In the developed world, there are currently more than 100 million people afflicted with hearing loss. In the United States and European Community alone, there are an estimated 21 million people with significant conductive hearing loss, whilst there are over 90 million suffering from moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss. Of these, more than 65 million hearing-impaired persons are without treatment. This article presents a review of the latest technological advances and treatment options for the hearing-impaired, including external and middle ear devices, bone-anchored hearing aids, cochlear implants and hybrids, auditory brainstem implants. Finally, we take a glimpse into the future prospects of stem cell treatment and hair cell regeneration with gene delivery to the inner ear for the treatment of sensorineural hearing loss.
There have been significant advances in the understanding of middle ear mechanics and inner ear physiology in the past 2 decades. With increasing exchange and co-operation between clinicians, scientists and engineers, many new and exciting developments have emerged. Many are still in the research stage of development whilst others have reached material fruition and are being tested in clinical trials in Europe and the US.
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