GICCA 2015: Chile travels to Brazil looking ahead to 2017

Chilean specialists will not only be in Brazil to show off the country's latest clinical and surgical advances; they will also be forging bonds and acquiring experience because GICCA is to be held in Santiago two years from now.

A section of the Chilean delegation will be pursuing two aims at the The VI Iberoamerican Conference on Cochlear Implants and Related Sciences (GICCA) 2015. While they will want to get across the research and surgical advances made by Chilean professionals, they will also be looking for a helping hand from their Brazilian colleagues in view of the 2017 GICCA having been scheduled for Santiago de Chile in March, 2017.

The organisers of the coming event in Chile are all working at the Las Condes Clinic. Experts point out that this is largely due to the presence and prestige of the Clinic's otorhinolaryngologist Marcos Goycoolea (pioneer medic in cochlear implants in Latin America), whose international contacts and credibility make the dream possible: staging the most important event in this medical specialty to be held in our country.

Within the Chilean delegation in Brazil will be otorhinolaryngologist Tomás Labatut, an expert in two specific areas: cochlear implants and eustachian tube dysfunction, and he will be one of the speakers. "My presentation is on the anatomy of the cochlea and a region called the round window, through which we access the insertion of the cochlear implant electrode (the electrode which will stimulate the auditory cells)."

Labatut also admits he is part of a kind of commando advance troop which will begin to disseminate details of the GICCA event to be staged in Santiago; he is going to be the secretary of the congress.

Chilean advances

Over nearly 25 years, Chilean otorhinolaryngologists have worked to advance cochlear implant techniques and other deafness treatments. The Las Condes Clinic is the centre which has spent the longest time of all dedicated to this aspect of hearing health and is, therefore, the centre with the highest number of implanted patients in Chile. It is no surprise that the centre has treated a great variety of cases.

At GICCA 2015, one of the areas Las Condes professionals will highlight will be advances in the field of cochlear implants for elderly adults. "It is quite a pioneer in this sphere," points out Tomás Labatut. "One tends to associate cochlear implants with deaf children but, for their part and for different causes, elderly adults also lose their hearing. And in both cases there is a similar result: people are increasinly isolated from their social surroundings, and with greater absence of communication. Sadly, our society can forget our elderly adults, and they have had to get by with hearing aids, which are excellent devices but with clear limitations. In fact, there are levels of hearing loss for which hearing aids are just not useful. The question used to be: "What use is it for an elderly person to embark on an adventure with a cochlear implant, and with the high costs involved? Now we realise, through the work carried out, how patients who fit in this category have improved their quality of life thanks to cochlear implants. At the Clinic, we have a good number of cases documented, with detailed statistics about the improvement in quality of life for them. In other words, we can show that cochlear implants are a valid alternative today in terms of improving quality of life."

Another topic Chilean professionals will highlight will be the treatment of tinnitus through cochlear implants. Here too, they will arrive with many documented cases of how cochlear implants have helped patients with profound deafness and who have also suffered from incapacitating tinnitus. "In many patients, we improved (lowered) the intensity of the tinnitus. In some, the tinnitus disappeared," affirms Tomás Labatut.

Opportunities for 2017

Despite the giant steps forward in Chile in health, it is still backward in many other questions such as the access of citizens to treatments considered basic in many other countries. Specialist concur in GICCA 2017 becoming a great opportunity to get these issues into the collective conscience in Chile.

Tomás Labatut explains: "Chile is still playing the little brother in the cochlear implant sphere because despite its otorhinolaryngologists making great steps at the Ministry of Health level, they still have not won universal access for cochlear implants in our society. This cover is only given to patients born deaf or who are diagnosed as deaf before they are two-years-old. In several Latin American countries and in Europe, this cover is not so restricted. We hope that GICCA 2017 will allow us not only to get our achievements across to other countries but also create greater awareness within Chile about the need to improve access to implants, starting with universal coverage for diagnosis and then extending to universal cover for access to implants for those patients who suffer from profound hearing loss."

Although many details still need to be clarified, Chile is now getting ready to host GICCA in 2017 - some venues, for example, are now prepared. Our specialists are on their way to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to get experience with the aim of "squeezing out" all the possibilities of the most important Iberoamerican gathering in this specialty.

Find this article and much more audiology-related contents in Spanish on Audioenportada, the information website for audiology professionals and hearing aids dispensers of the Spanish-speaking world.

Gonzalo López Pardo, Audio Infos Latin America

Photos: G.L.P.