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Hearing management

Updated 14 March 2019

Steve Biko Hospital conducts world's first ever middle ear transplant

The Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria has successfully completed the world's first ever middle ear transplant that has allowed a 35-year-old man to be able to hear again.

The Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Tshwane has successfully completed the world's first ever middle ear transplant, using 3D-printed middle ear bones. 

The groundbreaking surgery has allowed a 35-year-old man to hear again after his ear was completely damaged in a car accident.

"This may be the answer to conductive hearing loss, a middle ear problem caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic diseases," health department spokesperson Popo Maja said in a statement on Wednesday.

The surgery was developed by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team at the University of Pretoria's faculty of health using 3D-printing technology to print the hammer, anvil and stirrup – the ossicles that make up the middle ear. They are the smallest bones in the human body.   

"By replacing only the ossicles that aren't functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known prostheses and their associated surgical procedures. 

Read: World's first child hand transplant a 'success'

"We will use titanium for this procedure, which is biocompatible. We use an endoscope to do the replacement, so the transplant is expected to be quick, with minimal scarring," Tshifularo explained.

A pioneering surgery such as this one, however, needs funding and sponsors to take off. 

"For Prof Tshifularo, 'innovate or perish' are words to live by when it comes to clinical procedures, teaching, research and medical devices, and [he] believes that academics have a responsibility to come up with solutions that benefit communities," Maja added

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has called on donors and developers to support this breakthrough. 

"As the Department of Health, we shall do everything in our power to assist and mobilise resources to make sure that Professor Tshifularo gets all the help he needs for this far reaching innovation", he concluded.

 

Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Minette Lister graduated with a Bachelor of Communication Pathology (Audiology) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville in 2015. Thereafter, she completed her compulsory year of community service at Phoenix Assessment and Therapy Centre in Durban. In 2017, Minette started working for Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. She is passionate about working with children and adults to diagnose and manage hearing loss using state of the art technology. Minette offers hearing screening programmes for newborn and high-risk babies, as well as school-aged children, in order to decrease the incidence of late or unidentified hearing loss.

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