What are bone conduction hearing implants and how do they work?
A bone conduction hearing system, also sometimes known as a ‘bone anchored’ hearing system, may be an effective solution for you if your hearing loss is due to problems in your outer or middle ear, such as conductive or mixed hearing loss, or if you have profound hearing loss in one ear (single-sided deafness). This type of hearing solution may also work for you if you’ve struggled to hear sufficiently with conventional hearing aids.
All types of bone-anchored hearing systems consist of a small implant that’s surgically placed in the skull bone just behind the ear and a sound processor that is attached to a skin-penetrating connector on the implant.
The sound processor captures sound and the implant then bypasses problems in the outer or middle ear by sending vibrations through the skull bone to the inner ear where they can be processed by the brain as sound.
What types of bone-anchored hearing implants are there?
At OneWelbeck, we offer the full range of bone-anchored hearing systems including Oticon Ponto, Med-el Bonebridge and Cochlear OSIA. We also offer the Med-el Vibrant Soundbridge which is an active middle ear implant but may be suitable for a similar group of patients.
The Oticon Ponto device uses modern technology to reduce feedback and give you clear and balanced 360 sound. The external component of the device houses a sound processor and microphone and is the smallest available on the market today, making it very discreet.
The implanted component is made from titanium allowing it to integrate seamlessly into the skull bone. A small section of the implant is raised out of the bone to create a clip that the processor can be attached to once the area has healed after the device has been fitted.
The Cochlear OSIA system uses an implant that sits completely under the skin and uses an all-in-one transducer to generate vibrations based on sound, helping you hear speech even in loud or busy environments.
The slim, off-the-ear sound processor is attached using magnetic force between the external component and the implant and is light and comfortable to wear. This means you can simply place the device, adjust your hair, and go about your day with no movement between the two parts.
The MED-EL BONEBRIDGE is an active bone conduction implant that’s fully implanted under the skin. The small, magnetically attached sound processor sits comfortably on the head behind the ear and is easy to cover with your hair. This system provides wearers with improved hearing with high-quality, natural sound.
MED-EL VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE (Active Middle Ear Implant)
The MED-EL VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE is a middle-ear implant that provides wearers with clear and natural sound, without feedback. This device delivers sound directly to the inside of your ear, for a much stronger and clearer sound than provided by most conventional hearing aids.
What does a hearing implant consultation and procedure involve?
Before having a bone-anchored hearing system fitted, you will need to have a consultation with an ENT specialist. During your appointment, your specialist will evaluate your medical history and hearing loss to decide which options would be most appropriate for you.
They will then set up a session with our OneWelbeck implant audiology team who also give you the opportunity to try a bone-anchored processor connected to a headband. This will give you and your specialist a good idea of the likely benefit you’ll have delivered through bone conduction once the device is surgically fitted.
The procedure to fit the device is straightforward and takes anywhere from 20-90 minutes depending on which type of system you’re having fitted.
In the case of the Oticon Ponto, your procedure will take place under local anesthetic through a small skin punch. Recovery is quick and painless. For Bonebridge & OSIA implants you will be given a general anaesthetic so that you’re asleep throughout the procedure. Your surgeon will make a small incision behind your ear and then create a small opening in the bone where they will fit the implant. The incision will then be closed with stitches and you will be moved to a recovery area to be observed and come around from the anaesthetic, before being allowed home a few hours later.
Preparing for a hearing implant procedure
Your specialist will advise you on how best to prepare for your procedure. You cannot drive yourself home after the surgery, so make sure to arrange for someone to pick you up and bring you home.
Recovering from a hearing implant procedure
You’ll be discharged from the hospital a few hours after surgery and be given instructions on how to care for your wound and stitches and when it’s safe to start washing your hair.
It will take a week or so for the incision to heal, at which point the external component with the sound processor can be placed onto the clip or magnet. Depending on the type of system you have fitted, you will need to have one or more programming appointments to tune the device to your specific requirements. Unlike a cochlear implant though, your brain does not need retraining to be able to hear the sound clearly.
The types of hearing aids and implants listed above have traditionally been difficult to access privately. This is due to the multidisciplinary team (MDT) and volume required to make these treatments available.
OneWelbeck is one of the few health facilities in the UK to offer a full choice of all bone-anchored hearing systems available. For full pricing information please contact the centre team.