Your Guide to Hearing Implants: Your Options & How They Work
If you’ve experienced hearing loss in your daily life, there’s a chance that a hearing implant might be a good fit for your situation. If your audiologist recommends it, you have several options when it comes to implants.
Here are just a few of the potential options your audiologist might present to you, depending on the level and nature of your hearing loss.
Probably the most common and well-known style of implanted hearing device is the cochlear implant. These devices are typically comprised of two elements—one external and one internal. The external element of a cochlear implant serves several purposes—including a microphone or receiver, a processor and a transmitter. They work in conjunction with each other to deliver messages to the internal portion.
1. The microphone receives the sound
2. The processor converts the sound digitally
3. The transmitter sends the sound to the internal element
The device’s internal portion typically requires surgery. It receives the signal from the external element, transmits it in a receivable format for your auditory nerve, which tells your brain to interpret it as sound.
Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA)
Another style of implanted hearing device is referred to as a bone-anchored hearing aid, or “BAHA.” It’s often recommended for people who have experienced hearing loss and are, for one reason or another, unable to wear behind-the-ear (BTE) or in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids.
BAHAs utilize the vibrations that the bone in your skull behind your ear is able to pick up on in order to transmit sound to your cochlea. These signals to your cochlea then indicate to your brand to interpret sound. This style of implant requires a certain degree of pressure on your skull bone in order to work properly, so it may not be the ideal solution for every type of hearing loss.
Middle Ear Implant
One rather new style of hearing implant is a middle ear implant. It’s primarily used to treat sensorineural hearing loss (rather than conductive hearing loss) and consists of two elements—similar to the cochlear implant.
The external portion situated behind your outer ear receives sounds, processes them and transmits the signals via your skin. The internal portion processes the received signals in your middle ear and sends vibrations through your middle ear bones (or ossicles) to complete the journey toward the cochlea.
Auditory Brainstem Implant (ABI)
One of the least common hearing implants is an auditory brainstem implant (ABI). These involve far more invasive surgical implantation than others, so they are recommended infrequently and for very specific types of hearing loss.
An ABI operates similarly to a cochlear implant; however, rather than making use of the cochlea to deliver signals of sound to your brain, it interacts directly with your brainstem.