This week at Hearing International, we are proud to have our guest author Dr. Tarek El Dessouki, discuss a very real problem that is a significant issue to cochlear implant patients in the Middle East. This area of the world has seen significant turmoil in the past number of years. The conflict of military interests and the need to hear and understand with a cochlear implant offers an interesting dichotomy that is too often not even considered. Although this issue is virtually unheard of in the United States, Dr. Dessouky has patients where this issue of significant everyday concern. He discusses the very real problems that are part of signal jamming in Iraq and other areas where cochlear implants and military operations coexist.
The problem has been noted by parents of Iraqi children
with cochlear implants who start hysterically screaming whenever a military convoy passes by. An investigation found that the reason for this situation was the military use of signal jamming technology as a means of protecting convoys from roadside bombs or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Signal jamming is
commonly used in the security community to disable these roadside IED bombs
Signal jamming works
by transmitting wideband frequency waves that jam the receivers of roadside bombs, thereby cutting off communication with remotely controlled detonators. Apparently, what was happening with the implant wearers was that the receiver coil was transmitting these these high power signal to the implanted electrodes in the cochlea, thereby stimulating the auditory nerve in a bizarre way. It is difficult to assess the amount of pain experience by these children. The parents were advised to tell their children to turn off their external receiver and to
stay far away whenever they saw a military convoy.
In the case of cochlear implants, serious limitations on size and power consumption may make
adding a similar signal jamming protection module impractical. Not to mention that there are estimated to be more than 250,000 patients with cochlear implants worldwide, making it nearly impossible to bring them back for additional surgeries. Hence, I believe it is our ethical commitment toward our patients to address this vulnerability in current cochlear implant technology, and/ or at least assess the magnitude of the problem.
This Week’s Guest Author:
Tarek El Dessouki, M.D., is a 2002 Audiological Medicine graduate of the Cairo University Medical School in Cairo, Egypt. He is currently Lecturer and Director of Audiological Medicine at the BeniSwif Medical School, BeniSwif, Egypt. He is a member of the Egyptian Syndicate for Medical Doctors, The Egyptian ORL Society and the American Academy of Audiology.