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Cochlear implant 'boosts both ears'

Wednesday September 1st 2010

A severely deaf woman from the Isle of Wight has become the first person in the UK to have a single cochlear implant to improve hearing in both of her ears.

Usually electronic implants only improve one ear's hearing, but Southampton surgeons spent four hours inserting the device behind one of the woman's ears, and placing wires under her scalp and into both of her inner ears.

It is hoped that after some fine-tuning, the procedure will give the 44-year-old far better bilateral hearing, and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) has welcomed the development.

Crystal Rolfe, audiology specialist for the charity, said: "There is evidence to show that hearing in both ears helps more than in one ear. As this device is a lower cost than having two implants, it may mean that more adults can receive bilateral implants."

The new procedure was developed by the Southampton University-based South of England Cochlear Implant Centre (SOECIC).

Cochlear implants have internal and external components: a receiver/stimulator package and electrode array, which is fitted beneath the skin, and a speech processor which resembles a hearing aid.

They stimulate the hearing nerve with small electrical currents, which transmits signals to the brain which interprets them as sound.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

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