Looking to Hybrids for the Hearing Impaired
Published October 2010
For several decades, technology has successfully helped those with mild hearing loss using hearing aids and those with severe to profound hearing loss using cochlear implants.
But for those in the middle—either with moderate hearing loss or loss in some frequency ranges but not others—long-term solutions have yet to be developed.
Now, researchers with the department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery are participating in a national, multicenter trial studying the efficacy and safety of an investigational device combining two existing types of hearing loss technology.
The hybrid cochlear implant includes both the external amplification of a hearing aid and the internal processor of a traditional cochlear implant. It is designed to help those patients for whom each technology on its own does not work.
"In the moderate to severe category of hearing loss, you’ll see patients who don’t benefit from hearing aids any longer, or they benefit sometimes but not all the time,” says Ravi Samy, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology and co-investigator in the trial.
Many of these patients can still hear lower frequencies but not sounds typically heard in higher frequencies. They may have difficulty talking on the phone or distinguishing conversation in a crowded room.
"With the hybrid cochlear implant, the hope is that we can get the mid- to high-frequencies taken care of by the cochlear implant, and the low frequency loss helped from the hearing aid,” says Samy.
The trial aims to enroll 50 patients, with UC contributing 5 patients, says UC audiologist and co- investigator Lisa Houston.
For those who do qualify, participants face a long period of adjustment to the device. After the surgery to implant it, they have a series of audiology appointments to measure the device’s performance and "map” their hearing range.
In "mapping,” the audiologist works with the patient to determine how much current the implanted electrode array needs in order for the patient to hear properly and comfortably.
It also takes time for patients to adjust to the new sounds, says Samy.
"When you first put a cochlear implant in, it’s like having to learn a foreign language. The sound goes straight to the nerve—it’s abnormal, it’s not what the body is used to. It can be very daunting.”
For more information, call (513)-475-8453.