An invisible hearing aid

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on July 2, 2010 at 6:00 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 2 at 6:12 PM

Can you hear me now?  More and more people can’t.

At least 30 million Americans have lost hearing. Now, a new type of hearing aid is making it easier for people to get help without everyone knowing it.

For the first time in 10 years, Patrick Mulvey is swimming again. He gave it up when his hearing started to go.

“I cranked the music up a little bit too loud, and I started feeling the effects of it," Mulvey said.

Both ears suffered moderate hearing loss -- so much so, he can't hear without help.

“It’s difficult to understand people on the whole," Mulvey explained.

Now, the next generation of hearing aids can help Mulvey hear in and out of the water.

“That’s the hearing aid,” said Robert Sweetow, Ph.D., director of audiology and professor of otolaryngology at UCSF.

This Lyric hearing aid is the first of its kind to be studied in swimmers. And it’s virtually invisible.

“This is the only hearing aid that’s immersed this deeply down the ear canal," Dr. Sweetow explained.

It sits one-sixth of an inch from the eardrum. The sound can be turned up and down with the use of a magnet outside the ear.

“It doesn’t fall out because the ear canal goes in and curves, so there are two flanges on this device that grip the bone of the ear canal," Dr. Sweetow said.

The Lyric cannot help people with very small ear canals, bone protrusions or severe hearing loss. But for those with less or moderate loss, this gives them a new option.

Traditional hearing aids may have feedback, over amplify background noises, the batteries die frequently and have to be removed while showering or swimming.

Now, Mulvey is back in the pool again.

“If I can do this, I’ll probably end up doing it a couple a times a week," Mulvey said.

Patients pay an annual subscription fee of up to $3,600 per pair and get an entirely new hearing aid when the battery dies.

For more information:

Lyric hearing aid website
 

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