Ear implant restores woman's hearing

Ear The soundbridge mimics the function of the ear canal

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Doctors in Dundee have restored a woman's hearing with an implant that mimics the ear canal.

NHS Tayside said it was the first time the "vibrant soundbridge" had been fitted to a patient in Scotland.

Susan Rae, who previously suffered from 75% hearing loss, said: "I actually heard someone sigh to my right and behind me - this was not possible before the implant."

The soundbridge can even be used on patients with ear canal infections.

Such infections can often prevent people having conventional hearing aids fitted. And NHS bosses said the new operation was also suitable for children.

Mrs Rae, 52, had the implant fitted by doctors at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. She has suffered severe hearing loss since the age of 29, when she was tested while working at the Royal Naval dockyard in Rosyth.

The soundbridge consists of audio processor, which is worn on the head and can be disguised by hair, and an internal implant which "mechanically vibrates" middle ear structures.

Mrs Rae said her ears had become "chronically infected", which meant she could not use normal hearing aids.

'Wonderful thing'

"Just when I thought there was no hope for me, I was informed that Dr Stephen Jones - an ear, nose and throat specialist in Dundee - may be able to help me. He was keen to introduce a new type of hearing device known as the 'vibrant soundbridge' for patients," she said.

Dr Jones fitted the device to her right ear at the end of 2011 and one will be fitted to her left ear soon.

"It was a miracle. The advantages were immediately obvious to me with improved and clearer hearing, and no feedback on the aid itself," she added.

"I can even hear the birds outside my window, which is something I have not been able to hear for a number of years and, although this may seem a small thing to an average person, it is a wonderful thing to me."

Dr Jones said: "When I learned what the 'vibrant soundbridge' could offer patients I was keen to develop a service here in Tayside.

"Now that Mrs Rae has had our first implant fitted and it has been activated, I am delighted that it has been such a success and I hope that it will be the first of many."

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