A NEW specialist hearing device for patients with mild to moderate hearing losses has been switched on for the first patient in Scotland at Kings Cross in Dundee.
Dundee is one of the few UK centres to be offering the Bonebridge device to patients who are suitable.
Karen Thomson (42) of Brechin, who is a healthcare assistant at Stracathro Hospital, was the first patient in Scotland to have her Bonebridge device switched on and is visiting audiology staff at Kings Cross Health and Community Health Centre today (Wednesday, March 27) for a check-up.
The Bonebridge is surgically fitted under the skin to the bone structure behind the ear – in this case the device passes the sound to the cochlea via the bone rather than the usual route. An audio processor is then attached, switched on and tuned in, usually after a month or so. Karen’s procedure was in December and she was “switched on” a few weeks ago.
Karen has attended numerous clinics and appointments over the years for recurrent ear infections, which resulted in a conductive hearing loss in both her ears where sounds are heard at a much quieter level.
Conductive hearing loss can often be caused by malformations of the external or middle ear or by severe middle ear infections. Conductive hearing loss results in sounds being heard at a much quieter level.
That meant Karen struggled to hear what was being said both at work and at home. She needed to turn up the volume of the TV and radio to such a high level that her family would complain about it. This resulted in Karen suffering from stress about being able to hear well at work and she was becoming extremely frustrated.
Karen said: “I have suffered so many ear problems over the years and was unable to tolerate hearing aids owing to recurrent infection. Other treatments included antibiotics, steroids, ear drops and grommets that help to equalise the pressure in the middle ear, but these were only ever treating my symptoms rather than finding a more permanent solution.
“I was delighted when it was suggested to me that I might be a candidate for this new technology and even more so to be the first person in Scotland to be switched on – I feel quite privileged!
“I can now lead a normal life and be part of the conversation instead of having to ask people to repeat themselves all the time. It was so frustrating for me and my husband Kevin, who must have been fed up constantly having to repeat himself! My children, 16-year old Callum and 11-year old Logan have also been very patient with me. It is such an uncomfortable thing to have to live with and can be socially isolating, which many people don’t realise.
“I am so grateful to the surgical team at Ninewells and the Audiology team at Kings Cross.”
Head of Service for Audiology Samantha Batty said, “NHS Tayside is at the forefront of embracing new technology in the field of audiology and this is yet another example of this.
“Only last year Ninewells had the first person in Scotland to be fitted with a ‘Vibrant Soundbrige’ hearing device – an implant that operates not by bone conduction but by mimicking the function of the middle ear bones - and which is suitable for higher levels of hearing loss.
“The Bonebridge is not suitable for all patients with mild to moderate hearing losses as current hearing aids are adequate for most individuals. However, for those who do fit the criteria to have one fitted it will improve their quality of life considerably.”