With innovations in technology, and surgery, a range of new surgical options for hearing loss are available. In addition, the range of patients who can benefit from hearing implants has expanded significantly. Dr Walton can advise you about which hearing implant might benefit you or your child.
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that is surgically placed within the inner ear to help transmit sound via an electrical signal. It consists of external components (a microphone, a speech processor and a transmitter) and an implanted component. The microphone picks up sound from the environment and sends the signal to a speech processor which selects, analyses and digitally codes the sound signals and sends them to a transmitter in the implant that relays electrical signals to the cochlear which in turn stimulates auditory nerve fibres.
Traditionally cochlear implants have been offered to patients who are profoundly deaf in both ears. Recent research shows that patients with some preserved hearing, who have hearing loss in the high frequencies (high pitch) can benefit from a cochlear implant. It has also been approved as a treatment for single sided deafness (deafness in one ear only), and can be an effective treatment for tinnitus.
A BAHA is a metallic implant placed through the skin (percutaneous) or under the skin (transcutaneous) and into the bone, behind the ear. It is a great solution for patients who cannot wear a hearing aid, and for those with single sided deafness to reroute the signal to the hearing ear.
A Bonebridge is an implanted device beneath the skin (transcutaneous) that can overcome the problem of conductive hearing loss. It is an active bone conduction implant which means that patients with mixed hearing losses (sensorineural and conductive hearing loss) could benefit. The bonebridge may be beneficial in patients who cannot wear a hearing aid, or those with abnormally developed ears.
The Vibrant Soundbridge is an active middle ear implant. Patients who do not want to wear a hearing aid, but would benefit from amplification of sound may wish to consider a vibrant sound bridge. The VSB has an implanted component and an external component that is worn 4cm behind the ear and can be hidden in the hair. The VSB can also provide effective rehabilitation for patients bone with an abnormal external ear or ear canal (microtia/canal atresia)