Earlens: Contact Lens for The Ear


BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— As many as 15 percent of all American adults have trouble hearing by age 65, and one in three people report having hearing loss. Hearing aids help amplify the sound, but they’re not perfect.

At the theater or inside busy restaurants, 68-year-old Alan Bergstein struggled.

“I couldn’t hear conversations at all. It’s like people were mouthing things, but all I heard in background was other people talking or noise or whatever,” Alan Bergstein told Ivanhoe.

For more than a decade, Bergstein wore hearing aids. They amplified conversation, but the background noise got louder, too.

Bergstein shared, “When you put them on, it’s like putting on the world’s worst PA system in your ear.”

Ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Seth Oringher offers a new device to patients called the Earlens. Doctors insert a small piece, much like a contact lens in the ear canal. A molded light tip fits inside the ear. It communicates with a sound processor on the outside. When the processor picks up sound, the lens vibrates and sends the sound to the eardrum.

“The difference with Earlens is that it covers a much larger bandwidth than traditional hearing aids. So, it allows them to hear the much higher frequencies than compared to a traditional hearing aid,” Seth Oringher, MD, FACS, Chief of Otolaryngology at Sibley Hospital at Johns Hopkins Med, noted.

(Read Full Interview)

Dr. Oringher stated, “It makes sound much crisper and allows them to do much better hearing, especially in noisy environment.”

Alan says he noticed an immediate difference when he began wearing the Earlens. His hearing’s not perfect, but it’s the best he’s heard in years.

“I can hear pretty much what a 30 year-old would hear in most environments,” Alan exclaimed.

The Earlens is approved by the FDA. The Earlens is not covered by most insurance companies. The cost is about $12,000.  Alan considers it an investment in his health, since it has made a difference in how he feels in social situations.


Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4946

BACKGROUND: A person who is not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing is said to have hearing loss. Normal hearing thresholds are typically 20 dB or better in both ears. The loss may be mild, moderate, severe, or profound and can affect one or both ears. It leads to difficulty in hearing conversational speech and/or loud sounds. The reference ‘hard of hearing’ refers to people with hearing loss that can range from mild to severe. People who are hard of hearing usually communicate through spoken language and can benefit from hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices. People who are considered deaf mostly have profound hearing loss, which means very little or no hearing. They often use sign language for communication.

(Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss)

CURRENT TREATMENTS: Surgery can improve hearing but is rarely considered a first-line treatment in adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. A cochlear implant is a surgery for adults, and, more commonly, children who have no, or very little, residual hearing. Bone-anchored hearing systems, also called BAHAs, are surgically implanted devices used for people who have hearing loss in one ear, or who have outer ear or ear canal malformations. A stapedectomy is a procedure in which the stapes, or innermost bone of the middle ear, are replaced with a prosthesis. For people who experience sudden hearing loss, steroids injected into the ear (or taken orally) can treat inflammation and sometimes help a person regain their full hearing. And, while studies are small and preliminary, researchers have found that CBD oil may help with tinnitus relief.

(Source: https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52790-Can-you-restore-your-lost-hearing)

POTENTIAL BREAKTHROUGH WITH CHEMOTHERAPY DRUG: Researchers at the Creighton University School of Medicine identified a chemotherapy drug, Tafinlar (dabrafenib), that can protect against hearing loss in mice. Lead study author Matthew Ingersoll, PhD, a Creighton postdoctoral fellow, says, “Since dabrafenib is already an FDA-approved drug, and it has very minimal side effects, skin rash is one of the worst side effects some people have, we’re hoping we can get it to clinical trials faster. I think it has a lot of applications in the future.” Dabrafenib is a type of oral chemotherapy used to treat cancers with a BRAF gene mutation, and researchers have found promising results. Dabrafenib inhibits the BRAF kinase pathway that prevents the death of hair cells in the inner ears of mice. The fact that dabrafenib is administered orally means it’s the least invasive and most portable treatment method, offering even greater treatment potential.

(Source: https://www.verywellhealth.com/dabrafenib-potential-hearing-loss-breakthrough-5096753)





If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Seth Oringher, MD, FACS, Chief of Otolaryngology

Read the entire Q&A