We at The Hearing Blog are strong supporters of cochlear implants (CI’s); but this particular case of a recipient who has progressive hearing loss implanted with a short electrode hybrid at the University of Iowa has piqued our curiosity…
We at The Hearing Blog are strong supporters of cochlear implants (CI’s), as they have clearly been shown to transform the lives of recipients in such a way they are the most successful and effective implantable prosthesis, both in terms of restoring function to recipients and improving their lifestyle; and the one-third of a million people who have received CI’s to date can attest to this.1 What’s more, as both qualification standards are being relaxed and implant circuit & stimulation technology leap forward, one need not wait until hearing aids deliver no benefit: As skilled CI surgeons are getting better in preserving residual hearing, the so-called “hybrid” CI-hearing aid combination for high frequency “ski-slope” hearing loss is gaining ground, with the Med-El DUET2 system having TÜV approval (CE marque), and the FDA advisory panel voting on November 8th to recommend approval for the Cochlear Nucleus L24 device,3, 4, 5 with much of the research being conducted at the University of Iowa.
January 1 Update: We added source documents from the November 8th FDA panel meeting in the References section at the end at entries 3, 4 & 5.
The hybrid system device uses a short electrode placed in the basal portion of the cochlea where high frequencies are detected, and a hearing aid is also used to amplify lower frequencies with parallel processing of the electrical and acoustic stimulation, or in cases with normal low frequency hearing, just an open ear. Almost four years ago we added Phonak FM Engineer Ben Heldner’s blogs2 on his Med-El DUET2 implant experience to the blogroll section, as it provides a good glimpse into what it entails.
As electroacoustic stimulation technology gains ground, we will be seeing stories appear on social media, such as this wonderful YouTube video of 14 year old Shelby Rheinschmidt of Burlington, Iowa, implanted with residual hearing preservation by Bruce Gantz MD at the University of Iowa; and we wish her well with her newly restored hearing:
This professionally made video was posted to YouTube on the official University of Iowa account on October 26th; and then on the University of Iowa Cochlear Implant Facebook page on November 1st.
Where this video gets curious:
As we watched the video, at the 1:05 mark something jumped out at us: Quoting her father, she had a pretty good loss when she was 2 or 3, but recently it spiraled downhill. However, she’s been missing the high pitch noises for most of her life. Then, at 1:45 her mother says, her hearing had dropped off, I mean there was a dramatic change from the last years’ hearing test to this years’ hearing test.
As we understand it from several CI surgeons we have asked, the hybrid CI system is really only for patients who have a stable hearing loss, and not for those who have progressive hearing loss as Shelby has, as it will soon require revision surgery to install a conventional CI.
We welcome an explanation…
- Wilson, Blake S; Dorman, Mike F: Cochlear implants: current designs and future possibilities Journal of Rehabil Res Dev 2008;45:695-730
- An exciting life with deaf ears: Phonak FM Engineer Ben Heldner’s blog on his experiences with his Med-El DUET2 CI system
- Cochlear America’s 112 page PowerPoint presentation UCM375000 for the FDA’s Ear, Nose, and Throat Devices Panel Meeting on November 8th, 2013 (PDF file) [Editor's Note: On page 44 we added balloon notes for the cities of the investigators.]
- FDA 90 page PowerPoint presentation UCM374999 by Vasant Dasika PhD for the FDA’s Ear, Nose, and Throat Devices Panel Meeting on November 8th, 2013 (PDF file)
- FDA 66 page Executive Summary UCM373792 prepared for the November 8, 2013 meeting of the ENT Devices panel (PDF file)