Traditional hearing aid devices enhance the functions of the inner ear, but are not suitable for those who have developed a mechanical problem with the middle ear, through something such as bone disease or congenital malformations of auditory canal. These patients usually require an implant which must be screwed into the skull, but there is a risk of infection or losing the screw.
However, a team of experts from Chalmers University of Technology and Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg have developed a new six-centimetre device which does not need a screw, instead attaching to the skull bone just beneath the skin; it then uses bone conduction to transmit sound to the inner ear, avoiding the compromised middle ear.
The first functional device has been implanted in a patient, and when turned on it is expected to give the individual a volume increase of at least five decibels and better sound recognition at high frequencies.
This news follows the announcement that experts from Harvard Medical School have managed to isolate a drug which initiates growth of the hair cells which are vital to sound processing in the inner ear.