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A miracle for thousands who could not hear

For centuries, people believed that only a miracle could give the deaf back their hearing. The success of the cochlear implant, like a miracle, brings a hearing world back to thousands hearing impaired people. Today, more than 100,000 people around the world are enjoying the benefits of cochlear implant.

From today (August 17) to December 9, the Hong Kong Science Museum mounts a new exhibition, "Cochlear implants – offering a hearing world for the hearing-impaired" with the support of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, to show such medical technology in depth.

One in every 1,000 babies in the world are born with severe-to-profound hearing loss in both ears. For people with severe-to-profound hearing loss, simple sound amplification provided by hearing aids offers little help as their inner hair cells are seriously damaged.

The cochlear implant is so far the only medical device designed to restore a human sense-hearing, and it is the most sophisticated technology implanted in humans today.

A cochlear has an implanted part and an external part. The external component processes sound from the environment and the implant delivers converted electrical signals to the auditory nerve. Unlike a hearing aid that amplifies sound to make it loud enough for an impaired ear, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged part of the ear and sends sound signals directly to the hearing auditory nerve.

Sound is distinguished by three parameters: amplitude (intensity), frequency (spectral) and time (temporal). The dynamic range captured by normal hearing listeners is approximately 100 dB. Today's most advanced cochlear implants have a dynamic range of 80 dB or more thus enabling recipients to hear from soft to loud sounds within the listening environment.

The sound processing method employed by the device divides, the frequency spectrum into 16 bands, and each band is preserved in the sound processing for delivery to the recipient. After sound has been captured, composed, and detailed, advance sound processing of cochlear implant is designed to deliver at the fastest rate to accurately represent the details of sound and closely emulate the neural firing patterns of normal hearing.

Stem cells are potentially excellent sources for replacing damaged and degenerated tissues in the disease states, for instance, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and leukaemia.

Tissue engineering is the application of engineering and life sciences towards helping to heal or replace tissues or organs affected by chronic or degenerative diseases.

In conjunction with the exhibition, two videos - "How hearing and a cochlear implant work?" and "Goods news to the hearing-impaired – cochlear implantation" will also be screened. A computer set up on site will provide exhibition-goers with a list of relevant websites.

A lecture entitled "Give my hearing back – modern technology and treatment of deafness", to be conducted by Professor Michael Tong of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Faculty of Medicine of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, in Cantonese with sign language interpretation service, will be held at the museum on August 25 from 2.30pm to 4pm. Admission is free while seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Science Museum is located at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East. It opens from 1pm to 9pm from Monday to Wednesday and on Fridays, and from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $25 with half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

For enquiries, call 2732 3232 or visit the Science Museum's website at .

Ends/Friday, August 17, 2007

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