GOTEBORG, Sweden, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Functionally deaf patients can gain normal hearing with a new implant that replaces the middle ear, researchers in Sweden say.
Bo Hakansson of Chalmers University of Technology in Goteborg, Sweden, says the hearing implant, developed at Chalmers in collaboration with Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, can be inserted just behind the ear, under the skin and attached to the skull bone itself.
The new technique uses the skull bone to transmit sound vibrations to the inner ear, so-called bone conduction, Hakansson says.
"You hear 50 percent of your own voice through bone conduction, so you perceive this sound as quite natural," Hakansson said in a statement.
The Bone Conduction Implant, developed by Hakansson and his team of researchers, is unlike the type of bone-conduction device used today.
The new hearing implant does not need to be anchored in the skull bone using a titanium screw through the skin. The patient has no need to fear losing the screw and there is no risk of skin infections arising around the fixing, Hakansson says.
The technique was designed to treat mechanical hearing loss in individuals who have been affected by chronic inflammation of the outer or middle ear, or bone disease, or who have congenital malformations of the outer ear, auditory canal or middle ear.
Such people often have major problems with their hearing and normal hearing aids, which compensate for neurological problems in the inner ear, rarely work for them, Hakansson explains.
Bone-anchored devices often provide a dramatic improvement, the researchers say.