Solutions for Hearing Loss at UHealth Ear Institute
Middle Ear Implants for Severe Hearing Loss
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Dr. Hillary Snapp is chief audiologist at UHealth Ear Institute. To learn more about middle ear implants or to make an appointment, call 305-243-3564 or visit the University of Miami’s health news blog.
Danielle Branciforte has been wearing hearing aids since she was a teenager, but they never quite delivered the sound quality she desired. “Hearing aids amplify the sound in the room, but don’t make the sound any clearer,” she says.
But a solution was on the horizon. In 1997, Danielle became one of the first patients to receive a middle ear implant as part of a study at the University of Miami Health System. Researchers hoped the device would bridge the gap in care for people with severe hearing loss whose condition can’t be readily managed through a hearing aid, but who are not candidates for a cochlear implant.
“At UHealth Ear Institute, our team of world-renowned researchers and clinicians come together on a regular basis to provide innovative healthcare,” says Dr. Hillary Snapp, chief of audiology at UHealth Ear Institute. “Our department is one of the top ten in the country for managing ear-related disorders.”
A middle ear implant contains two parts. An external component worn on the head connects magnetically to an internal component that has been surgically placed close to the inner ear. Once implanted, the device can last a lifetime if maintained through regular checkups and upgrades.
“The middle ear implant allows us to bypass the external ear and directly couple to the middle ear, very close to the hearing organ itself,” says Dr. Snapp. “We can write a hearing prescription that provides improved sound quality without distortion.”
Millions of people around the world experience disabling hearing loss, says Dr. Snapp. For these patients, difficulty hearing affects their ability to perform routine tasks like conversing with a coworker. This can lead to feelings of fatigue and isolation for those whose hearing loss is not adequately managed.
“Often patients will come in and they're really struggling with their hearing loss and they're not sure what else to do,” she says. “We can introduce options to them when they feel they've reached the last point of help.”
Following her middle ear implant surgery, Danielle began hearing everyday noises she didn’t recognize. “I said to my husband, ‘What is that sound I'm hearing?’ It was the rain on the roof and I'd never heard that before. The two of us just started bawling like babies,” she says.
UHealth is one of just a few sites in Florida to offer middle ear implants as a treatment option. “Providing innovative technology to manage hearing loss is a critical aspect of hearing health care as a whole,” says Dr. Snapp. “We're very proud to be part of that market.”
Long-term satisfaction is common among her patients with middle ear implants, says Dr. Snapp. “For more than 20 years, these patients have had great success with their devices, even as time has gone on, and even as their hearing has changed,” she says.
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