First Cochlear Implants at Liberia, Costa Rica Public Hospital Are Success

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Two children received cochlear implants earlier this month in successful operations at the Liberia, Costa Rica public hospital, reported the Costa Rica Social Security Agency (CCSS), the entity charged with running Costa Rica’s public medical facilities.

Early auditory screenings are being implemented nationwide to detect hearing problems early on, as such corrections are more successful when made earlier, said the CCSS.

The two were chosen due to profound hearing loss in both ears, making them fit the criteria for the implants. Eight others from Guanacaste who didn’t pass the auditory screening were sent to specialists in San José for further study.

Surgeons from San José’s Mexico Hospital worked with specialists at Liberia’s Enrique Baltodano Briceño Hospital on the procedures in the two children from Guanacaste aged 4 and 6.

Eladio Valverde Villalobos, clinical chief of otorhinolaryngology services at the capital’s hospital, said the surgeries were a success, with each one lasting about three hours, about half the time the surgery took when the procedure was first practiced over a decade ago.

Cochlear implant, “is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing in both ears. Cochlear implants bypass the normal hearing process; they have a microphone and some electronics that reside outside the skin, generally behind the ear, which transmit a signal to an array of electrodes placed in the cochlea, which stimulate the cochlear nerve,” according to a description in Wikipedia.

The CCSS has performed a total of 342 cochlear implants over the past 15 years. The México Hospital has specialized in the expensive and complex procedure which has a very high probability of returning hearing to people with profound deafness, and has had an 80 percent success rate in Costa Rica according to Valverde.

Each cochlear implant has an estimated cost of US$16,800, not counting the hospital’s fixed costs.

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