For most of the more than 48 million Americans experiencing hearing loss, hearing aids will be the preferred method of treatment. But depending on your type and severity of hearing loss, this popular treatment option may not be effective. In that situation, surgery may be the answer.
This treatment is for both children and adults with severe to profound hearing loss. While hearing aids simply amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass the damaged part of the auditory system to directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
A cochlear implant consists of two parts:
This small electronic device is surgically implanted under the skin behind the ear. It is connected to electrodes, which are inserted into the cochlea.
The External Component
This portion looks very similar to a behind-the-ear hearing aid. It contains a microphone to capture the sounds, a speech processor to convert the soundwaves into electrical signals and battery compartment to power the device.
Implantable Hearing Aids
Designed for those with mild to moderately severe hearing loss, Lyric by Phonak is an extended-wear hearing aid. This hearing aid is placed deep inside the ear canal, close to the eardrum. The device is water resistant (not waterproof) and can be worn while showering and exercising. The device stays in the ear for several months at a time.
Lyric is not suitable for everyone. The device is replaced six to eight times a year, making it more expensive than a traditional hearing aid.
Bone Anchored Hearing Systems
These hearing systems utilize bone conduction to transfer sound via vibration, bypassing a damaged outer or middle ear. The implant is surgically implanted into the bone behind the ear and the hearing aid component sits tightly on top.
Unlike a cochlear implant, this hearing system requires the patient to have at least one functioning inner ear. Bone anchored hearing aids are suitable to children and adults.
Ear infections are very common; the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery estimates that every child has at least one ear infection by the age of five. For most, the condition clears up on its own, but some experience chronic episodes, which can lead to permanent hearing loss, poor school performance and problems with speech and behavior.
Pressure equalization (PE) tubes are used to treat chronic ear infections. Tiny cylinders are surgically placed through the eardrum, allowing air to flow into the middle ear. Short-term tubes will fall out on their own in six to eighteen months, while long-term tubes stay in place longer and must be removed by a doctor.
While primarily used to treat young children, PE tubes can also be used to correct hearing problems associated with malformed eardrums or Eustachian tubes, Down syndrome or cleft palates.