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Return to A Sleek, Sophisticated Hearing Aid, No Drilling Required Overview

More on A Sleek, Sophisticated Hearing Aid, No Drilling Required

A Sleek, Sophisticated Hearing Aid, No Drilling Required

NEW YORK (Oct 1, 2013)

Doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian are offering a new magnetic hearing device to improve hearing ability in patients with certain kinds of hearing conditions and who are unable to wear traditional hearing aids. The device is known as the Sophono Alpha 2 and it has caused some excitement among traditionally reserved otolaryngologists for its sophisticated technology and cosmetic appeal.

Anil K. Lalwani, M.D.
Anil K. Lalwani, M.D.

"This device highlights the full range of technology and best treatment available at NYP for patients with hearing loss. The entire field is moving toward this kind of intervention," said Anil K. Lalwani, M.D., Director of the Division of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery and of the Cochlear Implant Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

The Sophono Alpha 2 consists of a small sound processor worn behind the ear. This is secured in place by magnets to a titanium implant that doctors place under the skin during an outpatient procedure. The device is especially helpful in differentiating speech from background noise – a common problem for the hearing impaired. Patient recovery typically lasts about four weeks.

Compared to hearing devices that require a doctor to drill a hole into the skull and install a screw that sticks out of the head, the Sophono Alpha 2 is a less invasive option. "It is a cosmetically appealing device because nothing goes through the skin like a traditional hearing device," said Dr. Lalwani. There is minimal risk for skin infections because the hearing device is secured by magnets, making constant wound care unnecessary.

Dr. Lalwani recently installed the Sophono Alpha 2 in a patient with positive results. His team hopes to complete about six more implants in 2013.

Recently, the FDA granted approval for patients with the Sophono Alpha 2 device to undergo an MRI without removing the magnetic implant, making the device a more appealing option for patients who may require MRI scans in the future. However, the new magnetic hearing device is not for everyone. Dr. Lalwani noted that the patient criteria for the Sophono Alpha 2 hearing device is quite selective. Candidates for the new technology include patients with single-sided deafness and those who cannot wear conventional hearing aids because of chronic ear infections or a condition where the ear canal is not fully formed.

However, Dr. Lalwani believes that the device will become the standard of care in the future. "Companies are working very quickly to develop something similar," he predicted.

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