This site is from Consumer Affairs in the USA. It compares the features of a range of hearing aids, some of which are not available in Australia. Users may find the reviews of the different brands helpful when deciding to choose what hearing aid to get.

These are some of the major brands currently offered in Australia. Oticon; Phonak; Unitron; Hansation; Starkey; Widex; Resound; Signia; Bernafon.

This is the link here: Consumer Affairs - USA

Dec 2017 Baltimore

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore are looking at 3D printing to help treat hearing loss. A study presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s conference in Chicago shows how 3D printing was used to create implants for ossicular conductive hearing loss, which occurs when three bones of the middle ear are damaged. It happens through trauma, infection or other complications. Currently, prosthetics are used to help restore hearing in the form of implants made of stainless steel or ceramic. But the surgery often fails. “The ossicles are very small structures, and one reason the surgery has a high failure rate is thought to be due to incorrect sizing of the prostheses,” Jeffrey D. Hirsch, an assistant professor of radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who authored the study, said in a statement. “If you could custom-design a prosthesis with a more exact fit, then the procedure should have a higher rate of success.”

That’s where 3D printing comes in. It’s been used for other kinds of implants, so Hirsch explored how to apply it to this form of hearing loss. Using CT imaging and Mimics Innovation Suite software, researchers created models of implants. The implants were then printed using a Form2 3D printer.

PennyThe size of the bones in the middle ear required working on a “sub-millimeter level.” The study’s abstract states four surgeons were asked to match to the correct bone. They were able to detect the differences, even with the very small size. “Each prosthesis had unique measurements. Each of the four surgeons was able to correctly match the prosthesis model to its intended temporal bone. The chances of this occurring randomly are 1:1296,” the abstract states.
“With these models, it’s almost a snap fit,” Hirsch said.

For Hirsch, the accuracy of 3D printing shows promise, and also presents the potential to cut surgery time. Next, the research team plans to look at using biocompatible materials to see how well a 3D-printed prosthesis is able to conduct sound.

A size comparison between the 3D printed implants and a penny.


Dec 2017 MedCrave

Otosclerosis is a bone dysplasia of the optic capsule that promotes progressive metabolic derangement, and can lead to profound hearing loss. This study aimed to compare the postoperative results in patients undergoing cochlear implant with otosclerosis compared with patients with other causes of deafness in a matched pair control group within five years with cochlear implant program. Comfort and Threshold, speech test sentences, monosyllabic and disyllabic, audiometry were measured vs gender, age at implantation, duration of deafness. The conclusion was that otosclerosis patients’ implanted showed good surgical results, despite the greater number of complications presented the stimulation of the facial nerve. These results are comparable to the study of patients in the control group with statistical difference between them, despite the progressive feature of otosclerosis disease.


2017 and GlobeNewswire

Sensorion and Cochlear will explore if a combination of a drug and a hearing implant can improve the treatment of hearing loss. Based in the French city of Montpellier, Sensorion specialises in the development of treatments for inner ear disorders such as vertigo and hearing loss. The company’s technology received major recognition with the announcement that Cochlear, the world’s leader in the hearing implant market, will collaborate with Sensorion to improve hearing loss treatment.

sensorion As part of the agreement, Sensorion will run preclinical trials with a combination of Sensorion’s drug candidate SENS-401 and Cochlear’s implants. Cochlear will invest €1.6M in shares of Sensorion, which is listed on Euronext Paris, in exchange for the right to be the first to negotiate with Sensorion the licensing of the drug to further develop the combination. Preclinical studies will start in 2018, and the combination might take it into Phase II clinical trials as soon as 2019.

SENS-401 (R-azasetron besylate) is being developed by Sensorion as a treatment for sudden sensorineural hearing loss, also known as sudden deafness. This drug can protect sensory hair cells from dying, and it has received orphan drug designation from the FDA for its application to protect the hearing of children receiving chemotherapy drugs that cause deafness, such as cisplatin.

A similar rationale is behind the collaboration with Cochlear. The surgery used to implant hearing aids itself can cause hearing loss, but SENS-401 could help prevent the sensory hair cells from dying in the process. “The idea is that if we use SENS401 at the right moment during the surgical procedure for cochlear implantation, the combination of SENS-401 and Cochlear’s device may improve the hearing outcomes for patients,” Nawal Ouzren, CEO of Sensorion, said. 

Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions and invests more than AUD$150 million a year in research and development.  The company is also involved in more than 100 research collaborations in 20 countries. Cochlear is the technology and market leader in cochlear implants.

“This innovative approach of combining SENS-401 with cochlear implants may allow for better hearing outcomes,” said Lawrence Lustig, MD, Howard W. Smith Professor and Chair, Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Columbia University Medical Center.  “SENS-401 has the potential to provide cochlear protection following the implantation procedure, to support long-term functional stability of the implant, and to prevent continued degeneration in some patients.”


