cochlear Implant Day is celebrated all over the world to raise awareness among the people with hearing disorders about the benefits of implantation changing life for the better.

The first cochlear implantation in the world had been performed in Paris by French ear surgeon Charles Eyries in cooperation with a biophysician Andre Djourno on February 25, 1957. The device they had implanted did not allow for speech understanding, it provided only a general perception of surrounding sounds and, as the patients was dissatisfied with the device, it had been removed. Researchers, in spite of technical limitations of the device, saw the great potential of this experiment. Inspired by the achievements of French scientists, prof. William House had started research on the University of Los Angeles. In 1961, the team under his direction had implanted two patients with electrodes allowing hearing nerve stimulation. In 1964, John Doyle, who earlier collaborated with House, had for the first time inserted electrode into the cochlea. House had started the first in the United States program of treatment of deafness with mass produced cochlear implants. Similar program in Europe had started Claude-Henri Chouard in Paris in 1973, and Kurt Burian in Vienna in 1975.

Poland had joined this elite group in 1992, when Prof. Henryk Skarżyński performed the first in Poland cochlear implantation in a deaf patient, thus giving a chance and hope to thousands of hearing impaired patients and starting the Polish program of treatment of total deafness. That operation was a breakthrough in Polish otosurgery. Failure would mean abandoning that program for many years. Success would be an extraordinary impulse for development of otosurgery, audiology, rehabilitation and early diagnostics of hearing loss in newborns. That extremely complex, multispecialty program was subsequently joined by physicians, psychologists, speech therapists, teachers, engineers and hearing prosthetists. Preparations for the first cochlear implantation in a deaf patient took two years.

Regardless of being prepared and having full trust in my abilities, I had been at that time a freshly nominated professor, a certain risk existed, as it in case of all pioneering surgeries, that some unforeseen situation would happen, that something would go wrong. A failure caused not by my lack of knowledge, preparedness or skills, but by other, objective reasons would mean that implementation of the hearing implant program in Poland would be delayed in Poland for several years. Then we would have been able to introduce the new idea in otosurgery, start new activities, and create new centers, institutions, research teams, clinics, laboratories. This is why that first surgery in 1992 had been so important. – Reminiscences Prof. Skarżyński.

The success of these first surgeries has brought about implementation of a cochlear implant program and later the entire huge program of modern otosurgery and audiology. Prof. Henryk Skarżyński had been instrumental in creating the medical institutions of an international importance such as the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing and World Hearing Center, which today provides care to more than 5 thousand cochlear implant users. In the Institute, more than 400 thousand surgical procedures had been performed. In more than 20 years, more than 200 new clinical programs had been introduced into clinical practice, including virtually all innovating solutions in ear implantology. Polish patients have in the Institute access to the newest technologies as the first, or one of the first patients in the world. The Institute is also a prestigious teaching and training centers, attracting doctors from all continents who want to study surgical techniques and medical procedures developed by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński.

In Poland, celebration of the 25th anniversary of the first cochlear implantation performed by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński will last the entire 2017 and will involve the whole spectrum of scientific and artistic events. The World Hearing Center is the organizer of events including the Scientific Conference of the Polish Society of Otolaryngologists, Phoniatricians and Audiologists with participation of international guests, the 1st World Tinnitus Congress and XII International Tinnitus Seminar, the 25th International Evoked Response Audiometry Study Group Biennial Symposium, the 12th Scientific and Teaching Conference of the Audiology and Phoniatrics Sections of the Polish Society of Otorhinolaryngologists Head and Neck Surgeons, International Bonebridge & Soundbridge Symposium, 3rd International Scientific Conference ‘Hearing Implants and Music’, International Music Workshops and 3rd International Festival of Children, Youths and Adults with Hearing Disorders ‘Beats of Cochlea’.