While traditional hearing aids are the gold-standard treatment for people with mild to severe hearing loss, not everyone experiences successful outcomes with them. One alternative option for people who don’t benefit from hearing aids is a bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA). Below is an overview of what a bone-anchored hearing aid is, how it works, who is a candidate and how surgery is performed.
What Is a Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid?
BAHA devices work differently from traditional hearing aids. Regular hearing aids amplify soundwaves to a volume level the inner ear can easily detect as they pass through the ear canal. BAHAs bypass the outer and middle ear entirely, instead conducting sound through the skull and jawbones to the inner ear.
Also unlike regular hearing aids, BAHAs are surgically implanted.
How Do Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids Work?
BAHAs have two parts: a titanium implant and an external sound processor. As sounds are picked up by the microphone on the processor, they are converted into vibrations and passed through the implant. This in turn vibrates the surrounding bone, sending soundwaves to the inner ear where they stimulate the tiny hair cells called stereocilia and fire the auditory nerve.
Who Is a Candidate for Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids?
Because BAHAs bypass the outer and middle ear, they are recommended for people with conductive hearing loss (caused by malformation of the outer/middle ear that blocks soundwaves) who do not respond well to hearing aids.
BAHAs require at least one inner ear that functions normally since that is where sound is being channeled to.
BAHAs are appropriate for people with single-sided deafness, also known as unilateral hearing loss, as well as people with extreme cases of chronic ear infections or allergies to the materials in traditional hearing aids.
Candidacy is determined by an ENT physician or an audiologist.
How Are Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids Implanted?
During this outpatient procedure, a three- to four-millimeter titanium implant is placed in the mastoid bone behind the ear. There may be a small abutment that sticks out through the skin that the processor attaches to via magnet or clip.
The specifics of the operation depend on which manufacturer’s system you choose. For example, the manufacturer Oticon Medical utilizes MIPS (minimally-invasive Ponto surgery), which takes about 15 minutes to complete under local anesthesia. Recovery involves a day or two of rest before resuming regular activities.
The processor is attached once the skin and skull have healed, which ranges from three weeks to three months. Once attached and programmed, you will be able to hear new sounds right away.
For more information about bone-anchored hearing aids or to schedule an appointment, call Topeka ENT today.