A first-of-its-kind hearing implant for people suffering from partial hearing loss is now available with a local ENT-otolaryngologist one of a select few in the country able to perform the procedure.
Med Center Health’s Dr. Andrew J. Ebelhar performs the procedure – the insertion of an Osia System implant that was approved in December by the FDA.
The Osia is a new type of bone conducting hearing solution that uses stimulation to transmit sound vibration directly to the inner ear – a breakthrough for patients that are deaf in one ear.
Only a couple of hundred devices have been implanted across the country with Ebelhar the second physician in the state to perform the procedure.
“I think it is going to be a game changer,” Ebelhar said. “The bone anchor hearing aid has always been a reliable way to help people with unilateral deafness, but there has been a lot of hesitancy in patients to make the leap to do it because they don’t want to have something sticking out of their skin. They don’t want to have something they worry about could potentially get infected.
“I think more people are likely to choose this option since there is nothing coming through the skin. It’s a hearing aid on the outside that they wear that communicates on the inside with the device. It’s essentially something that is not visible and there is not much maintenance required with this compared to the bone anchor hearing aid.”
Ebelhar said the new device is similar to an ultrasound crystal.
“What the company did that designed this was they figured out how to couple a hearing aid on the outside of the body to essentially an ultrasound conducer that creates piezoelectric energy and that energy is converted into energy that can be sent into the implanted screw in the bone,” he said. “It’s just a cleaner way to get sound energy into the body without having to send it through something that is sticking through the skin.
“That is one of the draws to it, we don’t have to worry about something sticking out from the skull, which is essentially what a baha device is. We have also found with early studies of this device that the high frequency hearing is better than what you can get with a typical (device) because it is hard to send high frequency signals through electromagnetic transduction. You lose some of that energy because it is so high frequency.”
Ebelhar said so far people are seeing better results, which is why he tried to get on board early to make this procedure available in this area.
He performed his first two procedures June 15, with the patients making return visits last week.
Ebelhar said the initial response from his two patients has been positive, but it will be a little longer before they can get a better gauge when the processor is programmed by an audiologist. This typically happens about three weeks after the surgery, but Ebelhar notes with a baha device the time frame to have the processor programmed is usually three months.
“You see results faster, which will be very nice,” Ebelhar said. “The first two we have done here will know within a couple of weeks what sort of sound quality they are having and how a patient is feeling about the implant.”
Ebelhar said he has a few more patients considering the procedure.
“There is a lot of candidates out there for this type of technology,” Ebelhar said. “Sometimes it just takes word of mouth getting out there to know people are candidates for it.”