New Device Helps With High-Frequency Hearing Loss

Reporter: Shannon Samson

New Media Producer: Kerry Corum

It's estimated that one-out-of-ten Americans has some degree of hearing loss. As baby boomers age and noise pollution grows, those numbers are only expected to grow.

The next generation of hearing aids is now being implanted in the U.S., and one tiny new device could make a huge difference for millions of people in the future.

When you're watching television, voices probably sound pretty normal. But for years, Sarah Wells heard only muffled voices. To compensate, Sarah would turn the volume up, which often put her family out. "The kids would say, 'Mom, why is the TV so loud? We can hear it upstairs, why can't you hear it here in the family room?'"

For people with high-pitch hearing loss, a traditional hearing aid that goes in your ear can be bothersome. Patients often complain that they can hear themselves talk and chew.

Dr. Grant says, "If you put a hearing aid into the ear canal, it occludes the ear canal, and they get the sensation that they're in a barrel." But this new device is changing that.

Doctor Iain Grant of the Ohio State University Medical Center is one of the first in the country to use this new, implantable hearing device called the Retro-X.

Unlike traditional hearing aids, it has a thin, titanium tube that is inserted behind the ear, then the digital hearing aid snaps into the tube. That's what makes this device different, it sends sound waves directly to the ear drum and bypasses the ear canal.

Dr. Grant says, "That allows you to get the clarity of sound, the extra understanding you need to distinguish a conversation in a noisy environment, and yet you don't get the disadvantage of the conventional hearing aid."

Sarah noticed a change as soon as she awoke from surgery and the difference has been crystal clear every since. She tells us, "I've been listening to the birds walking on the gutters when there's been nothing on here in the house and listening to leaves rustling across the street."

And it's those little sounds of life that many of us tune out that become music to Sarah's ears.

The Retro-X hearing aid is designed to help those with high-frequency hearing loss, usually caused by exposure to loud noise.

The Ohio State University Medical Center is one of only handful of centers in the U.S. that offers this device. The procedure costs about $4000.

For more information click here, or call The Ohio State University Medical Center at 1-800-293-5123.