For people with poor high frequency hearing who retain good hearing at low frequencies, a new cochlear implant can provide the needed stimulation to improve that high frequency hearing.
“There is a very specific subset of people who quality for this type of implant,” said Maroun Semaan, MD, an otolaryngologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. “Their hearing is too good for the old conventional cochlear implant but, at the same time, they have enough hearing loss that they don’t benefit from a hearing aid.”
In March 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the implant based on clinical trial data of 50 patients implanted with the new device that showed significant improvements in hearing high-frequency sounds, such as speech.
According to Dr. Semaan, the data showed that along with improving speech intelligibility by electrically stimulating the higher frequencies, the implant enhanced music appreciation by maintaining lower frequencies to keep the rich quality to sound.
Known as the Nucleus Hybrid L24 Cochlear Implant System, and manufactured by Cochlear Ltd, in Australia, Dr. Semaan said that the implant includes both an electronic component that stimulates the acoustic nerve to pick up high frequencies and an acoustic component to provide sound amplification to preserve lower frequency hearing.
Otolaryngologists, he said, should consider the implant for patients who are unhappy with their hearing aids and who retain quite a bit of their low frequency hearing.
Techniques for implanting the device are similar to those used to implant conventional cochlear implants, he said, with some modifications that otolaryngologists will need to become familiar with prior to implanting the device.