Loss of hearing is common. Perhaps 10% of the Swiss population suffers from pronounced hearing loss, a condition that can considerably limit social and occupational communication.
There are different types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss affects the eardrum and the ossicles (hammer, anvil, stirrup) and leads to a mechanical disturbance in the transmission of sound waves from the eardrum to the inner ear. Inner ear deafness, by contrast, rests on malfunctioning sensory cells in the organ of Corti that can no longer amplify the oscillations of inner ear fluid to generate nerve impulses.
Depending on the severity and type of hearing loss, medication or a hearing aid may be indicated. Microscopic investigation of the ear as well as hearing tests are necessary to establish an accurate diagnosis. In certain cases, further specialized diagnostic tools such as CAT-scans or MRIs may also be indicated.
Most defects in the ossicular chain and the eardrum can be repaired surgically. Where possible, the patient's own tissue is used; if not possible, we use synthetic prostheses.
Further information on synthetic prostheses
Fisch titanium protheses
Thanks to close cooperation with the medical industry, it has been possible to develop new middle ear protheses made of titanium. These are very suited for rebuilding a defective ossicular chain.
The form of these prostheses is unique, and they can be individually tailored to within a fraction of a millimeter of the length that is needed.
The reliability of these titanium prostheses has been confirmed by an international working group of experts. Due to their plasticity (also during operations) and light weight, optimal postoperative results have been achieved, including in cases where other types of prostheses have failed.
New approaches to the surgical treatment of inner ear deafness
The Symphonix company has developed a mini-magnet (1 millimeter large) that can be attached to the long limb of the anvil. A receiver implanted behind the ear activates the magnet, as does a processor (a small disk a few millimeters thick) that adheres to the skin by magnetic forces.
This middle ear prosthesis has been described as a "vibrant sound bridge." It amplifies the vibrations of the ossicular chain caused by sound waves; we were the first, worldwide, to implant it in May 1996 in Zurich.
Since then, the Symphonix middle ear prosthesis has been successfully implanted in many patients who had medium to high inner ear deafness. This procedure is recommended when conventional hearing aids do not provide adequate relief from hearing loss.