The International Day of Hearing Protection

On March 3rd we are celebrating the International Day of Hearing Protection (known also as the International Day for Ear and Hearing), initiated by the World Health Organization. According to the WHO, more than 328 million adults and 32 million children in the world have severe to profound hearing loss. According to information collected by the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing on the international scientific conferences, there are more than one billion. It is an enormous civilization problem generating huge social and economic costs.

Hearing loss has become a civilization disease – says Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, director of the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing in Kajetany. – Once, it had been normal that a person at 70 has a hearing impairment. Today, progress of civilization, omnipresent noise, earphones, loud music from early childhood, as well as ototoxic drugs and blood circulation or metabolism-related problems combine to move this border from the age of 70 to 50. Luckily, we have means to help almost any patient with hearing problems – from a child to a centenarian. – says Prof. Skarżyński.

Hearing loss may be a cause of many diseases and general deterioration of person’s functioning. In children these disorders, even if they are slight, can have a negative impact on development of language communication and overall development, including academic achievements. In elderly people they can lead to cognitive dysfunctions, hearing loss episodes and may be related to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In the first place, however, they hamper or hinder everyday communication with other people.

While development of interpersonal communication, access to and exchange of information are the foundations of the modern society. – adds Prof. Skarżyński. – At the beginning of the 20th century a person’s functioning and their social position were dependent in 95% on their manual skills, today, it all depends on the ability to communicate. Good hearing is of crucial importance.

Presently, possibilities of treatment available for all groups of patients are very wide. In the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing implants used in treatment of hearing disorders include cochlear implant, middle ear implants, bone conduction devices designed for optimal transfer of sounds to the inner ear or directly stimulating the inner ear, as well as different types of hearing aids. The newest solutions are not reserved for the youngest patients; there are no age limits to their application in treatment. With these devices many people with hearing loss can recover good hearing and communicate and stay fully active for many years.

The Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing has presently under its care more than 5 thousand cochlear implant users. In the Institute about 400 thousand surgical procedures had been performed, 200 new clinical programs introduced into the daily clinical practice including virtually all innovative solutions from the field of otosurgical implantology. Polish patients have in the Institute access to the newest technologies as the first ones, or one of the first in the world.

In 2017, the Institute celebrates a very important jubilee: 15th anniversary of first cochlear implantations in Poland – in a deaf adult and a deaf child – performed by Prof. Henryk Skarżyński who, by pioneering these surgeries in Poland, not only gave a change and hope to thousands of deaf patients but also had started the Polish program of treatment of deafness. These operations had been a breakthrough in Polish ear surgery. Present possibilities in the field of hearing improving reconstruction surgeries include more than 20 thousand such procedures performed in the World Hearing Center only. It is several hundred to thousand percent more than in the largest ORL centers in the world.