FDA approves UI's implantable hearing device - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

FDA approves UI's implantable hearing device

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An ear implant created at the University of Iowa has been recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The hybrid cochlear implant is the first implantable hearing device for adults with a certain kind of hearing loss.

The device combines the functions of a cochlear implant and hearing aid, preserving residual hearing that's usually lost over time.

“I love the idea that I still have my natural hearing, what was left, and this replaced what was lost,” said Ellen DeVoss, who has the hybrid cochlear implant. “My brain just merges the two together and I have almost perfect hearing.”

Seven years ago, DeVoss’ hearing started to decline. She was in danger of losing her job due to her inability and struggle to hear and understand speech.

“This device actually improves their ability to understand speech and noise,” said otolaryngologist Bruce Gantz.

Gantz is the head of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Iowa, and says the hybrid cochlear implant has been an amazing turnaround for DeVoss.

“I kept telling her, ‘Ellen this is the next step for you’, and she just resisted it. Then finally she got to the point in her job, where she really couldn’t do well on the phone or in meetings,” said Gantz.

Gantz and his colleagues started developing the concept in 1996 and used the first hybrid implant in 1999.

The device expands the use of cochlear implants, by providing more of a natural sense of hearing.

The hybrid device is shorter than standard implants and gives a localized sound including high-frequency pitches like in most music.

“When I started this process I was at 33% word understanding, and after the cochlear hybrid implant I am at 96% at word understanding,” said DeVoss. “I can hear bacon sizzling, the birds chirping, I hear the night noses in the evening.”

Restoring DeVoss' sense of hearing is something she says many of us take for granted.

"Miraculous and life changing,” said DeVoss. “It is unbelievable; I can hear speech so well.”

With the FDA's approval, Gantz says it allows the university to be at the forefront of auditory advancements.

The procedure is covered by most insurance.

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