Health Team

New hearing device helps patients enjoy music

Posted July 31, 2008 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2008 6:33 p.m. EDT

— Cochlear implants are electronic devices that help people with severe to profound hearing loss listen to voices and other sounds. The devices didn’t help with listening to music, which often sounds like noise.

New technology, borrowed from the advances made in digital phones, is making it possible for people with these devices to enjoy music.

Evelyn Holland used to enjoy music at church, but after getting a cochlear implant she found the sounds not so pleasant.

“I know the choir sings beautifully, but not something that is real beautiful to me,” Holland said.

About 50 years ago, Holland suffered hearing loss when standing too close to a firecracker.

“It exploded against the side of my head. All of the sudden I realized that I was not hearing,” Holland said.

A few years ago, Holland had a cochlear implant put in to help her hear again, but the sound was like rattling tin.

“All of the sudden – out of that noise, I was hearing words,” Holland said.

Holland recently received the Opus 2 hearing device at University of North Carolina Hospitals. The Opus has a smaller processor that works better than her old one. It connects to the implant assembly just under the scalp.

“The real difference is sort of like standard TV versus HD TV. What you get is a crisper signal,” UNC Otolaryngologist Dr. Harold Pillsbury said.

The sound is tailored to Holland's preference. She can adjust volume and sensitivity with a remote.

“Many of them have tears in their eyes – they can hear the moment they hook that thing up,” Pillsbury said.