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Hospital performs novel hearing restoration surgery

7/26/2011 - Surgeons at Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH) have joined an elite number of centers in the United States to perform a fully surgically implantable prosthetic hearing restoration device called the Esteem hearing implant. Only eight other hospitals in the U.S. perform this procedure.

Unlike conventional hearing aids, the Esteem hearing implant technology does not use a microphone or speaker but helps a person's own ear hear better through probes inserted into the middle ear.

Yale New Haven Hospital has been working to achieve implantable prosthetic hearing restoration for the past two years. "We are thrilled to now be performing this new surgery," said John Kveton, MD, section of otolaryngology, Yale New Haven Hospital. "The most common form of hearing loss is through nerve damage. This new procedure helps us enhance the connection between the inner ear and the brain. This new technology, combined with the surgical aspect, immeasurably improves the quality of the hearing-impaired patient."

The surgeon utilizes the natural ear drum to detect sounds and sends a clear message to the brain via the auditory nerve, through stimulation of the cochlea with a prosthetic stimulator. Provided the hearing-impaired person has an intact middle ear and hearing nerve, this new technology provides amplification that is much more natural than a traditional hearing aid. This uses the patient's own existing auditory system to provide a much more natural way of hearing.

"We take vibration measurements throughout the surgery with a laser to detect how the bones of the middle ear are moving and responding," continued Dr. Kveton. "As we attach the implanted device to the hearing bones, these measurements show how the hearing bones are responding and if there is additional vibration. We know we're moving in the right direction when the sound measurements increase."

According to Dr. Kveton, the surgery requires special training and years of practice to become proficient.

Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH), part of Yale New Haven Health, is a nationally recognized, 1,541-bed, not-for-profit hospital serving as the primary teaching hospital for the Yale School of Medicine (YSM). Founded as the fourth voluntary hospital in the U.S. in 1826, today, YNHH has two New Haven-based campuses, and also includes Yale New Haven Children's Hospital, Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and Smilow Cancer Hospital. YNHH has received Magnet designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the nation’s highest honor of nursing excellence. YNHH has a combined medical staff of about 4,500 university and community physicians practicing in more than 100 specialties.