FAQs – Bone Conduction Hearing Implants
A BCHD or MEI is delivering sound to your cochlea/s via vibration and it may sound a little different at the beginning but you should quickly get used to the new sound level.
In our view, the best choice would be the one where you end up with the most hearing possible. First and foremost our intention and commitment is to help you hear better or more consistently with a BCHD or a MEI than you do with hearing aids. If the outcome is likely to be better in one ear than the other we will tell you. It is possible to have both ears implanted but we will discuss the options including any pros and cons with you.
If you are suitable for a BCHD you will have a 2 week trial with a BCHD on a softband or SoundArc. If you are offered a choice of BCHD you will be able to try both devices in clinic and one for a home trial. If you are suitable for a MEI you will have the opportunity to see what the devices look like but the choice of device will depend on your hearing levels and which the surgeon feels will be most suitable from the scan information.
If more than one device is suitable for your hearing loss and suitable from a surgical point of view you will be offered a choice. People have different reasons for the choice they make. You may be really interested in the technology, accessories, functions and features of the different devices or you may decide the look or feel of the speech processor is what is most important to you.
The fixture/implant is designed to last for a long time. New developments in the external parts can be applied to older fixture/implants in many cases.
If you have a surgically implanted device then you need to use a processor for the same manufacturer as the implant/fixture. If you are using a non-surgical bone conduction device on a softband, sound arc or cap connector it is possible to change manufacturers when your processor is upgraded.
Bone conduction devices and middle ear implant manufacturers have made new processors available to patients with existing fixtures/implants. You will be offered a new processor after 5 years of use if one becomes available.
If you have a non-surgical fitting you can access new technology that is suitable for you as it becomes available. If you have a fixture or implant the external equipment can incorporate new technology when available. Given the timescales for the research, development and safety testing for all new technologies, we can’t see anything on the immediate horizon which would make it worth missing out on what a hearing implant could do for you at this stage of your life. Things might change in a few decades, but even then there would be no way of knowing whether any new inventions might be something which would be suitable for you.
Yes, you’ll need to carry your device identification card with you as the security arch you step through may flash (there are metal parts in the implant). Provided there are no surgical complications, most patients can resume airline travel after two months from time of surgery. However, it may be best to discuss this topic further with your implant surgeon.
If you have a non-surgical implanted part you will just need to remove the processor for any type of X-ray or scans. If you have a surgically implanted part you can have an X-ray or CT scan and you just need to remove the external equipment. The specific requirements for MRI are different for different BCHD and MEI.
The implant/fixture should not be restrictive but you may need to remove the sound processor for some sports such as swimming. The processors are not waterproof and should not be put back on until your hair is completely dry. It is advisable to use a safety line so that if a processor falls off during sport it stays attached to clothes and will not fall on the ground and get damaged.
If you are thinking about having BCHI surgery, bring your helmet to your medical review so you can discuss with the surgeon where your implant/fixture should be placed to avoid contact with the helmet.
You will need an accessory to access telecoil with BCHD and the Vibrant Soundbridge MEI. Carina is a MEI and does not offer access to telecoil.
The processor is likely to come off during sleep and may be uncomfortable if you lay on it so we recommend taking it off before you go to sleep. If you live alone, and are thinking about possibly sleeping with your speech processor on for safety reasons, we suggest that an additional assistive listening device might be more practical. There are some suggestions on the Connevans website here: http://www.connevans.co.uk/catalogue/122/Alerting-Devices. Your local Social Services department might be able to offer some advice too.
There is no particular device that is better for music.
You will need to come in to have your external processor set up to suit your individual hearing loss. If you have a surgical fixture/implant you will usually need to wait 8 weeks for the fitting of the external processor. After the processor is fitted there will be a follow-up at 1 month (adults and children) and then 6 months (children only) and then at a year after the fitting (adults and children). After this children are reviewed annually and adults are contacted annually to ask if they want an appointment. You will need to come in for a review when a new model of processor (upgrade) is fitted.
Repairs for equipment funded by the NHS will be covered by NHS England. Self-funded patients should contact the centre for equipment prices.
All parts of the equipment that are essential for you to operate the processor to hear sound are funded by the NHS and will be replaced free of charge by the University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service if they become faulty.
Some extra accessories provided by the manufacturers that can be used to connect to Phones/Music Systems/TV/Computers have a limited manufacturer’s warranty that will not be replaced by University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service outside of these terms.
Only the Cochlear Baha 5 superpower processor has rechargeable batteries. The other processors for BCHD and MEI use disposable batteries. You can get batteries from the University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service either when you are coming in for an appointment or by post. You will need to let us know when you are running short of disposable batteries or when your rechargeable batteries stop holding their charge.
If your hearing gets worse the BCHD or MEI processor can be adjusted to suit your new hearing levels to some degree. For BCHD there are a range of processors for different levels of bone conduction hearing loss up to 65dB so it may be possible for you to have a more powerful processor if your hearing level gets worse. If your hearing level gets much worse it is possible that you may not get adequate benefit from your device and you may need to consider a different type of auditory implant. If you think that your hearing has got worse with your BCHD or MEI processor you should get in contact with us.
There are no moving or electronic parts in BCHI fixtures and once the fixture is integrated into the skull bone it is very unlikely to come out. If a fixture does come out then a new fixture would be needed which would require another operation.
For MEI the implant very rarely goes wrong. If it does go wrong the implant can be removed and replaced but obviously another operation is needed. Most patients do just as well with the re-implanted device.
The three companies we use are all well established with a strong market presence and have been making cochlear implants for many years. In the unlikely event that one of these companies were to stop trading, we would try to maintain existing patients devices however we could.
If the processor connects to the implant with a magnet, softband or SoundArc the skin under the connector or magnet should not be itchy, red, swollen, painful or sore. The strength of the magnet or the tightness of the softband or SoundArc can be changed to make the connector or magnet more comfortable on the skin.
Patients who have an abutment fitting will be advised on regular care of their abutment and should they develop any infection or soreness around the abutment they will need to be seen in the ENT clinic for advice and treatment. The University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service will request an appointment for you at the hospital ENT outpatients department if this happens.