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What are the advantages and disadvantages of a bone conduction hearing implant?

Photo: It's important to have balanced information so you can make an informed choice

There are a range of advantages and disadvantages to bone conduction hearing implants (BCHIs).

Advantages

  • A BCHI transmits sound very directly as it is in direct contact with the bone. This results in improved sound quality for children who have been shown to benefit from a bone conduction hearing aid.
  • The sound processor is clipped onto the abutment or held on with a magnet making it feel weightless and therefore very comfortable to wear compared to bone conduction headbands.
  • For children with absent or malformed external ears conventional hearing aids can be very difficult to fit well.
  • For children who have problems with discharging ears there is no earmould. This keeps the ear clear and helps to prevent infection.
  • Cosmetically many people prefer the BCHI to their bone conduction hearing aid.
  • For children with fluctuating hearing levels the BCHI will provide more consistent sound.

Disadvantages

  • Surgery is involved and therefore risk factors for general anaesthetics need to be considered. Young children will have a two-stage surgical procedure and therefore two general anaesthetics.
  • There is a risk of surgical complications, such as infection.
  • The abutment area needs to be kept clean, which requires a regular commitment from another person (this is not relevant to BCHIs that use a magnet to hold the sound processor in place).
  • There is a risk that head trauma, e.g. a blow to the implant site (with or without the presence of the processor), may have more serious consequences than might occur with a conventional hearing aid and precautions need to be considered, such as head protection for sports.
  • Auditory implant services are becoming more widely available, however there are still fewer UK services than audiology departments which could result in increased travel for assessment, surgery and ongoing care for the family.