There are several different options for people who want to manage their hearing loss. Hearing aids are a very popular and successful way to treat hearing loss and are often the best choice for those who suffer from hearing loss. However, another option that is growing in popularity are hearing aid implants. Let’s take a look at how hearing aid implants function and if they are the best choice for you.
Hearing Aid Implants—How Do They Work?
Unlike traditional hearing aids that amplify sounds, implanted devices translate sounds into either vibrations or electrical impulses that are delivered directly to the middle ear or inner ear, respectively. This method of translation is helpful for people with certain types of conductive hearing loss. Hearing aid implants are best used for people whose hearing loss is located mostly in their outer ear and do not have damage to their inner ears. All hearing aid implants are made up of external and internal components—the external element is surgically attached to the skull, while the internal elements differ depended on the type of implant.
There are three different types of hearing implants—a cochlear implant, a bone-anchored hearing aid, and middle ear implants. A cochlear implant bypasses the middle and inner ear, and transmits sound signals across the scalp directly to the cochlea, which passes electrical signals to the auditory nerve. A bone anchored hearing aid (called BAHA) is similar to a cochlear implant, but utilizes the inner ear. Like the name suggests, a middle ear implant is attached to a bone in the middle ear and works by moving the bones.
Who Should Get a Hearing Aid Implant?
Hearing aid implants are best suited for people who cannot wear hearing aids, perhaps due to ear infections or collapsed ear canals. Implants should also be considered if conventional hearing aids are not providing effective benefit for the wearer. Cochlear implants are best for people with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss and have limited cochlear function. Cochlear implants are very effective for those who have trouble hearing speech, which could indicate high-frequency hearing loss.
BAHAs are suitable for those with mild to moderate mixed or conductive hearing loss, and those who have functioning cochleae. BAHAs are also the best option for people with single-sided deafness.
Middle ear implants are designed for people who suffer from moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss or those who need unobstructed ear canals, like musicians or singers. Middle ear implants are also suitable for those who have rejected wearing hearing aids because of the occlusion effect (a plugged up feeling in the ear) or because of noisy feedback.
Pros and Cons of Hearing Aid Implants
The best benefit of an implant is that your hearing ability will improve greatly, especially since hearing aid implants are fine-tuned to fit your type of hearing loss. However, there are some drawbacks to getting a hearing aid implant. First and foremost, implants involve a surgical procedure and recovery time afterwards. Implants also do not come cheap; they can range from $15,000 to $100,000, depending on the type of implant. Hearing aid implants are often not covered by Medicare or private insurers. While the procedure is certainly pricey, it is a one-time surgery and once it’s done, you’re set for life. If you suffer from any of the types of hearing loss discussed above and hearing aids just aren’t working for you, it may be in your best interest to research hearing aid implants. Discuss with your doctor if a hearing aid implant is the best choice for you and your hearing!
By: Elena McPhillips