Implantable Hearing Aids
Timothy C. Hain, M.D. • Page last modified:
April 23, 2018
See also: BAHA type hearing aids.• Hearing aids
There are several hearing-aid devices that can be implanted into the middle ear, to boost the hearing in the implanted ear. These devices provide potentially better hearing at the price of repeated surgery and risk. As studies emerge, it appears that results may be better for a successfully implanted device (Ihler et al, 2013). These devices have to compete with cheaper, larger and more mature devices (hearing aids) that do not need surgical implantation. These devices are also different from devices that just pass sound to the other ear -- Baha and Cros, which are for a different population -- persons with unilateral hearing loss.
Some of the implanted devices prevent MRI scans from being possible.
Click for information about the more mainstream devices - -the hearing aids and Cochlear Implants.
- Rion: This partially implanted device is used primarily for mixed hearing loss.
- Implex: Fully implantable device with rechargable battery that last 3-5 years (i.e. you need more surgery after 3-5 years)
- Envoy: Fully implantable, battery lasts 2.5 to 5 years
- SoundTech. Implanted into middle ear.
- Vibrant Soundbridge. Approved in US. Improved sound quality. Cost about $30K.
- Retrox. Titanium post implanted, available only in Japan.
- Bonebridge (Hassepass et al, 2015), similar to a BAHA, but implanted into the mastoid.
In a recent study of active middle ear implants, McRackan et al (2018) reported sightly better results with "active middle ear implants" than conventional hearing aids. They said "Mean word recognition was better with MEIs than with HAs (81.8% ± 12.0% vs. 77.6% ± 14.6%, P = 0.035). " Note that this difference was just barely significant, and also that this study could not possibly be placebo controlled.
Our view is that presently, these devices are still "not ready for prime time". We do not see them as a "luxury hearing aids". Rather, we see them as "foolish surgery" (in most people).
- Hassepass F1, Bulla S, Aschendorff A, Maier W, Traser L, Steinmetz C, Wesarg T, Arndt S. The bonebridge as a transcutaneous bone conduction hearing system: preliminary surgical and audiological results in children and adolescents. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2015 Sep;272(9):2235-41. doi: 10.1007/s00405-014-3137-9. Epub 2014 Jun 27.
- Ihler F, Bewarder J, Blum J, Matthias C, Canis M. Long-term functional outcome and satisfaction of patients with an active middle ear implant for sensorineural hearing loss compared to a matched population with conventional hearing aids. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2013 Nov 19. [Epub ahead of print]
- McRackan TR, Clinkscales WB, Ahlstrom JB, Nguyen SA, Dubno JR.Factors associated with benefit of active middle ear implants compared to conventional hearing aids. Laryngoscope. 2018 Feb 26. doi: 10.1002/lary.27109. [Epub ahead of print
- Slattery WH. Implantable Hearing Devices. Audio-Digest Otolaryngology, vol 41, Issue 13, July 7, 2008