Conventional hearing aids have improved significantly in recent years; however, amplification of sound within the external auditory canal creates a number of intrinsic problems, including acoustic feedback and the need for a tight ear mold to increase usable gain. Nonacoustic alternatives which could obviate these encumbrances have not become practical due to inefficient coupling (piezoelectric techniques) or unfeasible power requirements (electromagnetic techniques). Recent technical advances, however, prompted a major clinical investigation of a new electromagnetic, semi-implantable hearing device. This study presents the details of clinical phase I, in which an electromagnetic driver was coupled with a target magnet temporarily affixed onto the lateral surface of the malleus of six hearing aid users with sensorineural losses. The results indicate that the electromagnetic hearing device provides sufficient gain and output characteristics to benefit individuals with sensorineural hearing loss. Significant improvements compared to conventional hearing aids were noted in pure-tone testing and, to a lesser degree, in speech discrimination. Subjective responses were quite favorable, indicating that the electromagnetic hearing device 1. produces no acoustic feedback; 2. works well in noisy environments; and 3. provides a more quiet, natural sound than patients' conventional hearing aids. These favorable results led to phase II of the project, in which patients with surgically amenable mixed hearing losses were implanted with the target magnet incorporated within a hydroxyapatite ossicular prosthesis. The results of this second-stage investigation were also encouraging and will be reported separately.
ASJC Scopus subject areas