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Hearing normally for the first time: creating an ear and hearing with a combined procedure

(Vienna, 5th July 2012) A now young man was born with no pinna and no hearing. In an operation that has been carried out for the first time ever in Austria, Sasan Hamzavi at the University Department of ENT at the MedUni Vienna of Vienna General Hospital has implanted a hearing aid and at the same time constructed a pinna for the patient. This innovative surgical procedure offers new hope for similarly affected patients.

Before the surgery, the young patient had neither outer ears (pinna) nor an auditory canal. He also had malformation of the facial bones and the middle ear. As well as having the severely disfiguring lack of pinna, the patient was also unable to hear. Sasan Hamzavi, who developed the new surgical method and used it for the first time, says: “The new implant has allowed our patient to hear normally for the first time in his life. The pinna construction also corrected the aesthetic problems, which was an element of the surgery that was very important to this young patient."

The innovative surgical method comprises two stages. In the first stage, the pinna is created using plastic surgery. The hearing aid implant is then inserted. This complex, combined procedure is the first to combine the construction of the pinna and the implantation of an electronic hearing aid. As well as the aesthetic and functional benefits of just one operation, patients also only require one episode of anaesthesia. The new surgical method is suitable for all people who have had no pinna since birth or who have lost their pinna(e) due to an accident, such as dog bites, burns or traumatic detachment.

Patient can hear

Following the operation, which was carried out in June 2012, the young patient is doing very well, according to Hamzavi: “He can already hear and he no long has to cover up his deformity with his hair.” The constructed pinna will last the patient's entire lifetime. The hearing implant has also been developed to provide as long a service life as possible. The device can also be changed with a further operation.

High-tech and surgical expertise crucial for the new surgical method

Crucial for the operation were the precise planning and the surgical experience and skill of his surgeon, along with the development of the new hearing implant, which has been ready for use since May 2012. The material used to fashion the pinna, Medpore, is a “porous polyethylene”. This has been used for around 20 years and offers numerous advantages compared to a transplant of the body’s own cartilaginous tissue: patients are able to tolerate it 100% and it grows well with the body's own tissues. For most patients, the desired result can be achieved with a single operation (compared to at least four operations with the body’s own cartilage). Medpore also retains its shape and doesn't shrink, unlike cartilage. This means that the aesthetic results are also significantly better.