Auditory Brain Implant

1 What is an Auditory Brainstem Implant?

An auditory brainstem implant makes hearing possible for individuals who cannot benefit from hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Most commonly this is when there is an absent or very small hearing nerve or or a severely abnormal inner ear (cochlear).

The auditory brainstem implant directly directly stimulates the hearing pathways in the brainstem, bypassing the inner ear and hearing nerve.

Originally developed for adults with a diagnosis of neurofibromatosis type 2, a rare genetic condition that causes tumors to grow on nerves, the surgery is now considered for adults and children with other nerve and inner ear abnormalities.

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2 Reasons for Procedure

The reason for this surgery procedure is to restore hearing.

An auditory brainstem implant gives an alternative for individuals who are not candidates to receive cochlear implants.

These are electronic devices that bypass damaged or working parts of the inner ear (cochlear) and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. A cochlear implant typically provides better quality sound but cannot be used in all scenarios.

The following reasons are why you may not be eligible to receive cochlear implant:

  • a small or absent auditory nerve
  • an unusually shaped cochlear
  • scarring of the cochlear caused by an infection, typically, meningitis
  • damage from a skull fracture

An auditory brainstem implant bypasses the damaged auditory nerves and directly connects to the brainstem to help you detect sound.

3 Potential Risks

Complications and potential risks following auditory brainstem implants may include:

In some cases, despite appropriate device placement, patients do not receive any hearing benefits.

4 What to Expect

During/before/after an auditory brainstem implant procedure, you can expect:

During the procedure

The auditory brainstem implants have three major parts. These are:

 A microphone and sound processor positioned behind the ear to pick up sounds, a decoding device placed under the skin to transmit information picked up by the microphone and electrodes directly to the brainstem that, when stimulated, alert you to sound.

If you suffer from neurofibromatosis type 2, the surgery is often performed at the same time tumors are removed from the auditory nerves.

After the procedure

After surgery, you will need multiple sessions with an audiologist to adjust the sound processor and learn how to use and interpret the signals. This process can take many months.

You will typically see an audiologist every two to four months the first year and thereafter.

5 Procedure Results

An auditory brainstem implant doesn't restore normal hearing but results helping most people distinguish sounds such as telephone rings and car horns.

Some of the people get good word recognition, while others get more sound cues.

In combination with lip reading, the cues can improve your communication with other individuals.

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