Bridie Hope has become the first patient in the country to have a revolutionary middle ear implant that means she can hear ‘normally’ after decades of hearing only frustrating, muffled sounds.
The 70 year-old from Thornaby is delighted with what the state-of-the-art device has done for her. She was aware of a deteriorating hearing condition in her right ear from her mid-30’s but could have been suffering from birth.
Bridie, who is married to Ian, said: “I can’t tolerate hearing aids so when this opportunity came along, I jumped at the chance. Now it’s ‘switched on’ and can hear normally, I’m hoping that I don’t have to ask everyone I talk to, to repeat themselves. It got very embarrassing.”
Earlier this year, The James Cook University Hospital became the first in the region to be commissioned to provide middle ear implants making the Middlesbrough hospital a major provider for all recognised forms of hearing loss treatments.
Previously patients had to travel to Manchester, Nottingham or Birmingham for this life-changing treatment which opens up a new world of hearing opportunities for patients who are unable to benefit from conventional hearing aids.
Ear, nose and throat (ENT) consultant Mr Anirvan Banerjee, who carried out the operation, said: “Patients with mild to moderate hearing loss are fitted with hearing aids which amplify the sounds entering the ear, which is appropriate for most patients. At the other end of the scale those patients with profound hearing loss can have a cochlear implant fitted which bypasses the hearing organ and stimulates the auditory nerve.
“However there is a group of patients, like Bridie, who suffer from severe hearing loss but are unable to manage with conventional hearing aids for a number of reasons. If their hearing loss is not severe enough to warrant consideration for a cochlear implant then another option is a middle ear implant.”
Middle ear implants use a clever magnet to vibrate the structures of the middle ear. The implant is fitted to a tiny bone in the ear and receives signals from a compact audio processor that sits discreetly behind the patient’s ear.
“Some patients are almost living in social isolation because they can’t use their hearing aids but hopefully with this implant they will be able to enjoy life a lot more,” said Mr Banerjee, who fit the implant.
“We have been working hard for four years to bring these implants to James Cook but we could not have done it without the support of clinical director for ENT Derek Bosman, managing director of surgical services Sandra Donoghue, head of audiology Des Robertshaw and senior audiologist Jen Ramsbottom.”
Mr Bosman added: “The surgical services centre and ENT department at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are delighted to with this success. We are now able to offer a complete implant service to our patients with treatments for all forms of hearing loss.”
Sarah Humphreys, UK and Eire Vibrant Business Unit Manager for device maker MED-EL UK, said: “We are delighted to have supported The James Cook University Hospital in becoming the first hospital in the UK to implant and switch-on the new Vibrant Soundbridge 503.
“This latest innovation increases patients’ accessibility to a fuller and enriched hearing life, so it’s wonderful to hear how well their first patient is doing within just three weeks. MED-EL strives to be at the forefront of scientific innovation and offer patients with hearing loss a range of solutions that allow them to overcome hearing loss as a barrier to communication. The connectivity of our latest audio processor is a huge step forward in allowing patients to communicate in the digital age, with modern devices such as mobile phones connecting seamlessly to the implant.”