Introduction: Hearing aids (HA) provide adequate support for many patients with hearing loss, but not all. Around one third of 10.000 patients provided with hearing aids in the Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit felt no actual benefit when using the hearing aid, although they demonstrated the necessary hearing improvement on speech audiometry. Epidemiological data show bad compliance, especially in older people. Only one in three hearing aid owners wears their device regularly. For this subpopulation of patients active middle ear implants (AMEIs) have been used since 1998. In the present review, the current indications for AMEIs are presented.
Material and methods: A selective literature search in PubMed, as well as a guideline search at the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Wissenschaftlichen Fachgesellschaften e. V. (German Association of Scientific Societies), was carried out.
Results: The present review shows that when there is an adequate indication the hearing capacity of patients can be thoroughly rehabilitated and thus their quality of life improved with the help of AMEIs. Although most commercially available systems have a satisfactory risk profile, increased extrusion rates, malfunctioning and facial paresis have been reported in older implant series. The advantages of AMEIs include increased hearing gain, reduced feedback, increased hearing quality, increased speech discrimination in the presence of background noise, and an absence of occlusion.
Conclusions: The audiological indication for AMEIs in primary care is usually controversial, since the functional hearing gain and increase in speech discrimination may be small compared with modern conventional hearing aids. AMEIs thus play a main role in the secondary care of patients who do not have sufficient benefit or who have side effects after having a conventional hearing aid fitted.