Patients with rare brain tumors on the auditory nerve face a quiet future. These neurofibromatosis type 2 tumors, which include acoustic neuromas, usually lead to complete deafness. Traditional hearing aid devices such as cochlear implants may not benefit this population due to nerve damage incurred by surgical removal of the tumor. Now there’s another option in the form of an auditory brainstem implant (ABI) that enables users to perceive sound and to communicate more effectively through lip reading.
The ABI procedure developed at the University of California, San Diego, is performed at the same time the auditory nerve tumor is excised. A sound processor is worn behind the ear and the implant is placed just below the skin. Sounds picked up by the processor’s microphone are converted into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain. The implant system essentially takes a short cut to the brainstem by bypassing the cochlea and the auditory nerve.
The first sound processor fitting occurs after the incision is healed, affording the audiologist the opportunity to determine if the implant is delivering hearing sensations. The desired sound levels for the patient are defined with the aid of specialized software.
The ABI541 System is manufactured by Cochlear.