Innovative ear implant surgery restores patient's hearing

Published: 23-Oct-2017

Woman hears traffic for first time in a decade after life-changing procedure

A surgeon from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has become the first in the North of England, and one of only a handful in the world, to successfully implant a fully-invisible hearing device into the fine bones of a woman’s middle ear.

The surgery involving a Cochlear CARINA hearing device, has enabled Linda Oxley, a former wine and spirits manager, to hear everyday sounds for the first time in 10 years.

The device – which gives 24/7 hearing and can be recharged through an external charger within 30 minutes – was implanted by Professor Jaydip Ray, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and is completely unseen from the outside of the scalp.

The Cochlear CARINA hearing device picks up sound from the outside world through a microphone and implant processor which are placed under the skin of the scalp, completely unseen from the outside of the head.

These are connected to an actuator, or mechanical driver, which is positioned inside the mastoid bone behind the ear and which drives and transfers the sounds from the outside world to the fine 3mm incus bone of the middle ear.

The device is suitable for those people who have severe hearing loss and who can no longer benefit from conventional hearing aids. This may be because of reduced inner ear function, ear canal infections, allergies to ear moulds, or a closed ear canal.

Oxley told BBH: “My life has changed beyond belief.

“As soon as the implant was switched on I could tell the difference straight away. I could hear traffic, people whistling, dogs barking, even hear the owl at night.”

The 67 year old is only the fourth person in the UK, and the first in the North of England, to be given the implant.

Since her late 50s, repeated ear infections made it impossible for her to do the simplest things in life. Shopping was ‘embarrassing’ as she couldn’t hear what people were saying, and she had to use her eyes a lot more to cross the road near her house as she sometimes didn’t hear a car coming up.

“I couldn’t hear what people were saying and I began to feel depressed and not go out as much,” she said.

“When I did venture out I used to put my head down and hope that people didn’t see me so that I did not have to speak to them because I could not hear what they would say to me. I get choked up when I think about it.

“I’m really lucky to have had this operation. It’s been absolutely brilliant.”

Professor Ray, who undertook the operation at Sheffield’s Hallamshire Hospital, said he was ‘very pleased’ that the implant had improved her quality of life.

He added: “The device is fully implantable. There’s nothing to show on the outside, and the duration for charging is exactly the same as an episode of Emmerdale or EastEnders.

“It works beautifully as it doesn’t need to be switched on or off, and it gives 24/7 hearing.”

“The bones in the ear are three of the smallest bones in the body, so aligning this device felt like docking a space station – it involved a very-complex assembly of micro pistons and discs.”

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is currently the only centre in the North to be able to offer patients the Cochlear CARINA middle hearing implant.

“I’ve been lucky as we have a hugely-supportive audiology department and we provide a wide portfolio of implantable hearing solutions in conjunction with a full suite of advanced ear surgery,” Professor Ray said.

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