Eli Yishai's ear 58.
(photo credit: Haim Tzach)
Forty years after Evelyn Pinto went deaf as a child from immersing herself in a
wading pool filled with infected water and after Ilan Yamit was born deaf, they
both underwent surgery for implantation of a new hearing device at Kaplan
Medical Center in Rehovot.
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After both began to hear at the hospital,
Yamit identified Pinto as a former neighbor in Yavne whom she last saw in 1976.
They recently celebrated their unplanned reunion in the hospital by actually
talking to and understanding each other.
Pinto, who is 10 years older
than Yamit, is a professional cook in a child rehabilitation center who came on
aliya from Morocco. While attending a summer camp, she completely lost her
hearing after her ears were exposed to the infected water. She has since used
sign language to communicate.
Yamit, who works in supply services and who
never heard a word until the implant due to congenital deafness, met Pinto in
the wards of the ear-nose-and-throat department.
“We used to play
together near our homes in Yavne,” he said with emotion. “At the age of 15, I
received rabbinical ordination – becoming the youngest rabbi in the country –
but as I devoted myself to my studies and wrote books, I didn’t see my
neighbors. When I saw Evelyn in Kaplan, I had no doubt it was she. Now we can
He left the neighborhood 18 months ago after
divorcing, but his ex-wife and children still live there.
Pinto said it
was very odd to meet – in the corridor outside the operating theater – a
childhood friend and neighbor who had lived 30 meters away.
Ilan’s parents, and know I will get to get to know him again,” she
The device that made their encounter possible, called BAHA for
bone-anchored hearing aid, was added to the basket of health services only last
year. The implanted system works through direct bone conduction and in 2002 was
approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of unilateral
sensorineural hearing loss.
It is meant for people who cannot benefit
from conventional hearing aids; both Pinto and Yamit couldn’t wear them because
of recurrent infections in their ears.
BAHA allows sound to be conducted
through the bone rather than via the middle ear, It consists of three parts – a
titanium implant, an external abutment and a sound processor. The system works
by enhancing natural bone transmission as a pathway for sound to travel to the
inner ear, bypassing the external auditory canal and middle ear.
implant is placed during a short surgical procedure and over time naturally
integrates with the skull bone in a process call osseointegration.
hearing, the sound processor transmits sound vibrations through the external
abutment to the titanium implant. The vibrating implant creates vibrations
within the skull and inner ear that stimulate the inner ear’s nerve fibers,
The device is used to rehabilitate people with
conductive and mixed loss hearing impairment such as Pinto, who suffered from
chronic infection of the ear canal, congenital ear malformation, such as Yamit,
and people with a single-sided hearing loss as a result of surgery for a
vestibular tumor of the balance and hearing nerves. It is used both in adults
The device costs $4,000 in the US plus the cost of surgery,
but in Israel it is supplied to suitable patients by their health funds. The
only manufacturers are the Sydney, Australia-based Cochlear Limited, which
registered BAHA as a trademark, and the Gothenburg, Sweden-based Oticon
Kaplan ear surgery specialist Dr. Yitzhak Poriya, who performed
both implant operations, and Dr. Doron Halperin, head of the hospital’s
ear-nose-and-throat department, said Pinto shouted “Wow!” with great emotion and
tears in her eyes when she found she could hear again.
Pinto added that
for years she had no hope of being a “normal person.”
When she learned of
the BAHA, she didn’t hesitate to undergo the surgery and hear like everyone
“Until now, my eldest son, who is 13, has helped me understand what
his 10- year-old sister was telling me. Now, thanks to the incredible staffers
at Kaplan, I can hear everyone.”