Middle Ear Implants
Middle ear implants are surgically implanted devices. The FDA has approved specific middle ear implants and the FDA is still reviewing others. The middle ear implant is a useful hearing instrument and is quite different from traditional hearing aids. Generally speaking, hearing aids reproduce sounds and make them louder than the original sound. When a hearing aid is placed in the ear canal, the loud sound is perceived by the hearing impaired ear. Middle ear implants work by vibrating the middle ear bones, rather than by producing audible sound.
Therefore, middle ear implants are less likely to produce feedback, and they do not occlude, or “plug up” the ear canal. Additionally, for most people wearing middle ear implants, their hair tends to cover up the external device.
In summary, the reported benefits of middle ear implants are elimination of the occlusion effect, elimination/reduction of feedback, reduction in distortion, improved clarity, as well as some cosmetic advantages.
Middle ear implants are an excellent alternative for people with moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss, after they have tried traditional hearing aids for a few months and after they have determined that traditional hearing aids are not able to provide the desired benefit.
If you are considering a middle ear implant, speak with your audiologist. Your audiologist can direct you to an otolaryngologist, otologist or neurotologist with experience and expertise in implanting these devices.
Not all patients are surgical candidates, and each candidate does not receive the same benefit. Nonetheless, middle ear implants are an option, and are worthy of further consideration for appropriate patients. Again, the best source for initial information on this topic is your audiologist.