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Auditory Brainstem Implants

Patient information A-Z

The Emmeline Centre is the specialist Hearing Implant Centre for East Anglia. We provide services for deaf people of all ages. We offer cochlear implants, middle ear implants, bone-anchored hearing aids and auditory brainstem implants.

This leaflet tells you more about what happens following referral for an auditory brainstem implant assessment.

What is an auditory brainstem implant?

An auditory brainstem implant (ABI) consists of two parts:

The implant is placed under the skin and into the area of the brainstem responsible for hearing (the cochlea nucleus).

auditory brainstem implant

The speech processor is worn behind the ear and connects to the implant via a magnet on the head.

speech processor

Why have an auditory brainstem implant?

An ABI may be suggested when the hearing nerve is absent or damaged. Damage may happen in cases of acoustic tumours, or those with a medical condition known as NF2. An auditory brainstem implant aims to aid hearing by taking the sound signal directly to the brainstem, without using the hearing nerve.

The auditory brainstem implant assessment

Assessment requires several appointments with different members of the team. There is always time for you to ask questions and find out more about this kind of implant. There will also be an opportunity to contact current implant users to learn about their experience.

What if an ABI is recommended?

It is your decision whether to proceed with an auditory brainstem implant. The follow up process after surgery requires long term commitment to appointments at the Centre, particularly in the first year. This involves programming of the implant, support and training in listening to a new sound. Then on-going follow up to maintain optimal hearing with the ABI.

What to expect from an auditory brainstem implant

All implant users have different experiences of sound through their implants. The degree of benefit cannot be guaranteed. An auditory brainstem implant may help with:

  • Hearing sounds in the environment
  • Monitoring the pitch and volume of your own voice
  • Lip reading: using sound alongside lip patterns to understand speech.

Only a small proportion of ABI users can understand speech without lip-reading. Some ABI users do not get any useful sound at all.

Useful contacts

These organisations support the hearing-impaired, and offer more information about hearing implants:

British Cochlear Implant Group

Action on Hearing Loss

19-23 Featherstone Street, London, EC1Y 8SL

Telephone: 0808 808 0123

Textphone: 0808 808 9000

The Neuro Foundation Well Aware
The Care Forum, The Vassall Centre,
Gill Avenue,
Fishponds, Bristol
BS16 2QQ

Tel: 0808 808 5252

The Emmeline Centre for Hearing Implants

Box 163, Addenbrooke's NHS Trust, Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 0QQ

Telephone: 01223 217589

Fax: 01223 586735

Email the Emmeline centre

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151