Dr. Kohan was featured in an article for Bloomberg Business where he talks about the power of cochlear implants and their ability to restore hearing.
“The programming has leaped beyond imagination,” says Dr. Darius Kohan, chief of the otolaryngology department at NYU-Brooklyn Hospital Center and Pandian’s doctor. “This could potentially eliminate deafness.”
Ravi Pandian, a 43-year-old geologist who lives in Highland Park, N.J., knows the exact moment he went deaf. An immigrant to the U.S. who grew up in India, he had suffered his first debilitating ear infection when he was six months old, and by 1991 had lost all hearing in his left ear. At 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 7, 2003, Pandian sensed something was wrong with his right ear, too. Within 30 minutes, his hearing was gone.
Pandian’s case was complicated by a tumor on his eardrum and a botched childhood operation that had severed a nerve in his right ear. Starting in 2003, Pandian spent two years going from doctor to doctor, but nothing worked. “It was awful being deaf,” he says. “Not to hear my son speak, not to hear his school band play.” Finally, in February, 2005, he got a cochlear implant — a device that uses tiny electrodes to turn sounds picked up by an external microphone into electronic impulses. The implant then transmits those impulses to the brain via auditory nerves in the inner ear. After the doctor activated the device, Pandian could hear the words of his wife and son. He was struck by a cacophony — revolving doors, roaring buses, the tick-tock of the directional signal in his car. “I went in with no expectations and no hopes,” he says. “I came out with tons of excitement for the future.”
Manufacturers of cochlear implants, which were introduced more than three decades ago, are hoping such testimonials can finally help them reap major rewards. Only 17,000 people worldwide had cochlear devices implanted last year, yet in the U.S. alone, some 900,000 people are believed to be deaf or near-deaf. One problem is that the implants may cost $25,000, and the surgery itself can run up an equally high tab. Cochlear Ltd. in Sydney, Australia, which provided Pandian’s implant, claims 70% of the market. Its two chief rivals are Advanced Bionics Corp. () in Sylmar, Calif. — a unit of Boston Scientific Corp. () — and Med-El Corp. in Innsbruck, Austria.
Many more hearing-impaired people may seek implants as the technology grows more powerful. The integrated electronic circuitry and software in the newest implants put the world’s most sophisticated cell phones to shame, achieving results that once seemed completely out of reach. Some patients testify that they can now stand in a crowded room and carry on a conversation. Others report that they can listen to music — something that, with earlier implants, sounded like a series of hisses and squeaks.
Much of this magic is performed by the microcode embedded in the latest devices. “The programming has leaped beyond imagination,” says Dr. Darius Kohan, chief of the otolaryngology depart- ment at NYU-Brooklyn Hospital Center and Pandian’s doctor. “This could potentially eliminate deafness.”
If Kohan is right, implants could become a mainstream business. Cochlear is also betting that demographics are on its side. One out of every four Americans over 65 suffers some hearing loss. Traditionally, senior citizens have assumed that “as you get older, you get deaf, and that’s the way things are,” says Neville Mitchell, Cochlear’s chief financial officer. But baby boomers “are less tolerant of disability,” he says. “They’re not prepared to put up with deafness.”
To read the full original article please visit here:http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2005-11-13/listen-the-sound-of-hope