Woman is first in the country to have new internal hearing aid

PIONEER Denise Westgate at home
PIONEER Denise Westgate at home
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A MUM has received the country’s first completely internal hearing aid.

Denise Westgate went virtually deaf when she was just six years old, but thanks to a pioneering operation at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, she can now hear again.

Designed by the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre (SOECIC), the new implant is entirely hidden under her skin.

And after years of wearing two normal hearing aids, the 49-year-old said it has changed her life.

‘I was nervous being the first person to ever have the operation,’ she said. ‘But the difference it has made to everything I do is enormous.

‘Suddenly there is all this sound that hasn’t been there before, something as simple as the noise of water when I get into the bath or the sound of my husband’s voice.

‘I can answer the phone and do all the things I found so hard for years and years: it has been a revelation.’

Denise, of Winterslow Drive, in Havant, received the revolutionary procedure after an infection closed one of her ear canals, making it impossible for her to wear an ordinary hearing aid.

Consultant otolaryngologist, Mike Pringle, performed the operation and said the new device, called the Otologics Carina, solves this sort of problem.

‘The Carina is what we call a middle-ear implant,’ he said. ‘It is for people with a moderate to severe hearing loss who could benefit from a hearing aid but are unable to use one for a variety of reasons.

‘It directly vibrates the hearing bones which are in the middle ear, and is also totally implantable; so the battery, microphone and signal processor are all under the skin.’

The implant connects to a tiny electromagnetic vibrator which is positioned inside the mastoid bone behind the ear, and attaches to the hearing bones. There is nothing on the outside of the head and the ear canal is left open.

The mum-of-four said: ‘I have to use a charger to charge the internal battery for about 45 minutes every day, but otherwise there is no external equipment to wear. I can leave it on overnight and even swim and shower with it in place.’

Denise is now working with SOECIC at Southampton University to tune the implant for others.