The man with the bionic ear: Pioneering implant placed under the skin could restore hearing for thousands
Alastair White lost the hearing in his left ear after suffering mumpsNow the first person in Britain to receive the hi-tech implant placed under the skinSound signals pass through the skin on the deaf side and over to the ear that is still functioning
12:22 GMT, 31 December 2012
Alastair White was completely deaf in his left ear after suffering mumps
A man left completely deaf in one ear after an attack of mumps has become the first person in the UK to have a breakthrough treatment to restore his hearing.
Alastair White woke up one morning in 2006 to find he had lost all hearing in his left ear.
Hearing loss is a well-known side effect of mumps and is usually temporary.
But doctors told him that he had lost his hearing permanently – and there was nothing that could be done to help him.
Refusing to give up hope, he asked for a referral to Manchester Royal Infirmary. There, doctors tested him and explained he could be suitable for a new hi-tech implant which is placed under the skin.
Mr White, 28, an engineer from Manchester, became the first person in Britain to receive the 'bionic ear' in a 90-minute procedure at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. He had full hearing back just hours later.
The device picks up sound from the deaf side and passes it through to the ear that is still functioning. Performed as a day case procedure, for the first time in the world the device was activated on the same day it was implanted.
Mr White said: 'When I lost my hearing in one ear it was a big shock. Nobody expects to go to bed and wake up deaf.
'I had mumps and I just thought that my glands were swollen. But they didn't go down and it was the worst thing ever to be told that my hearing wasn't coming back.
'I struggled to hear at parties and in loud environments for six years, so this operation is life-changing.
'When it was switched on at the hospital and I could hear even quiet voices, it was just an incredible feeling.
The device picks up sound from the deaf side and passes it through to the ear that is still functioning
Mr White became the first person in Britain to receive the 'bionic ear' in a 90-minute procedure at the Manchester Royal Infimiary
'It's also great to have it in time for Christmas and I feel really proud to be the first in Britain to have it. I'm really grateful to the doctors and can't thank them enough.'
The device, called the Bonebridge implant, has two components: an implant under the skin behind the ear and an audio processor which receives the sound waves.
The device, called the Bonebridge implant, has two components: an implant under the skin behind the ear and an audio processor which receives the sound waves
Sound signals pass through the skin and audio processor and are conducted by the implant to the bone and the inner ear – allowing users to hear properly.
Other less sophisticated hearing implants are available, but they are not as sensitive and not as likely to work effectively, the manufacturer claims.
Mr White does martial arts and other devices would not be suitable as they are not completely hidden under the skin – meaning he would not be able to take part in sport.
Ear surgeon Kevin Green, who carried out the procedure, said that Mr White was the first patient in the world to have the implant switched on so quickly – within an hour of the operation.
He said: 'The device is new to the UK. Alastair had completely lost his hearing in his left ear and really struggled to hear when it was noisy – that's very hard to cope with. He had a really good response to it and we are very pleased. Hopefully the procedure will now help lots of other people, too.'
Dr Ingeborg Hochmair, managing director of MED-EL, the firm behind the technology, said: 'The Bonebridge will improve patients' lives considerably, because the protective function of the skin is preserved after the operation.'