Middle Ear Implant Received by First Patient in the UK

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Published: 28 Dec 2014      

Bridie Hope, who lives in Thornaby, has become the first person in the United Kingdom to receive a revolutionary new audiology treatment that will enable her to hear normally for the first time in decades after going a long time only being able to hear muffled sounds.

The 70 year old has become the first patient in the country to receive middle ear implants, which are touted as being amongst the biggest advancements in audiology since the conception of the hearing aid and may eventually enable hundreds, if not thousands, of people with hearing issues to hear again.

The implants work using an extremely complex magnet that vibrates the structures inside the middle ear. It is fitted to a tiny bone in the ear and is linked to a small audio processor that is placed behind the ear itself. Generally speaking it is far less noticeable than a hearing aid but is also much more effective for patients suffering from severe hearing issues.

Mrs Hope is reportedly delighted with the effect that the implant has already had and described how she became aware of her hearing deteriorating in her mid-30s. Furthermore, she rarely used hearing aids, explaining: "I can’t tolerate hearing aids so when this opportunity came along, I jumped at the chance. Now it’s switched on and I can hear normally, I’m hoping that I don’t have to ask everyone I talk to, to repeat themselves. It got very embarrassing."

Mrs Hope received the treatment at the James Cook University Hospital after it became the first in her region to be granted a commission to provide the implants. Previously Mrs Hope would have had to travel to Manchester, Birmingham or Nottingham to receive similar treatments, making them too restrictive on her in her older age.

Ear, nose and throat consultant Dr Anirvan Banerjee carried out the procedure and was delighted at its success. He commented: "Patients with mild to moderate hearing loss are fitted with hearing aids which amplify the sounds entering the ear, which is appropriate for most patients. At the other end of the scale those patients with profound hearing loss can have a cochlear implant fitted which bypasses the hearing organ and stimulates the auditory nerve.

"However there is a group of patients, like Bridie, who suffer from severe hearing loss but are unable to manage with conventional hearing aids for a number of reasons. If their hearing loss is not severe enough to warrant consideration for a cochlear implant then another option is a middle ear implant."

He continued, speaking about the effects that severe hearing issues can have on some patients: "Some patients are almost living in social isolation because they can’t use their hearing aids but hopefully with this implant they will be able to enjoy life a lot more,” said Mr Banerjee.

"We have been working hard for four years to bring these implants to James Cook but we could not have done it without the support of clinical director for ENT Derek Bosman, managing director of surgical services Sandra Donoghue, head of audiology Des Robertshaw and senior audiologist Jen Ramsbottom."

We at Sonographers are delighted that the technology for middle ear implants is continuing to be commissioned throughout the country and we hope that Mrs Hope experiences many years of joy with her implant.


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