The Vibrant Soundbridge is the first and only Food and Drug Administration approved middle ear hearing implant. The device was to treat moderate to moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss. Dr Foyt was involved in many of the early device trials and has one the largest worldwide implant experiences with implantable middle ear hearing devices. He has also pioneered and published two surgical procedures for implantation of this device.
The Soundbridge is comprised of two components: and internal receiver with a floating mass sound transducer, and an external audio processor. The audio processor is held in place by magnetic attraction through the skin to the internal receiver. Much like a cochlear implant, sound is picked up by the processors sensitive microphones and transmitted through the skin as a harmless electromagnetic wave. The signal is then reprocessed into a digital sound that activates a high density Neodynium-Boron magnet that is attached to the hearing bones. This produces sound.
The major benefits of this implant include significantly improved sound clarity, improved performance in background noise situations, and elimination of feedback (squeal). The device is much more comfortable than traditional hearing aids since there is no ear canal component.
Disadvantages of the system are primarily high cost US $17,000 and the requirement for surgery in a hospital setting. As of March 2002, we are happy to announce that many insurance providers are paying most if not all costs associated with the Soundbridge.
The surgical procedure is performed as an outpatient takes approximately one hour. Dr. Foyt uses the minimal access technique that he developed in 2006. The device can be inserted underneath the skin through a small 4cm incision. Healing takes several months before the implant can be fit and activated. There is a temporary hearing loss in that ear until swelling subsides. Usually one ear is done at a time, however, Dr. Foyt has performed the procedure on both ears simultaneously.