Patients with high-frequency hearing
loss could benefit from the new
implants; © panthermedia.net /
Northwestern Memorial Hospital is one of nine centres in the U.S. which are participating in a study investigating the effectiveness of a new cochlear implant device that aims to restore hearing for patients with high-frequency hearing loss and functional low-frequency hearing.
Hearing loss can affect anyone, at any time. But it can be especially frightening for someone who suddenly starts to lose his hearing during adulthood. Tom Groves, 77, first noticed his diminishing hearing when he was in his early 40s.
He was unable to hold conversations with large groups of people; found it nearly impossible to socialize in high-background noise environments like restaurants; and couldn't enjoy radio, TV and movies unless they were captioned. Now, Groves is hearing much better than he has in 30 years, thanks to an experimental hybrid cochlear implant.
This group of patients with high-frequency hearing loss and functional low-frequency hearing doesn't meet the criteria for conventional cochlear implants because they have near perfect residual hearing in low pitches that allows them to perform well on tests used to determine candidacy for traditional implants. However, their hearing in high pitches is so poor that a hearing aid is not helpful, making them ideally suited for the hybrid implant which addresses both issues.
"We are hopeful that the hybrid cochlear implant will provide a subset of people who were previously not candidates for an implantable device the opportunity to test the device to determine if they can experience sound again," said Northwestern Medicine neurotologist Andrew Fishman, MD, principal investigator of the study, staff in the departments of otolaryngology and neurosurgery at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and Mr. Groves' cochlear implant surgeon.
"The potential for patients with a significant amount of residual hearing, but a large amount of high-frequency hearing loss, to have an alternative to hearing aids would be a great improvement to what is currently available."
The hybrid cochlear implant works in the same way as traditional cochlear implants, stimulating nerve endings in the cochlear so that high-pitched sounds can be heard. In addition, it also involves amplification for low-pitched sounds, similar to a hearing aid. Like traditional cochlear implants, the hybrid version is worn outside the ear and converts sounds into acoustic and electric signals.
REHACARE.de; Source: Northwestern Memorial Hospital