In order to test that the implanted microphone was working, a speaker was taped over the ear and once the microphone was in place, test sounds were played into the ear to see if the microphone picked them up. When the speaker was first turned on the surgeons could hear no response from the implant and as they started to investigate the cause, became increasingly worried that they had damaged the tiny implant when inserting it into the incus.
As is often the case however, there was a very simple explantation for the lack of response from the implant – the speaker had been dislodged during the procedure and was not playing the test sounds into the patient Paul Heaney’s ear! Once the speaker had been replaced into the correct position, the surgeons could hear that the implant was functioning correctly and were happy with the early results of the surgery.
Following his rehabilitation from the surgery, trial patient Paul Heaney went back to the hospital to test the new technology out. When the middle ear microphone was switched on and Paul heard with it for the first time he said that: “[I] haven’t heard with this much clarity for the last 20 years. General background noise is completely gone, [there’s] much more volume and much more clarity. It definitely gives me a lot of hope to be more social, it’s a fantastic device”
As hearing aid users will know, background noise can be very difficult to ignore and greater clarity is a constant need. The early evidence of this trial is very encouraging and will hopefully become more and more available as the techniques are developed.
BBC 2 documentary ‘Surgeons: At the Edge of Life’ Episode 3: The Pioneers was shown on BBC 2 on 22/01/2018 and is available to view on iplayer.