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Implantable hearing devices

What is an implantable hearing device?

Your child has a hearing loss, but cannot wear a conventional hearing aid.  This may be because they have had previous mastoid surgery, have a profound hearing loss in one ear (single-sided deafness) or were born with a small ear (microtia). However, there are other options in order to help them with their hearing. These options include:

  • a bone conduction devices, either ‘passive’ or ‘active’
  • a middle ear implant, called the ‘Vibrant Soundbridge’

Bone conduction devices

A bone conduction device works by transmitting the sound, using vibration, through the bone of the skull to either the inner ear, on the same side if it’s normally functioning, or to the other side in the case of single-sided deafness.

A ‘passive device’ is named this because the vibrating part is on the outside, so the actual implanted part doesn’t move. This vibrating part can be attached using a peg through the skin or two magnets either side of the skin.

An ‘active device’ is named this because the vibrating part is implanted underneath the skin. This means that no part of it comes through the skin, which reduces the chance of infection. The boost it can give to the hearing is greater across a larger number of frequencies, which means it performs better.

Middle ear implants

A middle ear implant involves a device that is attached to the hearing bones which replicates natural hearing compared to the bone conduction devices. Each ear can be stimulated individually, which means that you can tell where sound is coming from (sound localisation) better than with a bone conduction device.

How is the decision made?

The devices work for different types of hearing loss so we have to be certain that it is the correct device for your child. To achieve this, we work as a multi-disciplinary implant team, made up of ear surgeons, audiologists and a specialist nurse.

All of these devices have an outside component which picks up the sound and transmits the information to the implant.

You will have several appointments with the team, including hearing assessments and a discussion about the best hearing solution for you or your child. A CT scan may be required to tell us about the anatomy of the ear.

Are there any risks involved?

As with all surgery, there are potential risks involved.

These include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • weakness of the face (1 in 1000 cases)
  • taste change
  • deterioration of inner ear hearing, only with Soundbridge
  • dizziness, this is usually temporary
  • tinnitus,  ringing in the ear
  • the implant becoming dislodged due to infection or trauma

Failure of the device

This is uncommon, but can occur as it is an electronic device. If this happens, it may need replacing, which would require a further operation.

MRI compatibility

The devices have magnets, which can be affected by a MRI scan. If your child requires a MRI anywhere on the body, please contact us before the scan.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: ENT8

Resource Type: Article

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