New Hope for Hearing Loss

Hybrid cochlear implant may help patients with high-frequency hearing loss

(RxWiki News) A device typically used for the profoundly deaf may now help millions who are hard of hearing.

A new study from New York University's Langone Medical Center found that patients with high-frequency hearing loss who were implanted with a hybrid cochlear device experienced significant hearing improvement and speech recognition.

"Our study offers early evidence that potentially millions more people with high-frequency hearing loss, who cannot benefit from a hearing aid, could instead possibly benefit from a hybrid cochlear implant," said lead study author J. Thomas Roland, MD, the Mendik Foundation and chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at NYU Langone, in a press release.

High-frequency hearing loss is the most common type of sensorineural hearing loss.

It affects the ability to understand speech — patients with high-frequency hearing loss can hear vowels but can't hear the consonant sounds F, S, T and Z.

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when tiny hair cells within the inner ear (the cochlea) are damaged.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that 26 million Americans ages 20 to 69 have high-frequency hearing loss. This is often due to exposure to noise during work or leisure activities.

According to Dr. Roland and team, patients with high-frequency hearing loss are often not good candidates for traditional cochlear implants. This is because they still have functioning low-frequency hearing.

The hybrid implant, however, sits less deeply in the ear to allow natural low-frequency hearing to be preserved.

Dr. Roland and team implanted 50 adults ages 23 to 86 with the hybrid cochlear implant.

After six months, 82 percent showed an improvement in understanding speech in a quiet environment.

In a noisy environment, 74 percent showed an improvement.

"This system is a new and effective treatment that provides clinically significant improvements in speech understanding, thus fulfilling a need in individuals who to date have had no other treatment options," Dr. Roland said.

This study was published online July 28 in the journal The Laryngoscope.

Cochlear Americas, the manufacturer of the device, funded this research. Two study authors served on the Cochlear Americas board.

Review Date: 
July 29, 2015