What are middle ear implants?
A middle ear implant is a small device that is inserted into the middle ear and attached to the parts of the ossicle or oval window in order to improve hearing. Unlike other hearing aids, a middle ear implant does not require a speaker. Simply put, middle ear implants work by transmitting sounds to the inner ear via small microphone worn behind the ear. These sounds are converted into vibrations which are sent to the implant in the middle ear.
Why are middle ear implants needed?
Middle ear implants are often recommended to patients that have not benefited from conventional hearing aids, or those with other problems such as with damaged ear canals or malformed ears. They are suitable for patients with mild to moderate conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss or mixed hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is a problem with the transmission of sound between the ear drum and the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss is damage to the hairs in the cochlea or to the hearing nerves.
What does a middle ear implant consist of?
The middle ear implant captures sounds and converts them into mechanical vibrations. These vibrations are then amplified and transmitted to the implanted device located near the cochlea (this is responsible for sensing sound). Once at the cochlea, the vibrations create the sensation of sounds for the patient.
The surgery of application is performed using general anaesthesia, with a single incision behind the auditory pavilion through which the middle ear will be accessed, where the active part of the implant is fixed. The microphone behind the ear can be attached using an implanted magnet just beneath the skin and is usually fitted a few weeks following surgery. Pain following surgery is minimal.
Taking care of your middle ear implant
For proper operation, the external parts of the device should not get wet and should be protected from static electricity. It is also recommended to avoid sports or activities that may cause strong blows to the head, or use adequate protection such as a helmet.