S. Jersey man first in U.S. with new hearing implant

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March 20, 2014 9:04:33 AM PDT
A newly approved device is helping some people who have lost their hearing to hear clearly again.

Michael Cornog of Cherry Hill, N.J., never knew what Meniere's disease was until it attacked, first affecting his balance -

"A lot of pressure in my ear. You know, just an unexplained, kind of like a drunk feeling," Cornog recalls.

Then when that cleared, Cornog's left ear went completely deaf. "In Meniere's disease, the inner ear dies, says Dr. Michael Ruckenstein,, a Penn Medicine otolaryngologist.

"If someone's calling me, or whatever situation, if I hear something, I gotta look around a lot," he says.

Conventional hearing aids don't help with this type of hearing loss.

A Bone-anchored hearing aid, or BAHA, does.

It sends outside sound through the bone directly to the inner ear.

"It routes the sound to the good ear," says Dr. Ruckenstein.

But many patients don't like the metal anchor holding the sound processor sticking out of their head.

It can cause irritation or infections.

So Cornog recently received a new version called the Baha 4 Attract, just approved by the Food & Drug Administration in November 2013.

"There's nothing coming through the scalp as with the traditional BAHA," says Dr. Michael Ruckenstein,.

The new one, he says, is held on with magnets.

It only took about 45 minutes to implant the elements into the bone behind Cornog's ear. He was home with his family before dinnertime.

When it was turned on a month later, Cornog could even hear an audiologist whispering behind him.

"She asked me - do I like cream in my coffee? And I said yes I do! Quite surprising, because I could hear it clear as day," he says with a big smile.

After wearing it for a while, Cornog says he can barely feel the device. And others barely notice it.

"A lot of people don't realize what it is - they think it's a blue tooth," he says.

Like any hearing aid, it's not perfect, especially in noisy environments. Cochlear, the maker of the Baha 4 Attract, is still working on that.

As for the cost of the new device, most of it is covered by insurance.

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