First hearing implant surgery of its kind goes ahead at University Hospitals Sussex

Published: Posted on:

For Deaf Awareness Week (4th to 9th May), audiologists and ear surgeons from University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust are celebrating the success of two new hearing devices implanted for the first time in Sussex, as the Trust becomes one of the leading centres for hearing implants in the South East.

Surgeons Prof Bhutta and Mr Desai and Audiologist Manuel Loureiro performed the surgeries at Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath on patients who received the ‘BoneBridge’ and ‘Vibrant SoundBridge’ implants.

Mathew Gould, 54, from Worthing, had been experiencing hearing difficulties for years. Surgery to the bones of hearing to recover his hearing loss had been unsuccessful and his existing conventional hearing aids were problematic. A BoneBridge implant is a vibrating device screwed into the skull and hidden under the skin.

Mathew, who had his device switched on in February 2020, said: “The implant has helped make my hearing more balanced and provides a sharper sound. I find that it picks out sounds that the conventional one did not, including quieter sounds, like birds singing. Although it does take a little while for your brain to adjust, it is comfortable to wear.”

Photo of patient Teresa May following implant surgery

Teresa May, 48, from Hailsham, had Vibrant SoundBridge implant surgery in December after experiencing problems with an older implant and being unable to wear conventional hearing aids.

The two-hour surgery includes attaching a tiny motor onto one of the hearing bones, the smallest bones in the human body, located behind the ear drum. An external microphone, magnetically attached to the implant, picks up the sounds and stimulates the motor, considerably improving the person’s hearing. 

Teresa had her implant switched on in January of this year by audiologists Manuel Loureiro and Tania Van Zyl. She is now undergoing a period of rehabilitation and adjustment to the new implant.

Teresa said: “Life with my implant has changed for the better; I have grown in confidence and can now participate in meetings at work and on Zoom using my streamer. I love listening to birds singing and I am the one that now turns the volume down on the television and radio, I also don’t use subtitles anymore. I feel safer as I can hear my surroundings and when someone is behind me.”

Manuel Loureiro, the Audiologist who led on Mathew and Teresa’s implant rehabilitation, said: “We have been a specialist centre for bone conduction hearing implants for 25 years, but to be able to extend our portfolio to include the full range of bone conduction and middle ear implantable devices is a massive step forward for patients in Sussex.  We are now in a position to offer a range of options to rehabilitate the hearing of many patients who would otherwise struggle with communication in their daily lives and our patients no longer have to travel large distances to access this technology.”

Professor Bhutta, who led the implant surgery, said: “Hearing loss is often called the hidden disability – the consequences of poor hearing on mental and even physical health can be severe and under-appreciated.  Many patients with hearing loss will benefit from conventional hearing aids, some from surgery to reconstruct the bones of hearing or eardrum, but for the small number that don’t it is great to be in a position to offer these newer technologies”

Following the success of the first two implants of this kind, the auditory implant centre at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton has expanded to offer all auditory implants apart from cochlear implants. The department offers procedures to patients from Sussex or further afield (including Surrey and Kent) who are unable to use conventional hearing aids, following an assessment by a multi-disciplinary team.