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Tygerberg Hospital improves the quality of life of 1000 Cochlear implant recipients

On Saturday, 06 April 2024, the recipients of cochlear implants and their families celebrated a proud milestone at Tygerberg Hospital: its 1 000th recipient of a cochlear implant at the hospital. A cochlear implant is an electronic hearing device designed to bypass the damaged parts of the inner ear by electrically stimulating the hearing nerve. The nerve then sends a signal to the brain where it is interpreted as sound.

 Athule Mgodeli (27), who lost his hearing at the age of 10 years as a result of pneumococcal meningitis, became the 1 000th recipient of a cochlear implant at Tygerberg Hospital on 29 September 2023. As a highly motivated individual, Athule managed to obtain his matric through lip-reading and since receiving a cochlear implant has found permanent employment as a digital marketer.

 Being deaf before affected almost every aspect of his life. His schooling and livelihood especially finding a job was very difficult. People sometimes did not understand when he told them that when they speak, they must do it slowly so that he could read their lips.

 Now an excited Athule said “Deafness stood in my way and damaged my potential. I felt left out of communication and struggled to make friends. I felt unsafe because I couldn’t hear what was happening around me. Deafness also negatively affected my family. Although I have used the cochlear device for a few months, it feels like I have received a new lease on life. The device has opened up so many possibilities and opportunities, I feel like I am able to do anything. Previously, I always felt like something was missing. With the cochlear implant, I have discovered what was missing in my life. 

 “I love my cochlear implant because it has done so much for me. I can hear even the slightest sound such as the keyboard, TV and music. The cochlear implant has provided endless possibilities for me and I believe that I will grow. Thank you to Tygerberg Hospital and all the contributors for making this possible. Without you, I would still be completely deaf. I love my new cochlear implant. Thank you so much to all of you. My appreciation is deeper than words can express”.  


The first cochlear implant programme in Africa was established at Tygerberg Hospital-Stellenbosch University in 1986 under the leadership of Prof. Derrick Wagenfeld, ear nose and throat (ENT) surgeon and Lida Müller, an audiologist. Since then, almost 1 300 surgeries have been performed and at the end of 2023, 1 014 patients had received implants.


Tygerberg Hospital is one of the largest public tertiary health facilities in the country to provide cochlear implants. The Tygerberg Hospital-Stellenbosch University Cochlear Implant Programme services both state and private sector patients and about 60 to 70 surgeries are done by the team each year. A comprehensive assessment for candidacy is conducted by the multidisciplinary team to ensure optimal outcomes from the procedure. Cochlear implantation is recommended for individuals with moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss who obtain minimal benefit from well-fitted hearing aids and require lifelong management.


Coordinator and chief audiologist of the cochlear implant programme at Tygerberg Hospital, Jennifer Perold said, “despite decades of evidence confirming the transformative power of cochlear implantation, it is estimated that only about 5-10% of people who are candidates for cochlear implants actually receive them. If, despite having well-fitted hearing aids, a person still struggles to follow phone and general conversations without being able to see the person’s face, it is recommended to request a referral to a cochlear implant team for an evaluation.”


CEO at Tygerberg Hospital, Dr Matodzi Mukosi, “Our cochlear implant unit is one of the flagship units in the country which has changed the lives of so many people for the better.  The story of Athule is a testimony to the excellent services delivered at Tygerberg Hospital by our highly skilled and dedicated healthcare professionals.”


Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness, Professor Nomafrench Mbombo, added, “I am immensely proud of Tygerberg Hospital’s achievement in having provided more than 1 000 life-changing operations to our residents. As the second largest public hospital in the country, Tygerberg remains an important institution to our healthcare system in rendering many advanced and complex treatments to patients. This achievement further cements its role in this regard and as Minister, I look forward to the innovations it will continue to achieve in the future. This programme like so much of the work done by our professional medical teams shows that despite the significant challenges faced, we are doing leading work that we can all be proud of.”


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