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September 29, 2005

Devices help people with dual hearing loss

From: Macleans, Canada - Sep 29, 2005

Using a cochlear implant in the deafer ear keeps the other free for a hearing aid

People with different degrees of hearing loss in both ears can achieve good outcomes by using a device called a cochlear implant in their worse-hearing ear.
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device surgically implanted under the skin behind the ear. It converts sound to electrical impulses and sends them to the brain. In this way, it can help people with severe or profound hearing loss who wouldn't benefit from a hearing aid.

"The notion has been that you want to implant the ear that is more alive, if you will -- the ear that has heard most recently and has had more hearing experience," says Dr. Howard Francis, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. But using an implant in an ear with residual hearing makes that ear unavailable for use with a hearing aid.

"So why not put it in the ear that is deaf, and leave the one with residual hearing available for a hearing aid?" Francis says.

He and his colleagues decided to see whether this strategy would be just as effective as the traditional approach.

They studied 43 adults who were profoundly deaf in one year and had severe hearing loss in the other. Thirty-six had cochlear implants in their profoundly deaf ear, and they did just as well as patients who had the implants in their better-hearing ear. They also showed improvements in their ability to understand speech in a noisy environment.

In people who have been able to use their residual hearing ability via hearing aids, the brain appears to be able to use the artificial stimulation of a cochlear implant more effectively, Francis says.

With files from The Medical Post.

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