Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Single cochlear implant to improve hearing in both ears

A woman has become the first person in the UK to undergo surgery to fit a single cochlear implant capable of giving sound in both ears.

It is hoped the device will give the patient, from the Isle of Wight, improved bilateral hearing by running two stimulator wires from the implant.

An implant is usually fitted to one ear which can lead to problems with noise.

The four-hour operation was carried out on the 44-year-old at Southampton General Hospital.

It was carried out by Mike Pringle, consultant otolaryngologist based at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.

Although about 40 of the devices have been implanted in patients in Europe, this is the first of its kind in the UK.

'Considerable cheaper'

The device uses small electrical currents to stimulate the hearing nerve, which then sends signals to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.

The procedure has been developed at the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre (SOECIC), based at Southampton university.

Joint head of the centre Julie Brinton said: "Some adults and children have already received two implants, with one in each ear.

"The difference with the device being used today is that, although information is delivered to each ear, there is only one implant.

"This type of device has an internal receiver/stimulator with two wires.

"One will go directly into one inner ear and the other will go over the top of the head, under the scalp, to reach the other inner ear.

"There will be a microphone on each ear collecting sounds from both sides.

"Having two ears working makes it easier to hear in noisy backgrounds and also helps with localisation, or hearing where sounds are coming from."

Because there is only one processor and one internal receiver stimulator the centre said it made the device significantly cheaper than two separate implants.

The patient will wait up to six weeks before the device is turned on and will receive auditory rehabilitation to encourage her listening.

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