You may not know they exist or what they are, but active middle ear implants – or AMEIs as they are sometimes referred to – have created new treatment options for some people with hearing loss. An AMEI refers to a surgically implanted hearing device that directly interacts with a part of the middle ear – one or more of the tiny middle ear bones (i.e., middle ear ossicles) – and is “active” in that it is imparting its own energy on the middle ear rather than just being a passive prosthetic. Active middle ear implants (AMEIs) can be either fully implanted with nothing external or semi-implanted with an external portion and an internal portion.
Some argue that part of the clinical value AMEIs offer is derived from “provid[ing] direct drive hearing in which sound is converted directly to vibratory energy and transmitted to the ossicles. …Converting sound directly to energy is more efficient and ultimately may provide improved speech discrimination and preferred sound quality compared to [conventional hearing aids].” [i]
How do they work?
Active middle ear implants work differently depending on the device, but they all directly drive the middle ear with mechanical energy as opposed to just making sounds louder, like the conventional hearing aids. The direct interaction with the middle ear can help overcome some of the limitations of conventional hearing aids.
Who’s a candidate?
AMEI’s are designed to alleviate a certain type and level of hearing loss.