Published on October 24, 2010 at 9:23 PM
By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Meniere’s disease is a disease that affects the inner ear – a region responsible for balance. It affects 1% of Americans and can be quite disabling since it leads to attacks of vertigo. At present medications can not completely cure the condition and surgery is often unsuccessful.
Now scientists from the University of Washington Medical Center have developed a new cochlear implant on their first human test subject. This device when placed inside a small well created by the surgeon behind the ear relieves the symptoms of the disease.
The device has three electrodes that extend into the canals of the inner ear’s bony labyrinth. All patients will have different placement spots since they must be individually recognized via neuronal signal testing. There is also an external processor behind their ear which will work in tandem with the implant.
In case of an impending attack the patient can activate the processor to send a signal to the implant, which results in transmitting electrical impulses via the three electrodes. These impulses will override the malfunctions in the inner ear, enabling the patient to maintain balance until the attack passes. The device has finally obtained approval from the US FDA after four years of deliberations.
Dr. James Phillips, one of the doctors from the University of Washington who designed the tool in the last 4 years said, “This tool is really just to divert the symptoms. Not to heal, only reduce the vertigo until the actual diseases successfully treated.” True cure he said lies in a surgery but that may lead to decreased or loss of hearing.