OAKBROOK TERRACE, IL. - Although Jim McGinn of Wheaton is completely deaf in his right ear, he still can hear from that side.
A sound processor McGinn wears just behind his right ear converts sound waves into tiny vibrations that move through his skull. The vibrations are detected by his good left ear, so it sounds to McGinn like he can hear from both sides.
A Loyola University Health System study has found that this system of conducting sound through skull bone is a big boost to people who are deaf in one ear and canât be helped by hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Sixty Loyola patients were asked to compare their hearing before and after getting the system, called Baha. Their ability to hear in a quiet environment improved by 28 percent, the trouble they had with background noise decreased by 33 percent and the difficulties they experienced with reverberating sounds in such settings as churches and lecture halls was reduced by 29 percent. The only downside: there was a 7 percent increase in the annoyance caused by loud sounds such as fire truck sirens.
"People are hearing much better," said V. Suzanne Jeter, an audiologist at Loyola Oakbrook Terrace Medical Center.
Jeter presented the study at the 10th International Conference on Cochlear Implants and Other Implantable Auditory Technologies in San Diego.
Each year, more than 60,000 people in the United States become deaf in one ear due to such causes as chronic ear infections, congenital conditions, inner ear disease, injuries or tumors.
McGinn, a retired accountant, lost hearing on his right side due to an acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor in the inner ear. At the dinner table, he struggled to hear what people to his right were saying. And when driving his car, he couldnât hear the passenger.
A Loyola surgeon implanted a small titanium post in McGinnâs skull, behind his right ear. The sound processor clips on to this post. The battery-operated processor is roughly the size of an adult thumb, from the tip to the first knuckle. A microphone picks up sound waves, and a computer chip converts the sound waves into electrical signals that vibrate the skull. These tiny vibrations, which McGinn canât feel, travel to the inner portion of his left ear, where they are detected as sound. McGinn removes the sound processor when showering or sleeping.
"It's a dramatic difference," McGinn said. "Iâm getting conversation from around the table now, not just from the left side."
Since 2004, Loyola doctors have put the device in 130 patients. The total cost per patient ranges from $10,000 to $15,000. Medicare and most insurance plans cover it, Jeter said.
Jeter's study is the largest of its kind on the device. Jeter said she receives no funding from Cochlear Americas, which makes the device.
To schedule an appointment with a Loyola physician, call 888-LUHS-888.
Loyola University Health System, a wholly owned subsidiary of Loyola University Chicago (LUC), includes the private teaching hospital at Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), 16 specialty and primary care centers in the western and southwestern suburbs, the Loyola Ambulatory Surgery Center at Oakbrook and the Loyola Oakbrook Terrace Imaging Center; and serves as co-owner-operator of RML Specialty Hospital, a long-term acute hospital specializing in ventilation weaning and other medically complex patients in suburban Hinsdale, Ill. Loyola is nationally recognized for its specialty care and groundbreaking research in cancer, neurological disorders, neonatology and the treatment of heart disease. The 61-acre medical center campus in Maywood, Ill., includes the 570-licensed bed Loyola University Hospital with a Level I trauma center, the region's largest burn unit, one of the Midwest's most comprehensive organ transplant programs, the Russo Surgical Pavilion and the Ronald McDonaldÂ® Children's Hospital of LUMC. Also on campus are Loyola's Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center and LUC Stritch School of Medicine. The medical school includes the Cardiovascular Institute, Oncology Institute, Burn & Shock Trauma Institute, Neuroscience Institute and the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy.