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VCU surgeon 1st in Central Va. to Implant magnetic hearing device

Technology an option for patients unable to use traditional hearing aids

6/5/2013, 12:50 p.m.

— Daniel Coelho, M.D., co-director of the Virginia Commonwealth Medical Center’s Cochlear Implant Center, is the first surgeon in central Virginia to implant a new bone conduction hearing device that restores hearing.

The device helps patients with single-sided deafness, conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss. Single-sided deafness is total hearing loss in one ear. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not transmitted through the outer and middle ear. Mixed hearing loss is both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear.

“The Sophono Alpha System uses implantable magnets that will allow the patient to wear a small device that will conduct sound to the patient’s inner ear, leading to significantly improved hearing,” Coelho said. “Individuals unable to wear traditional hearing aids, patients with chronic inflammation or infection of the ear canal and children with aural atresia (the absence or closure of an ear or ear canal) or microtia (an underdeveloped external ear), can be helped by this technology.”

Called a "minimally invasive" procedure, it takes just 45-minute and involves two small magnets that are surgically implanted against the patient’s skull. Once the area heals, a third magnet is placed against the patient’s scalp and the hearing system device is attached to the outer magnet.

“The device will send sound vibrations directly to the patient’s hearing ear, allowing the person to hear sound from all sides,” said Coelho. “By using magnets, this technology offers a potential alternative to other similar devices that work by using a metal attachment that goes through the skin to the skull.”

Coelho has performed the procedure on two patients, both of whom are deaf in one ear as a result of viral infections. “Both patients have been very happy to have this option,” Coelho said. “This gives them a chance to hear what they’ve been missing for many years.”