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Implantable Hearing Technology

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Millions of Americans with hearing loss are able to improve their communication abilities by wearing hearing aids. These do have certain drawbacks, however, and won’t help everybody. They are less effective for certain types of hearing loss, and some patients never get used to wearing them because they are too uncomfortable. They may cause the wearer to experience fullness in the ear, unpleasant feedback, or whistling noises. Some complain about the need to clean them on a daily basis, or fret over how quickly the batteries need to be replaced. Depending on the type and severity of their hearing loss, these patients might benefit from implantables – hearing devices that are surgically implanted and work on a different principle than hearing aids, directly stimulating the bones in the middle ear to produce an approximation of sound.

There are two main types of implantable hearing devices that Rocky Mountain Ear Center provides: cochlear implants and bone anchored hearing aids.

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants — small electronic devices surgically set behind the ear – contain an external portion consisting of a microphone, sound processor and transmitter, and an internal portion that includes a receiver and a group of electrodes. 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. Cochlear implants allow those who are profoundly deaf to understand speech and other sounds.

People as young as 12 months can benefit from cochlear implants in circumstances such as the following:

  • Hearing aids are found to be ineffective
  • They have profound hearing loss in one ear
  • They have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears
  • They score 65 percent or less on sentence-recognition tests conducted by a hearing professional

 

Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids

Bone-anchored hearing aids, or “BAHAs,” consist of a titanium implant, an external abutment and a sound processor. Like cochlear implants, the BAHA system bypasses damaged hair cells in the auditory canal and middle ear, transmitting sound vibrations through the external abutment to the titanium implant, which naturally integrates (“ossifies”) with the skull bone over time. The bones of the skull act as conductors, transmitting these sound vibrations to the inner ear, where the nerve fibers responsible for hearing are stimulated. BAHA is especially useful for person with conductive hearing loss and single-sided deafness.

Are implantables right for you or your loved one? To learn more, contact the experienced medical professionals at Rocky Mountain Ear Center today for information or an appointment.