New cochlear implant offers all round hearing to deaf at half the cost

September 2, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants, Speech | 2 Comments
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A deaf women has become the first in the country to be given “stereo” hearing from just one cochlear implant.

 

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent, DAILY TELEGRAPH
Published: 6:00PM BST 27 Aug 2010

The new electronic device could revolutionise treatment for the very hard of hearing as it costs half as much as previous techniques.

In the past the only way for deaf adults to have all round hearing was to be given two cochlear implants but because they cost £25,000 each the NHS has decided that it is too expensive.

 Usually adults only have one implant fitted in one ear which leads to problems in noisy situations or locating the origins of sound.

Now the new operation carried out at the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre (SOECIC) means that bilateral hearing is possible from just one implant.

The new procedure works because the system connects the implant to both ears and collects sound from two external microphones.

“We are very excited because it is a way of getting the effect of two implants for the price of one, ” said Dr Helen Cullington, a clinical scientist at Southampton University who helped carry out the operation.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that can help both adults and children who have a severe to profound hearing loss because through disease or genetics their cochlear is damaged.

It has two parts: an internal receiver and wire, technically called as electrode array, and an external microphone combined with a speech processor that together looks like a hearing aid.

The microphone converts sound into electrical pulses, which are then filtered and amplified by the speech processor and transmitted through the skin to the internal receiver which passes them along to the cochlear via the electrode arrays.

In the new system, there are two wires – one to each ear – and two microphones on each side of the head which feed the speech processor.

The new system means that both ears can be stimulated from just one internal receiver.

Julie Brinton, joint head of the centre, said: “Some adults and children have already received two implants, with one in each ear.

“The difference with the device being used today is that, although information is delivered to each ear, there is only one implant.”

Although around 40 of these devices have been implanted in patients in Europe, this is the first of its kind in the UK, the centre said.

The four-hour operation was carried out at Southampton General Hospital by Mike Pringle, Consultant Otolaryngologist based at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.

Mr Pringle said: “This is different to other types of implant as it is one implant going into both ears.

“It’s not unusual for children to have two implants, one in each ear, but adults usually just have one.

“This type of device has an internal receiver/stimulator with two wires. One will go directly into one inner ear and the other will go over the top of the head, under the scalp, to reach the other inner ear.

“There will be a microphone on each ear collecting sounds from both sides.

“The advantage is that it allows adults to have bilateral hearing. Having two ears working makes it easier to hear in noisy backgrounds and also helps with localisation, or hearing where sounds are coming from.

“Also, because there is only one processor and one internal receiver this makes this device significantly cheaper than two separate implants.”

The recipient of the implant, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been deaf all her life and used hearing aids until now.

Early tests showed the system was working but it will be four weeks before they can be sure.

Dr Cullington said: “Following the surgery she will need to wait for four to six weeks before the device is tuned and she can begin to have auditory rehabilitation to encourage her listening with the new sensation she will experience.”

2 Comments »

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  1. Hi Graham, the cochlear implants are actually £40,000 each!

    I’m hoping the UK won’t see the Neurelec CI as a cheap option for the NHS. I don’t think it offers true stereo surround sound and if it breaks then you have a wee problem.

    I’ll stick with what I’ve got, my lovely AB CI!

    • Is Neuralec a new competitor to the others then? Not heard of them. The ab is great and I’m doing great with it but I would love to be able to get hearing on 2 sides.
      If AB were to follow suit and introduce the option it would really be worth investigating. I think we would have a problem if ours break any way…………I really would hate to have to go back to the HA.
      Nice to see the future is changing regulary though.


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