Implantable devices

Sometimes the more traditional styles of hearing aids are not beneficial or appropriate and in these cases the use of a surgically implanted hearing system may be explored. The technology they use, the way they work and where they are implanted all vary.

A young boy with a cochlear implant playing with a tablet device

The most commonly used systems in the UK are:

Cochlear implant – A cochlear implant uses a microphone to pick up the sound and a processor to deliver this sound to a set of surgically implanted electrodes in the inner ear.

The Ear Foundation and Sense have produced two booklets about cochlear implants for parents and carers of congenitally deafblind children. They can be ordered here.

A woman wearing a bone anchored hearing aidBone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA) – BAHA technology uses an amplifier positioned on the skin directly behind the ear. The amplifier is connected to the bone/skull either via a magnetic connection with a surgically implanted plate under the skin or by connection to a screw and abutment The abutment or plate transfers the sound vibration from the amplifier through the bone to the ear where the sound is processed normally by the inner ear.

Middle Ear Implants (MEI) – MEIs use a sound processor positioned behind the ear. This processor picks up the sound and turns it into an electrical signal that is passed through the skin and in to the middle ear via the surgically implanted part of the system. When this electrical signal reaches the final part of the system the signal changes to a mechanical vibration which makes the middle ear structure vibrate, passing the signal through to the inner ear in the usual way.

For more information and examples of available products see:

The Ear Foundation


Med El

Advanced Bionics


Oticon Medical



Related links in this section

Hearing technologies homepage

Audiology services and hearing aid provision

Any Qualified Provider (AQP)

Types of hearing aids

Hearing aid accessories and related technologies


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Updated: September 2014
Review due: December 2015

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First published: Tuesday 17 September 2013
Updated: Wednesday 17 August 2016