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March 8, 2007

HealthFirst-New hearing implant

From: - Flint,MI,USA - Mar 8, 2007

Leslie LoBue

(WJRT) - (03/08/07)--Cochlear implants are usually only an option for people with severe hearing loss, but a hybrid version may be able to help more people hear better.

This hybrid version of Cochlear is currently under clinical trials, and if it gets FDA approval, it could help about 50,000 people. That's twice as many who have the standard implant.
"When I was about 40, I started noticing a plugged up feeling, like I had a cold," said Kathy Barger.

But she didn't have a cold. She actually had a hereditary disease that was causing her to go deaf.

"I couldn't quite hear as distinctly as before," she added.

A hearing aid didn't work and more bad news was on the way. "I got the news that I did not quality for a cochlear implant," she said.

Cochlear implants are typically used as a last resort because they destroy any hearing patients do have. Kathy had too much hearing left to benefit.

Then she learned of a new, hybrid version. Unlike the traditional model, the hybrid cochlear implant only adds high frequencies, so patients can hear distinct sounds like consonants.

The words "sat" and "fat" can both sound like "aaahhh." The hybrid implant allows patients to tell the difference between the S's and F's.

Doctors implant the device in the inner ear to stimulate auditory nerves.

"I consider putting in the implant, the easiest part of the whole procedure," said Dr. Lawrence Lustig. "The real work, the heavy lifting, comes after the fact."

Kathy must work for months to re-learn how to hear, but she says it's well worth the hard work!

Doctors say the hybrid may be especially helpful for older people who often have a lot of trouble hearing high frequencies.

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