An auditory brainstem implant provides a sensation of hearing to some people who are deaf due to auditory nerve damage. An auditory brainstem implant is most commonly offered to adults diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 2. This rare genetic condition causes tumors to grow on nerves. When the auditory nerves are involved, your hearing can be destroyed. Sensors in the auditory brainstem implant bypass the damaged auditory nerves and connect directly to the brainstem to help you detect sounds.

  • Experience and expertise. Mayo Clinic hearing specialists have special training in auditory brainstem implant surgery. Mayo Clinic is one of only a few medical centers to offer this uncommon treatment for rare types of hearing loss.
  • Team approach. Mayo Clinic ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists work together with audiologists, neurologists and neurosurgeons to assess whether an auditory brainstem implant is right for you, to place the implant and to help you learn how to use it.
  • Efficient, comprehensive care. Your treatment team will schedule all the necessary testing and doctor's visits for diagnosis and surgery, often within a few days. They will also coordinate your follow-up rehabilitation sessions with the audiologist.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., are ranked among the Best Hospitals for ear, nose and throat by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is ranked high performing for ear, nose and throat by U.S. News & World Report.

How it works

Auditory brainstem implants have three main parts:

  • A tiny microphone positioned by the ear to pick up sounds
  • A decoding chip placed under the skin to transmit information picked up by the microphone
  • Electrodes connected directly to the brainstem that, when stimulated, alert you to sound

Surgery and therapy

The surgery is often performed at the same time tumors are removed from the auditory nerves. After surgery, you will need multiple sessions with an audiologist to adjust the sound processor and learn how to use and interpret the signals. This process can take many months. You will typically see an audiologist every two to four months the first year and annually thereafter.

An auditory brainstem implant doesn't restore normal hearing, but it helps most people distinguish sounds such as telephone rings and car horns. Some people get good word recognition, while others get more general sound cues. In combination with lip reading, the cues can improve your communication with others.

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Specialists in ear, nose and throat and neurosurgery work together to perform auditory brainstem implant surgery at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Feb. 27, 2013