Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL – Loyola Medicine's hearing center reached another milestone recently by performing its 500th cochlear implant.

The procedure was performed by John Leonetti, MD, one of four Loyola otolaryngologists who have extensive experience in cochlear implant surgery. A cochlear implant is used in patients with sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by a disease or lesion affecting the inner ear or auditory nerve. The device bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and stimulates the auditory nerve, enabling the patient to receive sound.

"Cochlear implants allow patients to hear much better, which can greatly improve their quality of life," said Sam Marzo, MD, chair of Loyola's department of otolaryngology, who also  performs cochlear implants along with Matthew Kircher, MD and Dennis Moore, MD.

Loyola is among the highest-volume centers for cochlear implants in the Midwest and was among the first centers to implant a hybrid system that combines a cochlear implant with a hearing aid. Loyola offers cochlear implants to patients who have normal or near-normal hearing in one ear (single-sided deafness), especially to those with debilitating tinnitus in the impaired ear. (Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ear.) Loyola also has been among the first centers in the country to offer other leading-edge hearing technologies.

"Cochlear implants have become standard treatments for patients with various degrees of sensorineural hearing loss who do not receive enough benefit from hearing aids," said audiologist chief Candace R. Blank, AuD. "But there's a common misconception that the devices are intended only for patients with profound hearing loss."

A conventional cochlear implant can benefit a patient who with hearing aids can understand as many as 60 percent of sentences. A hybrid system can be used in patients who with hearing aids can understand as many as 80 percent of words.

There's a strong association between hearing loss and anxiety, depression and dementia. But fewer than six percent of the approximately 1.2 million U.S. residents who are candidates for cochlear implants have the devices. One possible reason is that hearing loss is under-diagnosed. Only about 14 percent of people over age 65 receive a hearing screening during physical exams, and fewer than 12 percent of primary care physicians screen for hearing loss during annual physical exams. Also, adults who are not being sufficiently helped by hearing aids may not be aware there are other options.

Loyola Medicine audiologists excel at the diagnosis and treatment of hearing and balance conditions, and work closely with the patient's primary care doctor and other physicians. Loyola ear surgeons are nationally recognized for their outstanding outcomes in hearing loss surgery.