As the first audiology practice in New Jersey to offer complete advanced audiological services outside a hospital setting, the staff at The Hearing Center has worked with several patients who have experienced hearing issues after a COVID-19 infection, ranging from tinnitus to total hearing loss.
“Hearing loss in COVID-19 patients is rare, but not unheard of,” Eric Sandler, Sc.D. said. “Initially, researchers thought that it was caused by vascular damage, but there’s also the possibility that it’s a neurological issue, or it could be neural or cochlear damage.”
In the case of Brick, N.J.’s Kim Spinelli, a bout with COVID-19 in January 2021 led to total hearing loss in her left ear, which she discovered after waking up from a 74-day medically induced coma. This necessitated a Cochlear Osia implant in September 2021.
“My options weren’t so broad,” Spinelli said. “A lot of people think about a cochlear implant, but that’s historically best for those who have hearing loss in both ears.”
Sandler explained that the permanent damage to Spinelli’s’ hearing in only one ear – her right ear was unaffected by COVID – meant that she was the ideal candidate for an Osia implant, which stimulates the cochlea of the normal hearing ear via bone conduction.
“These implants vibrate the skull, stimulating the cells of the good hearing ear,” Sandler said. “This delivers sound from the non-hearing ear to the normal hearing ear.”
Spinelli vividly recalls the moment in July 2021 when she tested a bone conduction device for the first time.
“Dr. Sandler placed a headband with a Baha on it, and I’ll never forget that moment where it turned on, I looked at my sister and heard her when she asked if I could hear her,” Spinelli said.
Spinelli underwent the successful procedure two months later. The implant, about the size of a half-dollar, sits direct behind her left ear. To activate the Osia, Spinelli places a dark brown magnetized piece on the implant, a color she said she chose to better blend in with her red hair.
“I have the implant on from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed,” Spinelli said.
Spinelli described The Hearing Center staff as “empathetic and warm” during the Osia implantation process.
“Dr. Sandler and Michelle held my hand through the whole process,” Spinelli said. “Every time I went to The Hearing Center, the empathy expressed by everyone and the way I was embraced was unforgettable. Dr. Sandler has such a big heart and such a kindness and expertise about him. I felt that love every step of the way.”
Spinelli added that Sandler and The Hearing Center team talked her through the intricacies behind using the Osia, including how to use its Bluetooth® connectivity to take phone calls or listen to music.
Sandler described Spinelli’s case as “rewarding” for him and the whole staff at The Hearing Center.
“We had all been through the hell of COVID-19, and with Kim, there was an opportunity to help somebody improve their life in a really tangible way,” Sandler said.
About The Hearing Center
The Hearing Center is an advanced full-service audiology practice for pediatrics and adults. The state-of-the-art facilities are the first in New Jersey to offer all audiological services outside a hospital setting. The director of audiology, Eric Sandler, Sc.D., is a sought-after speaker who delivers lectures on cochlear implants around the U.S. For more information, visit www.thcaudiology.com.