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UT Southwestern testing new hybrid hearing device combining advantages of hearing aids, implants
Date:4/17/2008

DALLAS April 17, 2008 A new hybrid hearing aid/cochlear implant device designed for patients who can benefit from both is being evaluated by UT Southwestern Medical Center otolaryngologists, as part of a multisite, national study.

The cross-breed device, called the DUET Electric-Acoustic System, or EAS, is already used in Europe, but not yet approved for use in the U.S. It targets a population currently falling through the cracks borderline cases for which hearing aids dont adequately distinguish sounds, but for who some natural hearing remains. For these individuals, cochlear implants that entirely replace natural hearing arent recommended either.

Hearing aids are typically worn on the outside of the ear by people who still have some natural hearing. Cochlear implants are surgically implanted into the ear and pick up lost middle- and higher-frequency sounds. They replace lost natural hearing by digitizing electrical impulses sent to the brain via wires implanted in the ear. The brain then interprets that as sound.

Most people with hearing difficulties have one or the other device, but not both.

Initial studies on the hybrid device suggest there is a synergistic effect achieved by maintaining the natural hearing and coupling it with the cochlear implant, particularly for distinguishing speech in noisy environments. The device both amplifies low frequencies and electronically stimulates middle and high frequencies.

The implant is specifically designed with a thin electrode to occupy less space in the inner ear. It is implanted by special surgical techniques to preserve natural hearing.

What patients can hope to get from the investigational device is a significant improvement in the ability to understand speech, especially in a noisy situation, said Dr. Peter Roland, chairman of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at UT Southwestern.

The device is made by MED-EL Corp., which c
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Contact: Russell Rian
russell.rian@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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