Since the first electronic hearing aid was invented in 1898, hearing health technology has significantly advanced in terms of portability, effectiveness, and sophistication. Even with advancements in technology making every facet of life easier than it has ever been, out of 35 million American’s with hearing loss, 25 millions still do not own hearing aids even when it can directly benefit them. Out of the remaining 15 million who do own hearing aids, varying studies show a large portion do not use them. To combat this, new technology and options are providing those who are uncomfortable with traditional hearing aids or who do not wish to wear them with compelling solutions.
Active Middle Ear Implants
For those who are uncomfortable with the visual stigma that some feel by wearing hearing aids, active middle ear implants (AMEI) are a viable option for patients who suffer from moderate to severe Sensorineural hearing loss with three new FDA approved active middle ear implants existing in the United States. Utilizing a magnetic implant and sound processors worn outside of the ear, inside the ear canal, and implanted surgically, a battery powers a sound processor that turns sound into an electrical signal that drives an implanted actuator that vibrates and is directly attached to the middle ear structure.
The upsides of these AMEIs include relatively minor surgery, performed in an outpatient setting and under local anesthesia, and due to delivering signals directly to the middle ear structure, sound distortion that is typically encountered with conventional hearing aids can be avoided. They also reduce the chance of skin irritation in patients who have chronic otitis externa or sensitivities to ear canal molds due to their implantation. For those less than satisfied with their traditional hearing aids, active middle ear implants can be a life-changing choice for auditory rehabilitation.
Cochlear Implants (CI) have been the standard when rehabilitating Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL), initially approved for adults with severe bilateral SNHL specifically. Despite the initial approval, candidacy for cochlear implants have significantly expanded, pushing the boundaries of electrical auditory stimulation and who can benefit from implantation. Due to this expansion, cochlear implant designs and uses have evolved, making it possible for non-traditional implant candidates like those with less severe hearing loss or those who do not receive adequate aid from traditional hearing aids to benefit from CIs. Thanks to this advancement in CI technology, studies have shown an increase in hearing capabilities, a better quality of life, and an increase in satisfaction with these devices, in a time where more than a quarter of hearing aid users report dissatisfaction.
How You Can Benefit
Are you unhappy with your conventional hearing aid? Seeking out professional advice from a health care provider is the first step to determining whether an active middle ear implant or cochlear implant is right for a patient’s degree of hearing loss. With the expansion of candidacy and technology, auditory rehabilitation has been improving in methods that can soon help the hard of hearing in ways suitable for all patients.