The congress gathered several hundred specialists in the field of audiology, otology, otolaryngology, biomedical engineering, even though it was addressed not exclusively to the doctors. Other specialists involved in diagnostics and those working with patients during hearing rehabilitation after implantation also took part in it. The Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing was represented in San Francisco by prof. Piotr H. Skarzynski and dr Bartłomiej Król, who presented the works documenting the great achievements of the Institute in the field of implantable devices („Long term patients’ evaluation after surgical implantation of active middle ear prostheses”, „Middle ear implants – our experience with active middle ear implants” and „Hearing preservation classification”).
Although the most attention was given to the subject of cochlear implants, the reports on middle ear implantation and bone conduction implants were also presented. Despite the long-term use of these devices in children, such surgeries still attract high interest – mainly due to the potentially numerous congenital disorders that may be present in the patient qualified for implantation, and deviations from generally accepted standards. In this case, crucial were large groups of patients and long-term observations, without which it would be difficult to draw tangible conclusions. When acquainting with the experiences of other speakers, most often we were dealing with a case study or descriptions of several implantations.
Furthermore, the Skarzynski’s Partial Deafness Treatment classification is consistently quoted and used by surgeons all over the world, regardless of the type and brand of the implanted device. It is still believed that it sets a new direction in otosurgery, the one particularly beneficial for patients. Properly performed cochlear implantation based on the 6-step Skarzynski procedure is of great importance. The hearing preservation during this procedure as well as its benefits were one of the most frequently discussed topics during the conference.
The congress program provided for the speeches of the most eminent world experts. Professor Della Santina from the Otolaryngology Clinic in Baltimore presented the first, and already promising, results from Multichannel Vestibular Implant (MVI) implantation. Much attention was given to new types of implants, possible directions of development, miniaturisation of the devices, increasing their efficiency, and the possibilities of combining the devices with various electronic equipment used on a daily basis. There are still no explicit guidelines for disputable cases, such as auditory neuropathy or auditory nerve disorders. In the session on rehabilitation, the role of music therapy in obtaining better auditory results received much attention.
Professor Michael Merzenich from the University of San Francisco gave a lecture on brain plasticity and its importance in the rehabilitation of hearing. Professor Anne Fernald from Stanford University described critical periods of speech development, its measurement methods and provided valuable guidelines for rehabilitation. Additionally, she discussed the speech development depending on the moment of the cochlear implantation in the child. Referring to her research, she pointed to the critical time for the complete success of the subsequent rehabilitation and emphasised that children with hearing impairments requiring this type of prosthesis should be implanted as early as possible. Professor Fernald, presenting the dependence of speech development from the moment of implanting the cochlear implant in the child and pointing to critical time, according to her research, for the full success of the subsequent rehabilitation, emphasized that children with hearing impairments requiring this type of prosthesis should be implanted as early as possible.