Surgically Implanted Hearing Devices Now Offered at WVU

Stephen Wetmore, M.D., chairman, WVU Department of Otolaryngology                                    

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- One in every ten Americans suffers from hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Now, some West Virginia University patients suffering from specific hearing impairments could have the option of surgically implanted hearing devices.

Patients suffering from hearing loss involving the outer and middle ear resulting from birth defects, ear infection or hereditary causes could benefit from a hearing device implant.

Stephen Wetmore, M.D., Department of Otolaryngology chairman, performed the University’s first bone anchored hearing aid surgery in March 2007.

“This new surgery offers patients with conductive or mixed hearing impairments an improvement not only in their hearing, but in their quality of life,” Dr. Wetmore, said.

The Baha, a bone anchored hearing device, consists of a small titanium implant, an external attachment and a sound processor. The external attachments “are typically hidden behind the ear or with the patient’s hair,” Wetmore said.

A Baha operation typically takes an hour to complete. The patient then waits three months after surgery before doctors attach the external piece. This allows time for the surgical scar to be integrated into the skull bone, securing the device.

The implant transmits vibrations within the skull to the inner ear where the signals stimulate the inner ear’s nerve fibers, improving the patient’s hearing. Since the Baha does not contain any in-ear components, patients benefit from a free ear canal and a reduced likelihood of ear infections or irritations.

“It’s important to remember that this procedure isn’t right for everyone,” Wetmore said.  “But for those patients who are eligible, this device offers a comfortable option for a quality sound processor.”

The Baha is best suited for patients with chronic ear canal infections, an absence or narrowing of the ear canal, or single-sided hearing loss.

For more information on the Department of Otolaryngology call (304) 598-4825.

The Baha is a surgically implantable system used to rehabilitate people with conductive and mixed loss hearing impairment. The system can significantly help people with: chronic infection of the ear canal, absence of or narrow ear canal as a result of a congenital ear malformation, infection, or surgery, or single-sided hearing loss as a result of surgery for a vestibular schwannoma.                       The Baha, after surgical implantation.


- WVU -

For more information:
Steve Bovino, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087

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