Hybrid cochlear implants may help many with hearing loss, according to a new study.
Specialists at NYU Langone Medical Center found that people with a common form of hearing loss who can’t be helped with a hearing aid may have an option in a cochlear implant. For the study, researchers implanted hybrid cochlear implants in one ear of the 50 study participants with badly damaged high-frequency, inner-ear hair cells, which prevented them from understanding speech when there was loud background noise. According to the researchers, a year later, 45 participants reported better hearing and speech recognition, and no one reported any side-effects other than mild dizziness and some ringing in the ears for a short period.
The hybrid implant was approved for adult use by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2014. The hybrid device has a shorter electrode than the regular cochlear implant and also does not have to be inserted too deeply in the cochlea or inner ear. This preserves low-frequency hearing and improves high-frequency hearing with electrical stimulation.
The lead study investigator J. Thomas Roland says that the hybrid cochlear implant can be a viable option for many people who suffer from high-frequency hearing loss, which can often impair their functioning in work and social environments. The device costs about $30,000 and the implantation procedure takes about an hour.