The inner ear receives sound vibrations in two different ways; through the ear canal, ear drum and middle ear (air conduction) and through the skull bone (bone conduction).
Why would my child need a bone conduction hearing device?
A wireless kit, comprising headphones, a microphone, and an app might be a cheap alternative to the usual treatment of the common temporary hearing loss in kids, popularly known as ‘glue ear,’ finds a small study, published in the online journal BMJ Innovations.
Conventional hearing aids work using air conduction but for a number of reasons some deaf children can’t wear conventional hearing aids. A bone conduction hearing device works better for them because of the type of deafness that they have.
Glue ear (otitis media with effusion), occurs when the middle part of the ear fills up with sticky fluid, usually after a cough, cold, or ear infection, causing temporary hearing loss in one or both ears.
It may avoid the need for surgery in many cases, and could cut down on clinic visits, by enabling parents to monitor their child’s hearing remotely at home, say the researchers.
One in 10 children starting school in the UK or Europe will have some hearing loss caused by glue ear.
Deafness in young children can interfere with speech development, language, communication, auditory processing, self-esteem, socialisation, listening and learning, say the researchers.
Current solutions are far from ideal. A grommet, or T-tube, is a small tube designed to drain fluid away and keep the eardrum open, but it requires insertion under general anaesthetic. Around a third of children fitted with them will develop an infection as a result; and in a small percentage of cases, grommet insertion risks perforating the eardrum or permanent scarring.
Hearing aids require several audiology appointments to adjust sound levels correctly, because the condition fluctuates. And hearing aids that enable sound to vibrate through the skull bone directly to the cochlea (inner ear bone), so bypassing the eardrum and middle ear, are very effective. But they are expensive.
Bone conduction headphones, however, which are marketed to cyclists, allow sound from mobile phones to be directed straight to the cochlea while not blocking out vital sound from traffic, and are much cheaper. The researchers wanted to find out if the commercially available Bone Conduction Kit, comprising a wireless headset plus microphone, paired with the freely available Hear Glue Ear app, would enable children and their parents to manage glue ear effectively at home.