What is it Vibrant Soundbridge Middle Ear Implant System?
The Vibrant Soundbridge Middle Ear Implant System is an alternative to conventional hearing aids and has been available since 1996.
It directly stimulates middle ear structures in much the same way as normal sound and moves them via the ear canal. It increases the amount of energy transferred to the inner ear leading to an increased sensation of hearing. The sound quality is usually very good and the ear canal does not need to be blocked as is the case with conventional hearing aids.
The Vibrant Soundbridge consists of an external and an internal part. The external part is an audio processor and is worn on the side of the head, and can be covered by hair. The internal part is an implant which vibrates the middle ear structures. This part is implanted through a small cut behind the ear and then through the mastoid bone.
How does it work?
Unlike a hearing aid which amplifies sound, the Vibrant Soundbridge converts sound into mechanical vibrations.
Sounds are picked up by the microphone of the audio processor. The audio processor is held over the implant by magnetic attraction to a magnet in the implanted part.
The audio processor converts sounds into electrical signals.
These signals are transmitted across the skin to the implant.
The implant relays the signal further to the FMT (Floating Mass Transducer). The FMT is the core component of the system and is about the size of a grain of rice.
The FMT converts the signal into mechanical vibrations that directly drive a middle ear structure (e.g. the ossicular chain) and cause it to vibrate.
These vibrations then conduct sound to the inner ear and to the brain and are perceived as sound.
What are the benefits?
Individuals do not experience the problems that can be associated with conventional hearing aids such as feedback, discomfort, wax build-up and the occlusion effect. It can also be used in people who are unable to wear conventional hearing aids due to recurrent infections.
How safe is the treatment?
This is generally a safe treatment that is undertaken as a day case procedure. The risks are similar to those of mastoid and cochlear implant surgery, which also have a low rate of serious complications. The risks will be discussed with you in full prior to the procedure.