Hannah Dorothy Pagarigan of Quezon City was six years old when she started hearing life for the first time and eventually became part of mainstream society. She was born pre-term (32 weeks gestational age) and upon birth was placed in a ventilator where she suffered from bronco-pneumonia during admission. At age two and on suspicion of hearing loss, her mother brought the patient to an Othorinolaryngology Specialist where she was diagnosed to have Profound Hearing Loss. At age three, she was fitted with high power hearing instruments and subsequently enrolled in an Auditory- Oral School but progress was disappointing and poor hearing resulted to poor speech and language development. In 2005, Hannah’s life changed tremendously when she had her Cochlear Implant (CI) performed by Dr. Norberto Martinez on May 13 of that year at the University of Sto . Tomas Hospital . Her cochlear implant was donated by Finance Director Dr. Alexander Schoedl, of MED-EL Worldwide Headquarters in Austria , Hanna’s speech processor was then switched on a month later on June 13.
John Stephen Ching, on the other hand, was detected to have hearing loss at age three. He is the first born and only child of Sandy and Josephine Soliman Ching who are both deaf. For sometime, his parents accepted and decided it was okay for John Stephen to be deaf all his life – like them. “We are deaf, John is deaf. It was okay. We’re deaf family.”
But at Grade 1, seeing the great improvement in John Stephen at St. Francis School , a specialized school for kids with cochlear implants, the parents had a change of heart and mind. “There is hope for our son to become normal by becoming part of the hearing world. With CI, John Stephen would be our voice. And we will be assured of a better future for him.”
Husband and wife together with the boy’s grandparents decided for him to have the implant from MED-EL with the help of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). He was operated on May 15, 2008 and his brand new ear’s switch on was set on June 15 at the UST hospital.
Pagarigan, now 11 years old, and Ching, now 16, are among the nearly 400 deaf and hearing impaired individuals in the Philippines who benefited from this breakthrough technology of a tiny implantable hearing device called cochlear implant.
What is Cochlear Implant?
For centuries, people believed that only a miracle could restore hearing to the deaf. It was not until 40 years ago that scientists first attempted to restore normal hearing to the deaf by electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve. A prosthetic device, called Cochlear Implant, is implanted in the inner ear and restores partial hearing to profoundly deaf people. The implant is based on the idea that there is enough auditory nerve fibers left for stimulation in the vicinity of the electrodes. Once the nerve fibers are stimulated, they fire and propagate neural impulses to the brain. The brain interprets them as sounds.
Now on its 15th year of operation in the Philippines , MEDEL continuous to give hope to deaf and the hearing impaired Filipinos especially those who are categorized to be indigent or who come from less privileged sector of the society. With the help of the PCSO and private individuals, more beneficiaries are given the chance to live more productive life. Over the years, PCSO has been donating funds for operations on indigent deaf children. Private individuals, organizations, foreign and local experts and doctors, and some members of the media also contributed much and put the cause of deafness in the country in the forefront thus aiding young children of even the most underprivileged families.
“With MEDEL, everybody has the right to hearing. This is our advocacy,” stresses Maribel Mueller, MEDEL Philippines country manager.
“It isn’t true – that because you don’t have money, you don’t have the right to hear all your life. With the help of number one donor which is PCSO, our only two excellent Surgeons in the country, Dr. Charlotte Chiong of Manila Doctors Hospital, Capitol Medical Center, Malolos ENT Hospital and Philippine General Hospital and Dr. Norberto Martinez of University of Sto. Tomas Hospital and St. Lukes Medical Center and other partners we were able to socialized the cost of the implant. We now have nearly 500 cochlear implant users mostly kids,” says Mueller.
When MEDEL started in the country in 1997, it gave out four implants for free. After 10 years, in 2005, it gave out three implants as a way of the company’s thanksgiving.
Living up to its advocacy, MEDEL also donated in 2006, two Vibrant Soundbridge devices for three middle ear implant operations held at the Philippine General Hospital and University of Sto . Tomas Hospital . Moreover, the company sponsored the airfare of the two most experienced surgeons Italian Prof. Vittorio Colletti and Austrian Prof. Wolf-Dieter Baumgartner for said operations, the first of its kind in the country.
For details and more information on hearing implantable devices, please call Med-el at tel. No. 807-8780 or visit the website at www.medel.com.