The last decade has resulted in a great deal of advances in the technology for hearing loss. One of the greatest technologies that have come out of the research is called bone conduction implants, which appear to be the most viable means of correcting situations of complete deafness. Far from being considered unobtainable as it once was, bone conduction technology is continuously growing and undergoing vigorous testing so that it can be put on the market. Since it appears to be the best possibility for the future, it is important to understand how this technology works.
The easiest way to conceptualize the bone conduction technology is to understand its function. Rather than merely amplifying the sound as many current hearing aids do, the BCI circumvents the ear canal by sending the vibrations through the skull. There the sounds are introduced into the inner ear directly rather than having to travel through the middle ear. This is important because most cases of total deafness occur due to damage sustained in the outer ear area.
Most modern types of hearing aids that are worn in a permanent fashion are attached directly to the skull by a titanium screw. The BCI is different in this respect because it is adjoined to the skull behind the ear and beneath the skin. The hearing aid is made up of three different parts. The titanium implant is attached to the skull with the abutment coming through the skin and serving as a mount for the sound processor. The sound processor picks up the sound and channels it through the abutment, which sends the sound through the skull. At that point, the sound is directed into the inner and then interpreted by the brain as it does under normal conditions. This allows for those who have certain types of full hearing loss to experience hearing. Moreover, for those who have deafness in a single ear, the BCI can direct sound to their functioning ear.
Many companies and doctors are currently studying the effects of the BCI. They have been fortunate that the implants have allowed for clinical trials to be streamlined by having a large amount of willing participants. While they have resulted in a great deal of improved hearing in hundreds of cases, there is still a period of at least a year before the products can be launched. The individuals closest to the research and development remain highly positive regarding the potential of the bone conduction hearing aid, and it seems likely that it will have a tremendous impact for those who suffer from hearing loss.