Health Team

Surgical implants can help when hearing aids can't

Posted October 16, 2008

— New surgical implants could help people who can't use regular hearing aids regain the use of their ears.

Hearing aids are the solution for many people who experience hearing loss. The devices work by vibrating bones in middle ear to stimulate nerves in the cochlea, signals that the brain then interprets as sound.

But many people are never comfortable with hearing aids, or the devices simply don't work in their ears.

Dr. John McElveen, a ear, nose and throat doctor practicing in Raleigh, says such patients have a surgical option, called a Vibrant Soundbridge. The implant vibrates staples placed in a bone at a part of the chochlea called the oval window.

Deborah Stroud needed something to stimulate the cochlear nerves more directly, especially in her left ear.

"I had not heard any sound of any kind for 10 years," Stroud said.

The hair cells of her cochlea were gone, but the actual ganglion nerve cells were still there.

"It's just like a telephone where you cut the receiver, but the wiring is still there," McElveen said.

An electrode array is placed inside the cochlea. The newest processors are small enough to fit behind the ear with a magnetic contact under the scalp.

"(The device) takes the sound that we're speaking now; it changes it into electrical energy," McElveen said.

And when the doctor turned on the Vibrant Soundbridge? "I heard everything the audiologist said," Stroud said. "I started laughing; I started crying."

Stroud said the experience was a miracle "because I was at that point that my job was probably going to go away because I couldn't hear anything out of that ear."

And two months ago, she received another for her other ear.

"It's been many years since I've been able to hear in surround sound," Stroud said.


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  • likeisaid Oct 21, 2008

    Dr. Cunningham repaired a busted eardrum in my left ear on September 29th. The recovery is slow, but I am impressed. The office staff really cares and Dr Cunningham was very nice. I should have hearing in that ear in the next two weeks. :) He will be repairing the right ear in Feb. for the same problem. Wonderful office.

  • harbourwoman Oct 20, 2008

    I have conductive hearing loss in my left ear. When others said "give up," Dr. McElveen was able to make it work. There's still a wee bit of loss, but life is sooo much better.

    Thanks Dr. E :)

    And kudos to all in the office as well. You might have a wait, but you won't be hurried out.

    Kindest regards to all!

  • BlowupDollWithChatAmbitions Oct 17, 2008

    Dr. McElveen's office is amazing! I have had ear surgery there to repair a busted eardrum and I have no hearing in that ear. I go next month to meet with Dr. Cunningham of the same office and have an implant installed to get my hearing back in my right ear. These Dr's are wonderful.