An auditory brainstem implant provides hearing to people with hearing loss who cannot benefit from a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Most commonly this is when there is an absent or very small hearing nerve or severely abnormal inner ear (cochlea). The auditory brainstem implant directly stimulates the hearing pathways in the brainstem, bypassing the inner ear and hearing nerve. Originally developed for adults diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 2, a rare genetic condition that causes tumors to grow on nerves, the surgery is now considered for adults and children with other nerve and inner ear abnormalities.
Why it's done:
The goal of the surgery is to restore hearing. An auditory brainstem implant offers an alternative approach for people who aren't candidates to receive a cochlear implant — an electronic device that bypasses damaged or nonworking parts of the inner ear (cochlea) and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. A cochlear implant typically provides better quality sound but cannot be used in all situations. Reasons you may not be eligible to receive a cochlear implant include having:
A small or absent auditory nerve
An unusually shaped cochlea
Scarring of the cochlea caused by infection, such as meningitis
Damage from a skull fracture
An auditory brainstem implant bypasses the damaged auditory nerves and connects directly to the brainstem to help you detect sounds.