A video clip of a young American woman enabled by the first fully implantable hearing aid to hear her own voice clearly for the first time has become famous online.
Sarah Churman, aged 29, from Texas, was born profoundly deaf and has grown up using external auditory devices to provide partial hearing ability.
The surgical implantation of an Esteem device from Envoy Medical behind each ear resulted in her experiencing much clearer hearing.
Churman’s emotional reaction to her greatly improved hearing was filmed and uploaded to YouTube, where it became a massive hit despite user comments that showed ignorance about her condition.
The Esteem device is the first fully implantable hearing aid, with no microphone or speaker. Based on pacemaker technology, it is implanted under the skin behind the ear. Two leads extend into the middle ear from the device to sense the vibrations of the eardrum and auditory ossicles.
Churman commented that conventional hearing aids had never given her good discrimination of sounds or a sense of their distance: “With my hearing aids everything is jumbled, just white noise.”
Now, she added, voices were clear for the first time: “I could hear my two daughters’ words rather than having to read their lips.” In addition, she said, she was able to hear the sounds of rain, thunder and birdsong.
Each medical device and its implantation would cost nearly £20,000 in the UK, and is not available from the NHS.
Envoy Medical is based in Minnesota, USA.