Magnets are used in a wide range of medical applications, including assistive devices such as cochlear implants. Cochlear implants are a surgically implanted electronic medical device that allow deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to be able to perceive sounds. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sounds, cochlear implants work by bypassing damaged areas of the ear to directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Then, signals generated by the cochlear implant travel along the auditory nerve to the brain, which processes these signals as sounds. As of December 2019, there are more than 736,000 registered cochlear implants being used worldwide.
Cochlear Implants use Magnets for both the Internal and External components of their Application
Cochlear implants consist of an external component as well as the internal component. Magnets are part of both the internal and external components of the cochlear implant. In order to correctly transmit sound to the internal device, the external headpiece, or coil, must be placed in a precise location on the skull. To achieve this, magnets are used. Surgery to place cochlear implants involves inserting a magnet about the size of a dime just underneath the scalp. The magnet is not used to support the weight of the external headpiece on the head—rather, the purpose is to align it in place with the internal components of the device.
When designing cochlear implants, the strength of the magnet is a critical factor. If a magnet is too weak, it will not be able to successfully do its job. However, if the magnet is too strong, the patient may suffer from negative outcomes as a result of complications. When the magnet is too strong, it can cause the surrounding skin to break down around it, resulting in redness, swelling, and ultimately a wound forming. In addition to experiencing pain, the patient also is placed at a greater risk of infection. In order to attain overall success, it is essential that a patient receiving a cochlear implant be fitted with a magnet of the correct strength.
Cochlear implants are a rapidly changing technology that is constantly seeking new improvements. Some of the improvements being made involve assessing the role of the magnet, as researchers hope to solve current problems like MRI scans disrupting cochlear implant magnets. At Bunting-DuBois, our custom designed magnets and magnetic assemblies are used in a wide range of medical technologies. We are always looking towards the future, and we are eager to support new developments in medical technologies. For more information about our custom magnets and magnetic assemblies for medical applications, contact us today.