Implantable hearing devices are surgically implanted instruments which may be beneficial depending on the type and severity of a person’s hearing loss. There are several different types of implantable hearing devices; these include cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing aids and auditory brainstem implants.
Types of Implantable Hearing Devices
Cochlear implants may help people with severe to profound hearing loss who receive limited benefit from hearing aids. The implant is designed to replace the function of damaged sensory hair cells in the inner ear. The device bypasses the hair cells that are not functioning, sending the sound directly to the hearing nerve.
The cochlear implant device contains an external sound processor and the implant which is placed under the skin surgically and attached to an electrode array that is inserted into the inner ear. The external portion of the device consists of a microphone, sound processor, and transmitter. The microphone picks up sounds in the environment, which are then converted by the sound processor into electronic signals that are sent to the transmitter. The transmitter forwards these signals to the receiver, where they are then passed on to the electrodes. The electrodes stimulate the auditory nerve, which carries the information directly to the brain, where it is interpreted as sound.
Bone Anchored Hearing Devices
Bone anchored hearing devices may be an option for you if you have a conductive or mixed hearing loss or have single sided deafness. Bone anchored hearing devices consist of a titanium implant, an external abutment (a magnet or headband may also be an option) and a sound processor. The device bypasses the damaged outer and middle ear, transmitting sound vibrations through the external abutment to the titanium implant and onto the inner ear.
Auditory brainstem implants (ABI) are similar in concept to cochlear implants, but rely on electrodes placed directly on the brainstem that relay electronic signals to the brain. ABIs are less common, usually reserved for individuals whose auditory nerve does not function properly due to disease or trauma.
The majority of cases are related to a rare type of tumor known as neurofibromatosis type II (NF2). These patients have sensorineural hearing loss and, because the auditory nerve is damaged, do not benefit from cochlear implants.
Call Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat Head & Neck Surgery at (270) 691-6161 for more information or to schedule an appointment.