NORTH MANKATO —
Unlike hearing aids, the company’s Esteem device is implanted in the ear. The only device of its kind, it also differs from cochlear implants that are implanted in the inner ear of profoundly deaf people. The Esteem is implanted in the middle ear for moderate to severe hearing loss.
Envoy spent more than 15 years and well over $100 million developing the device and in 2010 the FDA gave its approval.
“We’re selling it, but we still need to get volume of sales up for it to pay for itself,” said Taylor, who is on the company’s board of directors.
“We’ve done 900 people, but we need more doctors to do it and distribute it more broadly.”
Besides getting more doctors to embrace the technology, Taylor said getting health insurance to cover part of the cost for patients is imperative for long-term success for Envoy.
“It costs $30,000. People who can afford it do it.”
Because the device is new, Taylor said insurers have been reluctant to cover it, but he hopes that changes as the device’s benefits are recognized.
“The cochlear implant is more expensive and insurance covers that,” Taylor said.
The Esteem device treats conductive and/or sensorineural hearing loss. In normal hearing, sound causes the ear drum to vibrate, moving fluid inside the cochlea, prompting tiny hairs to touch nerve endings, which converts the movement into electric signals sent to the brain.
In conductive hearing loss, sound moving through outer and middle ear is blocked. The more severe sensorineural hearing loss happens when the hairs don’t vibrate properly.
Hearing aids, which amplify sound, don’t effectively filter out unwanted noise.
And unlike many cochlear implants, which still require patients to wear external components, the Esteem device is entirely implanted in the ear.
In simple terms, the Esteem device works by a sensor picking up vibrations from the ear drum, converting them into electronic signals, cleaning up and boosting the signal and converting the signals back into a vibration transmitted into the cochlea.