Abu Dhabi University teams up with Swiss company to make cheaper ear implants

Newly launched UAE Hears the World Initiative aims to make cochlear implants available to those in need

Al Ain - April, 7, 2010 - Sound waves are amplified by the external processor and then transmitted to the cochlear implant magnetically giving Nada Mahmoud an improvement in hearing in Al Ain, April 7, 2010. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)
Powered by automated translation

Abu Dhabi University has launched a campaign to make cochlear implants cheaper for those with hearing loss in the UAE.

The UAE Hears the World Initiative is a new project in tandem with Swiss company Neubio, which produces electronic-free earpieces.

It will include donating 50 implants to various groups across the UAE and around the world to support people in need ahead of Ramadan this month.

The earpieces will be donated to organisations participating in the campaign.

The price of cochlear implants range from $27,000 to $68,000 in the UAE, which includes the cost of surgery and the device itself, which, depending on the model, come with a $20,000 to $30,000 price tag.

Under the new initiative, where they will be produced domestically, they are expected to cost $10,000 to $12,000.

These are made-in-UAE cochlear implants, based on Swiss technology or European technology, which is new
Dr Montasir Qasymeh, Abu Dhabi University

Dr Montasir Qasymeh, associate provost for research, innovation and academic development at the Abu Dhabi University, said the partners were still being sought to help with mass production of the devices.

"These are made-in-UAE cochlear implants, based on Swiss technology or European technology, which is new. So this is going to be made available. We are now in the process of communicating with authorities," he told The National.

"It's a new trend that we are starting. The university is hosting a high-tech company and collaborating with governmental entities to bring in new technology.

"Having a high-tech company in a university collaborating with a hospital and supported by the Ministry of Economy has never happened before."

The UAE Hears the World Initiative launched in February.

The company's affordable hearing aids are electronic-free, which reduces the risks associated with electronic failure and the need for revision surgery.

It is also designed to be compact, offering surgeons greater flexibility during procedures and reducing surgery time under anaesthesia with less drilling.

Its technology uses a digital-to-analogue electric simulation, which provides users with a full-spectrum hearing experience that closely mimics natural hearing.

Dr Qasymeh said the implants would first be made available to Emiratis and then to residents at a later date.

He said their plan is to eventually ensure that the cochlear implants are included within medical insurance plans.

About 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss by 2050, while at least 700 million will require hearing rehabilitation, the World Health Organisation says.

More than 5 per cent of the world's population – or 430 million people – require rehabilitation to address some loss of hearing. These include 34 million children.

It is estimated that by 2050 more than 700 million people – or one in 10 – will have disabling hearing loss.

The WHO says annual additional investment of less than $1.40 per person is needed to scale up ear and hearing care services globally.

Over a 10-year period, this promises a return of nearly $16 for every dollar invested.

Joshua Chang, director of global impact at Neubio, said the company hopes their devices can reach underserved communities.

Through the initiative, Neubio aims to make hearing solutions accessible to people regardless of their economic status and is committed to providing the implant device at a significantly reduced cost.

"The initiative promotes both medical device innovation and humanitarian efforts," said Mr Chang.

Mr Chang said the aim was to break free from the constraints of high-cost devices and enable production of advanced technology within local communities, thus serving those who could not previously afford or have access to these implants.

"We aim to enhance the accessibility of cochlear implants by offering them at a price range of $10,000 to $12,000," said Mr Chang.

"Generally, the cost of implants range from $20,000 to $30,000.

"The realisation of this goal depends on the terms of our partnerships, the support to expand the patient base and our capacity to manufacture locally here in the UAE."

Mr Chang said the cost of cochlear implants in the UAE can vary based on factors such as the type of implant, the hospital or clinic providing the implantation surgery and additional services included in the treatment package.

"Beyond offering a more affordable cochlear implant solution, we're showcasing the UAE's capability to contribute to global healthcare solutions by locally producing an assistive device in high demand worldwide," he said.

Mr Chang said by manufacturing in the UAE, Neubio can eliminate the need for importing devices and can cater to the GCC region and Mena countries where individuals face barriers accessing inexpensive implant options.

The implants have already been approved by the Department of Health in Abu Dhabi, Mr Chang added, and a pilot programme is now being lined up.

He said the company was in the process of teaming up with government agencies, healthcare and corporate social responsibility (CSR) partners in the UAE.

Updated: March 07, 2024, 3:00 AM