In the ongoing search to provide a better quality of hearing for people who are deaf or communication impaired, bone conduction hearing aid technology appears to be another viable option. Far from being considered the novelty that it once was, scientists now believe that this form of hearing aid could bring about a means to completely treat certain types of deafness. While it has been implemented in limited circumstances, it is still a growing technology that should be followed in the coming years. Here we will take a look at how this type of bone conduction hearing aid works.
The most basic understanding of this hearing aid is that it will serve as a replacement for the inner and middle ear areas, parts of the ear where many causes of permanent deafness occur. Many types of modern, permanent hearing aids are anchored in the skull, but this is not exactly the case with the Bone Conduction Implant, also known as BCI. It is attached directly to a skull bone behind the ear and beneath the skin. It is superior in many ways to the implants currently used because it has a much lower risk of infection due to the implantation method and location and offers near-complete hearing benefits.
The BCI is comprised of three different parts: the titanium implant, an abutment which is used as a mount through the skin, and a sound processor. The processor picks up sound in the same way that traditional hearing aids do, but instead of channeling sound into the ear canal it sends them to the abutment. In turn, the abutment and implant send the sounds directly through the skull allowing sound to bypass damaged middle ear areas to be interpreted by the brain. Another benefit to using the bone conduction hearing aid technology is that it can be used for individuals with single sided deafness. Rather than bypassing the sound to the inner ear of the deafened side, the BCI sends the sound around to the unaffected ear.
While it is currently the subject of several studies from companies and universities, the technology for the newest model of bone conduction implants is still in various stages of study and implementation. Thousands of individuals have been fitted with anchored hearing aids, allowing for the process of clinical trials to be streamlined. However, as it currently stands, the earliest uses of this modern iteration of BCIs will not be available for another year at least. Doctors, scientists, and individuals who suffer from middle ear trauma remain optimistic about the possibilities offered by this incredible leap in hearing aid technology.