A new hearing technology deemed ‘revolutionary’ by NHS surgeons is restoring the hearing of deaf patients!
Not only is this revolutionary tech pushing the boundaries of medical technology, but also of discreetness; as the new ‘bionic ear’ is completely invisible!
This new bionic ear known as the Carina is a take on the conventional hearing aid, only with a twist. The device consists of a microphone, processor and motor, all of which are battery powered. The device is surgically placed beneath the skin within the skull near the ear in an advanced operation. Once implemented, the device remains dormant until after six to eight weeks it is switched on; restoring hearing to the deaf patient.
Surgically implanted hearing aids are nothing new, and cochlear implants have been around for decades, but lack the discreetness of this new technology.
Cochlear implants have an external hearing aid which usually sits on the patient’s ear, feeding electrical signals to the implant, which then turns it into distinguishable sound for the patient. This involved not only having the external hearing aid, but also a wire connecting the two, making it very obvious the person has a cochlear implant.
With this new technology, however, the microphone is entirely internal, placed beneath the skin, as mentioned. This means that despite a small scar behind the ear about the size of a 20p coin, the device is completely invisible.
Most patients with cochlear implants remove the external hearing aid at night, leaving them without sound or awareness which is potentially dangerous in the unfortunate event of a fire or burglary. The Carina cannot actually be removed, and so patients can keep their hearing even whilst sleeping!
That being said, the Carina can still be turned off, and not surprisingly, many patients choose to turn off their hearing at night to get a perfect night’s sleep without disturbance.
Naturally, as well as sleep, cochlear implant patients were required to remove their external hearing aid when getting involved with water, like swimming or showering; now this is simply not the case, and patients can be completely submerged in water without it affecting the device at all! This also means patients can hear whilst swimming, something which cochlear implant patients needed a specialised aquatic water-proof kit in order to do.
You may be wondering how the Carina is turned off? – It’s all down to a remote unit which comes with the Carina. Users can turn it off and on, as well as perform volume control from the small remote, which also doubles as a charging unit.
What is remarkable about the Carina, is that for an entire day of listening to rich sounds, it requires only 30 minutes of charging per day.
The words of a patient fitted with the Carina:
Linda Oxley was one of the first UK patients to be fitted with the new Carina, and has spoken about how the device has changed her life and made her feel:
‘An infection in my left ear took away most of the hearing on that side so I relied on my right. As I got older, the hearing in my right ear deteriorated with ageing.
‘I couldn’t hear oncoming traffic when driving and it also began to affect my balance. It became a life-threatening problem.’
After many attempts with regular hearing aids failed, Mrs. Oxley was referred to Professor Jaydip Ray, an ear, nose and throat consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospital, who has implanted three of the ten devices already fitted.
Linda went on to say: ‘As soon as the implant was switched on, I could tell the difference.’
‘I could hear traffic, could hear people whistling, dogs barking, even hear the owl at night. I can go out and speak to people. I get choked up when I think about it – let’s just say cornflakes and crisps are a new experience.’
And as suspected…
‘I can now hear my husband snoring, so sometimes, I do turn it off in bed!’