The University of Missouri’s Ear, Nose and Throat Center is now offering a new solution to hearing loss, becoming the only health provider in the state to offer a new fully implantable hearing device to patients.
Dr. Arnaldo Rivera is the only doctor certified to give the surgical procedure to patients in the state of Missouri as well.
“Hearing loss is a major issue that many may not be aware of the severity of,” Dr. Rivera said. “We are hoping this new technology will allow for patients with mild to severe hearing loss to hear with 100 percent clarity.”
Esteem is the name of this new implantable device. And while Esteem is not designed for patients who are totally deaf, it can help patients who have moderate to severe nerve-related hearing loss.
“This device will allow the patient to do everyday activities such as showering and swimming that a typical hearing aid would need to be removed for,” Rivera said.
Once the device is calibrated following the surgical implantation, the battery lasts for several years, and depending on how the device is used, the battery can last up to nine years.
The device does come at a cost, $33,000 in total for the device and the procedure. Patients also need a mastoid and middle-ear cavity that allows for placement of the implant. Most people have this required anatomy, but to be sure, the ear is reviewed through a CT scan before the device is implanted.
Emily Fry is the information program specialist at the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She believes this device could help those who are hearing impaired greatly, if they choose to use an aid.
“A great example is grandparents who are having progressive hearing loss. You go your whole life being able to hear, and a lot of people have traditions through song and singing to their children,” Fry said. “So if you get to a point where you can’t hear your grandchildren you may want to get an aid.”
However, in the deaf community, not everyone is a strong advocate for hearing aids.
“There are some people in the deaf community who feel like you are getting robbed of the true deaf experience and the culture that is a part of that if you use a hearing aid,” Fry said.
The decision is highly personal, but Fry says in the end the deaf community will be there for support either way.
“I would say that for people who do have devices, it doesn’t automatically mean that they can’t participate in deaf culture. There are hearing people, as I am learning, that can show up to events that are deaf friendly and still support as an outsider and an ally,” Fry said.