Dec 2017 BusinessWire

Advanced Bionics announced that they will incorporate Sonova’s revolutionary SWORD™ (Sonova Wireless One Radio Digital) chip and wireless radio technology into their portfolio of solutions. Current users of the Naída CI Q90 sound processor, and future recipients, will be able to connect to any Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. The low-voltage wireless chip has the lowest power consumption of any Bluetooth Classic device used in hearing instruments and works seamlessly with Sonova proprietary 2.4 GHz wireless protocols, including Roger.

Sonova brand users (Phonak, Unitron, Hansaton, and Advanced Bionics) are free to select their cell phone technology based on their personal preferences, and not the compatibility of their hearing instrument. SWORD low-voltage radio chip runs multiple communication protocols: Standard Bluetooth to connect to multimedia audio sources, proprietary protocols such as AirStream for excellent sound quality for TV streaming, and the ear-to-ear communication protocols supporting binaural applications. SWORD technology addresses the Android operating system while also providing compatibility with Apple’s iPhone.


Dec 2017 IEEE The Institute

The Bionics Institute in East Melbourne, Australia, is a leader in hearing research, particularly cochlear implants, surgically implanted electronic devices that provide a sense of sound to people who are deaf or severely hard of hearing. The institute is using that same technology to improve vision and monitor brain activity.The institute’s CTO, IEEE Fellow Hugh McDermott, a pioneer in cochlear implants, mentions several of its latest projects.

Each cochlear implant must be fitted to the individual and her comfort level of loudness, which can be difficult to gauge. Fitting patients who are as young as 6 months is especially complicated because babies cannot describe what they are hearing. The institute has developed a new type of brain imaging technique called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), a noninvasive way of seeing how the brain responds to sounds. With fNIRS, the patient wears a skullcap that’s similar to an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap, embedded with optodes. Optodes have light sources that operate in the infrared region and detectors that pick up light that is scattered back out of the brain. fNIRS measures the change in blood oxygen levels in each region of the brain, showing how active that part is. fNIRS imaging allows researchers to see how the brain is responding to the hearing device and tailor it to individual needs.  “If we could get an objective measurement of what’s actually happening in the brain when the cochlear implant recipient is hearing a sound, then we would know how to adjust the device and get the best possible fitting,” McDermott says. The institute is conducting proof-of-concept clinical trials.

The Bionics Institute began developing a device in 2007 that used an electrode array to stimulate the retina of patients with retinitis pigmentosa, the most common cause of inherited blindness for which there is no effective treatment. For those who have the rare eye disorder, the light-sensitive cells of the retina—the photoreceptors—degenerate, but the retinal neurons that transmit information to the brain remain. The device electrically stimulated the receptor cells in the retina, and bypassed the receptors that were lost or damaged. By stimulating the cells, visual sensations in the brain can be created, McDermott says. The electrodes were placed near the retinal cells and connected to an electric stimulator, similar to the stimulator used in cochlear implants. Each electrode produces a spot or flash of light. During a clinical trial using the prototype device completed in 2014, patients reported “seeing” a type of connect-the-dots picture. “Patients’ normal vision isn’t restored by any means, but they do get information about things, like where the door is located or the placement of a table or chair,” McDermott says. “It helps them navigate.”
The institute has now developed a more advanced device with additional electrodes and a stimulator placed under the skin, similar to a cochlear implant. The system includes a small camera worn on eyeglasses and a video processor that can be carried in a pocket. The processor extracts information from the camera’s field of view and picks up obstacles in front of the person. Information about an obstacle is encoded into a pattern of dots and transmitted to the implant. The stimulation of the retina produces a dot-pattern image that helps the patient identify shapes, perceive movement, and navigate their way around without assistance, McDermott says. Three patients will receive the implant next year.

Deep brain stimulation treatments have been used for several years to manage Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. Electrodes are implanted into parts of the brain related to movement, and the electric stimulation continually pulses the area to remove or reduce symptoms such as tremors and rigidity. The treatments become less effective over time and although the symptoms constantly change,  the stimulation can’t be adjusted easily or quickly enough to maitain optimal therapy, McDermott says. 
The institute has developed a way to modify the stimulation in real time to adapt to the changes.

“The Holy Grail of our project was to find a signal that varies with symptoms, and we think we’ve found it,” McDermott says. “We can now measure the signal through the very same electrodes that are used to deliver the stimulation. This is a big step forward.” That same signal also could help surgeons implant the electrodes with more accuracy. The implant procedure is difficult because the surgeon is working with minimal information, according to McDermott. The electrodes have to be placed deep in the brain, and “it’s hard to visualise where with current imaging techniques,” he says. “What the surgeons need is to have a signal like a lighthouse that tells them where the target is, or to move the electrode closer. The same signal we think can control the stimulation could be used to help get the electrode to the right place.” Studies are being conducted with patients who have existing devices, he says, adding that clinical trials are still a few years off.


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