Tiny hearing aid offers new option

Bala Cynwyd, Pa. - Ma 12, 2009 Orthodontist Steve Appel, of Northeast Philadelphia, specializes in improving smiles. He even worked on the grins of some famous athletes such as Donavan McNabb and Terrell Owens. But for years, behind his own smile, he was suffering with profound hearing loss.

" I found myself nodding my head, and smiling at people because I had no idea really what they were saying," he said.

For a decade, he used traditional hearing aids, but said they never sounded, or felt right.

"They always felt like my ears were stuffed," he said, adding, "I just couldn't wait to get home and yank them out of my ears."

That's a very common complaint about hearing aids. Users complain about audio feedback, poor sound quality, batteries dying often and having to take the hearing aids out for showering or sleeping. So many people, like Dr. Appel, just live with hearing loss.

But in January, he found out about another option, new to the area. They're called 'Lyric' hearing aids and are smaller than a dime.

Instead of being worn outside the ear, these are placed deep inside the ear canal, just four millimeters from the ear drum. They're worn 24 hours a day, and when the batteries die in about two or three months, the hearing aids are removed, and replaced with a new one.

Audiologist Dr. Gail Brenner, of Hearing Technology Associates in Bala Cynwyd www.hearingtechnology.comsaid it's one of the most exciting advances she's seen in her 30-year career.

"This is something, you know, we've been waiting for, for a long, long time," she said.

A small computer is used to program each hearing aid. And Dr. Brenner said for most people, it can be life-changing.

But there are some drawbacks: It won't work for patients with small ear canals. Plus, some patients have reported itching or irritation. And the price can be a problem. The Lyric costs about $1,700 per ear, for a 1-year subscription. Good quality traditional hearing aids cost about the same, but last about three to four years.

Still Dr. Brenner said the Lyric may be worth it for patients looking for a hassle-free alternative or a device they can wear almost anywhere. "You can take a shower with them in, it's 24-7 hearing, play golf, play tennis, you know- for the active lifestyle," she said.

Dr. Appel has been wearing the Lyric for 3 months now and said, "It's been nothing short of amazing for me. I don't even know they're in my ear, that's how comfortable they feel."

For more information on the Lyric hearing aid, visit:www.lyrichearing.com

Local audiologist offering the device:



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