A twenty three year old Bury girl who has suffered from hearing problems all her life, is due to become the first person in the UK implanted with two active bone conduction implants.
Sophie Aldred, who has undergone an operation this week, will have the device ‘switched-on’ on the 30th December allowing her to experience sound from all directions for the first time in her life, just in time for the New Year.
As a child, Sophie constantly experienced hearing loss in both of her ears. Originally diagnosed as ‘glue ear’, a common childhood condition in which the inner ear becomes filled with fluid, she underwent a series of medical interventions to try and alleviate her symptoms.
None were successful and by the time Sophie was a teenager she had hearing aids fitted in an attempt to solve the problem.
Despite improving her ability to hear, Sophie found that any device that was inserted into her ears would cause constant infections therefore limiting the time she could use them. The effect of hearing loss, compounded by constant infection in her ears, meant that she felt she had to resign from her job at a government agency.
After years of frustration and struggle, Sophie pushed for a referral to a specialist and was sent to see Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon, Mr Kevin Green at Manchester Royal Infirmary.
She decided to opt for a new device called a Bonebridge bone conduction implant. This surgically implanted device would sit inside Sophie’s skull and completely under her skin; it converts sounds into electrical impulses that vibrated through her skull bone into her inner ear, effectively allowing her to experience sound again without the need for hearing aids.
On 16th June 2014 she underwent the operation to fit a device to one side of her skull and five weeks later, after everything had healed, a small audio processor that is hidden under her hair was fitted and the device was activated.
Describing the day the device was activated she said, “I can honestly say it was the best day off my life and every day since! It was magical, it was crazy and it was certainly overwhelming. I laughed so much at every little thing I heard that I wasn’t used to hearing such as the birds or traffic.”
Sophie has just been granted NHS funding for the same operation on her other ear, and is scheduled to undergo surgery in the week before Christmas.
Looking to the future, she is keen to give back to the community that supported her by acting as an advocate for those who are eligible for an implant and teaching sign language, so they too can share her joy.
A new survey, “Listen up Britain”, reveals that almost half of patients diagnosed with hearing loss don’t receive treatment, suggesting that people with hearing loss in Manchester need encouragement to visit their GP to get the appropriate treatment.
The survey highlights the urgent need for better awareness, earlier diagnosis and treatment of people experiencing hearing loss, a condition that affects up to 10 million nationwide.
In Manchester, 18% of people questioned said if they had the symptoms of hearing loss, they would completely ignore it while nationwide, only 14% of people were aware of the true scale of hearing loss.
Regionally, Mancunians showed themselves to be one of the least tolerant of people experiencing symptoms, with nearly one quarter of respondents admitting they got fed up constantly repeating words or phrases.
Furthermore, one in five people claimed they would be put off dating with someone who had the condition, with 3% put off even making friends.
It is estimated that the number of people in the UK with some form of hearing loss will rise to 14.5 million by 2031.
Although approximately six million people in the UK could benefit from hearing loss treatment, only two million have hearing aid devices and it is estimated that fewer than 90% of adults eligible for hearing implants, have been referred for one.
This leaves at least four million people in the UK who could potentially benefit from some form of treatment.
A free online hearing test is available via www.medel.com/hearing-test/