A fully implantable device is poised to change the world of hearing loss–but is it worth the risks that are associated with the required surgery?
Developed by Otologics, of Boulder, CO, the device picks up sound with a microphone implanted underneath the skin behind the user’s ear. The signal is processed by electronics and sent to a tiny vibrating piston implanted against the small bones in the middle ear. The bones transmit the vibrations to the inner ear, which encodes them as nerve impulses and sends the information to the brain.
“You can have a more normal life,” says Otologics’s CEO JosÃ© Bedoya. “You can be exposed to environments in which hearing aids have difficulty operating properly.” He also suggests that implantation creates a psychological bond with the device that is life enhancing. “Individuals implanted with the system have said that it becomes a part of you–there’s a greater sense of security.”
The device is powered by a battery that is recharged when the user places a small radio transmitter against his or her head for 60 to 90 minutes. The transmitter is held to the skin by a magnet in the implant. An inductive coil in the implant converts the radio energy to electricity and recharges the battery with it. The battery can stay inside the body for at least five years, according to the company, before it needs to be replaced. The implanted components are hermetically sealed together to protect against leaks, so the electronics, microphone, and inductive coil are replaced as well. However, the piston in the middle ear remains in place.
Pretty cool! However, what happens if a soccerball hits the side of the head? ;o
Something to think about…