Technology has had a striking impact on a great many of our modern endeavors. Breakthroughs in sustainable energy have now made it possible to drive a car that gets more than one hundred miles per gallon. 3D cameras give filmmakers the chance to immerse their audience in a movie, and HDTV manufacturers have brought that process into the home. Medical procedures that used to take months of recovery can now be executed with a simple office visit due to microsurgery and laser scalpels. And today, technological innovations in medicine are paring up with social media to create awareness on a massive scale. On October 2nd, the process of helping 79-year-old Eleanor Day recover her hearing after five years of complete silence will be covered live and in full detail on Twitter and Instagram.
The hearing restoration surgery is taking place first thing in the morning at Seattle, Washington’s Swedish Medical Center. Drew Symonds, a member of the support staff from the center’s communications department will handle the social aspect, while Dr. Douglas Backous, department head for the Center for Hearing and Skull Base Surgery will perform the operation. It’s an incredible opportunity for the world to receive commentary and photography during the whole process, and the medical staff hopes it will raise awareness for this new surgical procedure and the overall issue of hearing loss.
The procedure Ms. Day will go through is called cochlear implant surgery. It’s fairly new but completely safe. The surgical team implants an electrode in the patient’s inner ear, designed to stimulate the delicate nerves that are damaged when hearing is impaired. While many people are considered strong candidates for the elective procedure, only 10% of them end up going through the actual process. Part of the issue is expense, but the major problem is awareness. Dr. Backous feels that opening up an operation to the world through Instagram and Twitter might be able to bridge that awareness gap. While most social networkers are fairly young, if additional millions knew this surgery was possible they would then share it with the older generations in their lives that could most benefit.
The documentation of the cochlear implant surgery will be thorough. They will start the social media outreach when Ms.Day arrives to prepare for the procedure, and continue it straight through to when she settles into the recovery room. The surgical team will even take magnified pictures of her inner ear during the process and post them as well. The surgery isn’t very bloody, and the entire event will be over in about an hour and a half.
Ms. Day has been struggling with hearing loss for the better part of twenty years, though she has only been considered completely deaf for the last five years. Her condition does not respond to hearing aids, so this surgery is really her only chance to regain the lost sense. When queried as to her reasons for participating, Ms. Day said she really hopes to hear her family speak and be able to interact with her church community once again. She had never heard of Twitter or Instagram, but once it was all explained to her she was thrilled to be a part of such an important, visible operation.
The success of the surgery will not be immediately apparent. Her ears must be allowed to heal, and the implant won’t be turned on for the first time until the 14th of this month. But if you’re more than casually interested in the process or are working on a masters health care administration you should tune in for a detailed live chat with the surgical team on the 10th. You can find additional information through the hospital’s website, at www.swedish.org.