Medical Minute: Help for Hearing Aids

Kathy Barger has hearing loss.

"When I was about 40 I started noticing a plugged up feeling, like I had a cold."

But Kathy Barger didn't have a cold. She actually had a hereditary disease that was causing her to go deaf!

Kathy said, "I couldn't quite hear as distinctly as before."

A hearing aid didn't work, and more bad news was on the way.

"I got the news that I did not quality for a cochlear implant."

Cochlear implants are typically used as a last resort because they destroy any hearing patients do have. Kathy had too much hearing left to benefit. Then she learned of a new, hybrid version.

Unlike the traditional model, the hybrid cochlear implant only adds high frequencies, so patients can hear distinct sounds like consonants.

The words "sat" and "fat" can both sound like "aaahhh." The hybrid implant allows patients to tell the difference between the "S’s" and "F’s." Kathy Barger

"It's like, whoa, I heard that. It's sort of shocking because you're used to not hearing that, and all of a sudden, it's 'Gee, I can understand that.'"

Doctors implant the device in the inner ear to stimulate auditory nerves.

Lawrence Lustig, MD, Ear Surgeon, said, "I consider my job, putting in the implant, the easiest part of the whole procedure. The real work, the heavy lifting, comes after the fact."

Kathy must work for months to relearn how to hear, but she says it's well worth the hard work!

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