What is a bone-anchored auditory implant?
A bone-anchored auditory implant is a surgically implanted device for the ear. The implant can help provide hearing for people with:
- Conductive hearing loss or mixed hearing loss (when sound is not traveling through the ear well).
- Single-sided deafness (one ear is typically functioning, the other has little to no hearing).
How is a bone-anchored auditory implant different from a traditional hearing aid?
A traditional hearing aid sends sound signals through the hearing system by a method called air conduction. The sound travels through three parts of your ear – the outer, middle and inner ear. In cases of single-sided deafness, the inner ear or nerve isn’t able to receive that sound and send a clear signal to the brain.
In cases of conductive or mixed hearing loss, a condition may be creating blockages in the ear, as an earplug would. In both cases, a bone-anchored auditory implant sends sound as a vibration directly to the best-functioning inner ear, allowing for clear, direct hearing.
What types of bone-anchored auditory implant procedures are done?
There are several types of bone-anchored auditory implants. They usually consist of a small implant placed behind the ear and a sound processor attached to the implant. Together, they send sound as a vibration to the inner ear and hearing nerve.
In some implants, the sound processor attaches to a small titanium post that comes through the skin. In others, a magnet holds the sound processor in place and the implant is not visible.
For children younger than 5 years old, or for those who may not prefer a surgical option, some sound processors can be held in place with an elastic band or strong adhesive sticker. Your hearing healthcare team will discuss these options with you.
Risks / Benefits
How do you find out if you or your child should use a bone-anchored auditory implant?
The decision-making process involves several appointments and thorough testing by several specialists. You or your child may need some or all of the following evaluations:
- Hearing test: Your hearing is measured to accurately assess hearing loss and to discuss the most helpful follow-up services and/or technology.
- Sensory device evaluation: You’ll meet with an audiologist to discuss your hearing device options, and you may have the opportunity to trial a demo device in the office.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): These images will help your surgeon evaluate if you are a candidate for surgery
- Medical/surgical consultations: The surgeon will meet with you to see if you’re medically able to have the needed procedures. They will talk with you about instructions, the procedure and what to expect after surgery in terms of healing and possible hearing outcomes.
- Communication evaluation: Auditory, speech and language skills are evaluated.
In general, bone-anchored auditory implants are appropriate for adults and children with conductive or mixed hearing loss in one or both ears, or certain cases of single-sided deafness (SSD). It’s crucial you or your child take part fully in the rehabilitation process, have family support and a clear understanding of the benefits of bone-anchored auditory implants.
Other options for these types of hearing loss may include traditional amplification, CROS/BICROS hearing aids or cochlear implant in certain cases. During your evaluation, your hearing health professionals will talk with you about appropriate options for your hearing loss.
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