Manchester Royal Infirmary’s cochlear implant patients are among the first in the country to receive a new hearing device which can be controlled via your iPhone, as one of the centres trialling the new technology.
Di Matthews has suffered from severe hearing loss since her twenties and up until her implantation, she wore two hearing aids.
An implant surgically inserted into her ear sends sounds directly to her auditory nerve, rather than amplifying sounds as hearing aids do. The implant is connected to an innovation called the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor.
With time, the technology should not only enable her to pick up a greater range of sounds than she would with hearing aids, it will also allow her to transmit phone calls and music to her brain through an iPhone or iPad.
The mum-of-one is one of the first people in the UK to test out the technology, which was trialled at Manchester Royal Infirmary.
Di said: “I remember going to the GP and him telling me I had a head cold. It wasn’t until I went for an MRI that I found out I had nerve ending damage in my ears, and my hearing has gone gradually year on year since.”
She added: “I did have bilateral hearing aids, but day to day I still found it hard, and was restricted from doing so many things.
“Work became increasingly difficult – my employer has done as much as possible for me – but it got to the point where I was wondering if I could keep doing my job without an implant.
“I’d go to my daughter’s school assemblies, I couldn’t hear anything that was being said, but she could see me so she was happy.
“I can’t talk to her about school on the drive home because I can’t see her to lip read and the sound of the engine means I can’t hear. I struggle to have a full conversation with my husband, it’s little things like that I’ve missed out on.
“I shy away from phone calls and rely on emails, I can’t go to the pictures or theatre unless it’s subtitled or special viewing.”
Di’s implant was switched on on Thursday 12th October, but it will be several weeks before she notices a major difference.
Immediately after the switch on, which took place in the Richard Ramsden Centre for Hearing Implants, Di was able to hear some speech, but mainly a ‘morse code’ style sound which will become clearer in time as she adjusts to the pitches and tones.
She is now looking forward to finally being able to enjoy the music of her husband, Peter, a percussionist for Grimethorpe Colliery Band, which featured in the 1996 comedy Brassed Off.
Cochlear implants have been around for a while, making a dramatic difference to the lives of deafness sufferers. The Manchester service was established in 1988 and was the first centre in the UK to implant multi-channel cochlear implant devices. The Centre has since grown to be a world-renowned centre of excellence in the field of cochlear implantation, treating patients with an age range of 6 months to 91 years.
The implant which Di has been fitted with is made by Cochlear Ltd, connecting to an app that streams sounds to the brain. The technology that makes it possible – the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor – was designed and made by Cochlear, in partnership with Apple, and is available to all patients eligible for an implant on the NHS and privately.
Images courtesy of Manchester Evening News