Cochlear implants are small, electronic devices used to correct hearing loss in those who are completely deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The device is implanted into the inner ear, bypassing the damaged parts of the ear to directly reach the auditory nerve and send sound signals to the brain. Cochlear implants can benefit adults and children over 12 months old. The success of cochlear implants varies depending on how long a person has been deaf, how many nerve fibers remain and their motivation to hear.
A bone anchored hearing aid, or BAHA is an implantable device used to improve hearing by stimulating the inner ear through the bone. BAHAs can improve hearing in patients with less severe cases of conductive or mixed hearing impairment. It is ideal for patients who are not candidates for regular hearing aids because of a physical deformity, frequent ear infections or narrow ear canals.
A bone anchored hearing aid placement procedure takes less than an hour to perform on an outpatient basis, using local anesthesia for adults and general anesthesia for children. Patients can return home the same day. During the initial procedure, only the titanium screw and abutment are placed, while the hearing aid is implanted during a second procedure three to six months later. This ensures that the titanium becomes integrated into the bone for long-lasting correction.
Aural rehabilitation for those with cochlear implants or bone anchored hearing aids generally includes learning strategies to communicate more effectively in conversation as well as how to handle distracting background noise.
Ossiculoplasty is a surgical procedure performed to remove, repair, or replace one or more of the small bones of the middle ear. These three bones, called ossicles, are individually known as the malleus, the incus and the stapes. They normally vibrate in order to transmit sound waves to the eardrum and the auditory nerve. When they are congenitally malformed or damaged by infection or injury, an ossiculoplasty is required to restore hearing. During some surgeries, the damaged bone will be removed and a prosthetic will be implanted in its place.
An ossiculoplasty is performed to restore the hearing process when the
ossicles are damaged due to :
- Anatomical genetic defect
- Middle ear infection
- Traumatic injury
- Barotrauma, a sudden change in ear pressure
- Extremely loud noise, like an explosion
- Scarring of the bones
An ossiculoplasty is frequently performed concurrently with a tympanoplasty to reconstruct the eardrum, or tympanic membrane. Sometimes the surgeon is aware of the need for bone repair in advance and sometimes a fracture is discovered during the repair of the eardrum. In the latter case, the surgeon is usually able to perform the two corrections during the same procedure.
The rate of success for an ossiculoplasty is very high, though it depends to a certain extent on the anatomy of the individual patient's ear and the severity of the damage to the bones. Most patients do very well after this surgery, but, as with any surgical procedure, there are certain risks. The primary risks of ossiculoplasty may include a postoperative balance dysfunction and the possibility that the hearing will be worse after surgery. During the period immediately following an ossiculoplasty, patients should refrain strong nose blowing, swimming and air travel and try to avoid crowds in an effort to avoid respiratory infections.
Hearing loss is the sudden or gradual decrease in hearing. Hearing loss can be mild or severe, reversible, temporary or permanent, and may affect one or both ears. The most common cause of hearing loss is age, affecting up to 25 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 75 and up to 50 percent of those over the age of 75. Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, results from changes in the ear which cause gradual hearing loss. Some individuals are hearing-impaired or deaf as a result of a congenital defect or because of an illness, such as Ménière's disease.
Treatment of hearing loss depends in the cause of the problem. For temporary loss of hearing due to wax buildup, a thorough cleaning of the ear canal, also known as an irrigation or lavage, may be helpful. Hearing loss caused by an ear infection may be treated with antibiotics and decongestants to rid mucus from the ears. For more permanent types of hearing loss resulting from aging, or damage to the inner ear, hearing aids may be helpful, although adjusting to them may take a few weeks.
When the eardrum has been torn or perforated, a surgical procedure known as tympanoplasty, may be necessary to repair the eardrum. Individuals with more profound hearing loss as a result of a congenital defect, injury or disease, may benefit from the surgical implantation of a cochlear implant, a small electronic device that helps to provide a sense of sound. Individuals coping with severe hearing loss may also learn to pay careful attention to gestures and facial expressions, to read lips, or to use sign language in order to improve their communication skills.