Advanced technology has led to recent breakthroughs in hearing implant devices benefiting a certain segment of the hearing impaired population who previously could not be helped.
Several implants are now available:
Cochlear Implants: This technology is designed specifically for the severely hearing impaired who could not benefit from conventional hearing aids or other reconstructive surgery. While this technique is not new, in recent years advanced technology has allowed the implantation of up to 24 electrodes, which fit directly in the cochlea, where the nerve of hearing starts. A receiver is implanted under the skin and directly connected with the electrodes. An outside processor is placed opposite to the receiver and is coupled with it through a magnet. The electrodes stimulate different areas of the cochlea, depending on the pitch received. The sound is somewhat different than natural sound, but with intensive speech and audiological rehabilitation, this device will improve the ability to hear, understand, and communicate.
There are two kinds of patients who benefit from cochlear implants. The prelingual, or those who are born deaf, require more rehabilitation, The postlingual, or those who later acquired severe hearing loss, are much easier to rehabilitate. While cochlear implant surgery is delicate, it is performed under general anesthesia on an outpatient basis. The implant will be activated approximately four weeks after the surgery.
Bone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA): The receiver and processor are combined together. The device is directly anchored to the skull through the skin. Indications for this implant are:
1) those with chronically draining ears who did not benefit from previous surgery
2) those with conductive hearing loss who did not benefit from reconstructive surgery of the
hearing conduction mechanism
3) patients who cannot tolerate hearing aids yet have good cochlear nerve
4) patients with deformed ear canals and congenital malformations
Advantages of BAHA include improved sound quality. There is no dampening of the high frequencies because there is no attenuation of the skin that separates the processor from the receiver. In addition, the small size device is directly attached to the bone.
Audiant Implant: The principle and the indications are the same as BAHA. However, it is now mostly replaced by the bone anchored hearing aids (BAHA).
Implantable Hearing Aids: The FDA recently approved the first implantable hearing aid. This breakthrough is the beginning of a new generation of amplification devices. At the present time it is restricted to adults with moderate hearing loss and fair ability to understand.
In summary, there are very exciting developments in the implantable hearing devices front. Many patients who could not be helped previously with conventional measures are now good candidates for such devices.
Joseph B. Touma, M.D. F.A.C.S. of the Touma Ear and Balance Center is actively performing most of these advanced hearing and rehabilitative surgeries. A cochlear implant team is now in place, consisting of the ear surgeon, an audiologist, and a speech therapist.
For additional information or to make an appointment, please contact River Cities Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, P.L.L.C. at (304) 522-8800 or (800) 955-3277.
Joseph B. Touma, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Touma Ear and Balance Center
1616 13th Avenue, Suite 100
Huntington, WV 25701
304.522.8800 or 800.955.3277