Hybrid device combines merits of hearing aids, implants

April 28th, 2008 - 5:16 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 28 (IANS) A new hybrid device combining hearing aid and cochlear implant designed for patients who can benefit from both is under evaluation by medical scientists. The crossbreed device, called the DUET Electric-Acoustic System, or EAS, is already used in Europe, but not yet approved for use in the US, reports Sciencedaily.

“What patients can hope to get from the investigational device is a significant improvement in the ability to understand speech, especially in a noisy situation,” said Peter Roland of University of Texas.

It targets borderline cases for which hearing aids don’t adequately distinguish sounds, but for whom some natural hearing remains. For these individuals, cochlear implants that entirely replace natural hearing aren’t recommended either.

Hearing-aids are typically worn outside the ear by people who still have some natural hearing. Cochlear implants are surgically implanted into the ear and pick up lost middle- and higher-frequency sounds.

They replace lost natural hearing by digitising electrical impulses sent to the brain via wires implanted in the ear. The brain then interprets that as sound. Most people with hearing difficulties have one or the other device, but not both.

The implant is specifically designed with a thin electrode to occupy less space in the inner ear. It is implanted by special surgical techniques to preserve natural hearing.

“We need people who are not getting enough benefit from their hearing aids to live normal lives, but who are not quite deaf enough for a regular cochlear implant,” explained Roland.

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