The latest development in technology to improve the quality of hearing in those suffering from deafness or other communication disorders has arrived. Bone conduction hearing implants, once called implausible by the scientific community, has now become a shining example of the next wave of hearing aid designs. So far it has only been implemented in studies to test its overall effectiveness, but many researchers believe that it could be available as soon as next year. For that reason, it is important to know how bone conduction hearing works and how it is different than contemporary designs.
The first thing to know about bone conduction implants, also called BCIs, is how they are different from contemporary hearing aid designs. Most hearing aids that are mounted on the wearer are via a titanium screw implanted in the skull. They can amplify sound and have it travel deep into the inner ear, which is effective to a certain point. BCIs are similar because they are also attached to the skull, but they are mounted underneath a bone behind the ear. The benefit is that they provide superior hearing and do not have the same risk of infection that faces the other hearing aid users.
The actual implant that is used for bone conduction is rather simplistic. It is made of three parts: the abutment, the titanium implant, and the sounds processor. The titanium implant, as the name suggests, is the part that is mounted into the bone of the skull. The abutment attaches to this piece, and protrudes through the skin behind the ear. The abutment serves as a holder for the sound processor, and also translates the sound into impulses. The sound processor itself gathers sound from external sources and sends it to the abutment. Once it is changed into impulses, sound travels across the bones of the skull and is channeled into the inner ear. This allows it to bypass the middle ear which is often the cause of hearing loss. Overall, this is a great option for people that have total hearing loss, but also an opportunity for people with single sided hearing loss. Rather than channel the sound into the inner ear, the BCIs send the sound across the skull and into the ear that still has full hearing.
The development of BCIs is one of the most important for hearing aid wearers in recent memory. Although it is still in development and research stages, it has given hope and optimism to individuals all over the globe who wish to regain their hearing. Even though it is a year away from being made commercially available, the excitement that has crept into the deaf community is incredible.