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New bone-anchored hearing implant enhances patient’s life

Posted by Kathy Whitney on Friday, March 19, 2021 in Around the Medical Center, Spring 2021 .

Although Elisabeth Mouw, 23, knew she would benefit from having a bone-anchored hearing implant, she put off getting one for several years. Aside from being concerned about the aesthetic of wearing an external hearing device, she was worried it would interfere with her ability to play sports.

Mouw was born with a cholesteatoma, a cyst that invades the middle ear and mastoid. It can eat into the bone and grow aggressively. Mouw underwent two extensive surgeries as a child to remove the cholesteatoma from her hearing bones and facial nerve, one in Chattanooga where she lives, and one, at age 10, at Vanderbilt when she was emergently referred to David Haynes, MD, professor of Otolaryngology and Hearing and Speech Sciences, because the cholesteatoma was causing facial paralysis.

Haynes performed a mastoidectomy and facial nerve decompression and resolved the facial nerve weakness. The complexity of the surgery and the erosive disease in the ear resulted in substantial hearing loss. A traditional bone-anchored implant that places a titanium post behind the ear and attaches to a processor was an option that Mouw was offered, but she declined.

Thirteen years later, in August 2020, Mouw’s audiologist evaluated her for the Cochlear Osia 2 System, which received FDA approval in December 2019. Haynes agreed that Mouw was a candidate.

“Due to the extent of her cholesteatoma and her surgery, she wasn’t a good candidate for a traditional hearing aid. This new implant provided her what she needed: the power required for her to benefit without the titanium percutaneous portion of the traditional bone-anchored hearing implant,” Haynes said.

The Osia is placed under the skin and works by bypassing damaged areas of the outer and middle ear, which send sound directly to the inner ear. It is implanted under the skin behind the ear and does not require a titanium post to be placed through the skin. There is a slim and discreet sound processor that sits behind the ear that captures and transmits sound to the internal processor. It is compatible with wireless accessories, and sound can be adjusted through a smartphone or even an Apple watch.

Several months after receiving the implant, Mouw is thrilled with the results. Her hearing has improved, and not only is she not embarrassed to be wearing it, she proudly shows it off.

“I like how it’s sleek and it looks really cool on my head. I work with tons of kids every day at my job. I wear my hearing aid and I’m really excited about it. I tell them, ‘Look, here’s my hearing aid; I can hear you,’” said Mouw.