Magnetic materials reinvent technologies for treating hearing loss

September 12, 2014 - "Industry Insight"

September 09, 2014

Magnetic materials are changing how researchers study hearing loss and helping to make the solutions used to treat these life-changing problems.

A new hearing transplant device made with magnets is allowing patients with partial hearing to hear on both sides using a a "bionic ear," Pennsylvania newspaper Erie Times-News reported. The device, which is called the BAHA Attract system, or bone-anchored hearing aid, features two magnets. One is located in the sound processor of the hearing implant and the other is implanted under the skin of the patient. 

"I would go out to lunch with my girlfriends, and I wouldn't be able to hear them talk at my table," said Verla Garlock, a patient who suffered from hearing loss in her right ear, according to Erie Times-News. "I could hear everything that was said at the next table over, though, because it was on the side of my good ear."

Garlock visited a ears, nose and throat (ENT) center to have the surgery performed to implant the BAHA Attract hearing device. The latest version is the BAHA 4 Attract, which is a magnetic bone conduction implant system made by implantable hearing solutions manufacturer Cochlear Limited. 

Why BAHA Attract transplant device is ideal for some patients
This hearing device is helping patients around the world to hear again, including Billy Coughlin, who is working to become an actor, the Daily Mail reported.

Surgeon Matthew Trotter performed the procedure, which required implanting the magnet responsible for channeling signals from the skull bone to the inner ear. Trotter said the cause of the hearing problem determines how doctors treat hearing loss, and BAHAs are ideal for patients who have not had luck with regular hearing aids. 

"BAHAs are suitable for patients who have problems with the outer and middle parts of the ear, usually due to infections or previous surgery," Trotter said, according to the Daily Mail. "In these people, using a normal hearing aid in the ear canal won't help because the transmitted sounds won't reach the inner ear."

In the U.S., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the BAHA 4 Attract system last year and surgeons began performing transplants on patients in November 2013.

Sidney Lipman of ENT Specialists has installed more than 70 BAHA hearing devices, according to Erie Times-News. Lipman said the implant manipulates the brain into thinking the patient can hear out of both ears and generates a more natural sound compared to typical hearing aids. 

While these magnets in these devices are small, scientists are making them even smaller by using magnetic nanoparticles to help them study the process of hearing, Chemical & Engineering News reported.




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