Discover how a bone anchored hearing aid can provide benefits for patients with hearing loss.
Hearing loss technology has made great strides in recent years. New inventions like bone anchored hearing aids now help people with varying degrees of hearing loss hear better and engage the world around them confidently. Before you decide if bone anchored hearing aids are right for you, you may want to learn:
Bone anchored hearing aids are hearing aids that are anchored into the skull bone behind your ear. The actual process of implanting one of these devices is a two-part procedure. The first part of the process involves implanting the screw or magnet into the skull bone.
The screw or magnet is made out titanium, which is a durable and safe material used in many medical implant operations today. The implant operation is done on an outpatient basis in your ENT doctor’s office. Your surgeon will numb the area in which the screw or magnet is being implanted. You likewise may be given a mild sedative to keep you calm during the procedure.
It can take three to six months for the implant to fully integrate into the bone in your skull. After it is fully integrated, it will then be paired with a sound processor that connects to the outside of the magnet or screw. The processor can be put on or taken off as you wish. It is not permanently attached to the implant.
The combination of the screw or magnet plus the processor comprise the entire basis of the bone anchored hearing aid system. Once the processor is attached, it transmits sounds to the brain through bone conduction. The brain can then translate and react to the sounds that are picked up by the bone anchored hearing aid.
Types of Bone Anchored Hearing Aids
There are three main options for bone anchored hearing aids.
Cochlear™ BAHA® Implant System – This device is held onto the head with a metal stud, but there is also a version that uses a magnet. It works well and is unobtrusive for patients with unilateral hearing loss.
Sophono™ – This device is held onto the head with a magnet, and another magnet is implanted into the skull. It performs best with speech frequencies and is designed so that the bone implant is not visible. It’s ideal for patients with less severe hearing loss.
Ponto System – This device is attached to a stud located behind the ear. It has many programmable features and has a higher frequency response than the Sophono™.
Unlike cochlear implant surgery, the bone anchored hearing aid procedure proves to be faster and safer, making it ideal for a wider range of hearing loss patients. For example, people who want better hearing results than what they might achieve with traditional hearing aids might opt for bone anchored hearing aids.
Likewise, children who are not fully vaccinated and thus not eligible for cochlear implants may benefit by having these bone anchored hearing aids placed in their ears and skull bone. Cochlear implant surgery comes with risks like the possibility of bacterial or viral meningitis infections. Bone anchored hearing aid surgery is less risky and easier from which to heal.
Still, anyone wanting to have bone anchored hearing aids implanted in their bones and ears are advised to undergo a thorough physical examination prior to the operation. Your doctor will want to know if you suffer from any condition that could impede your healing or ability to hear after the surgery is over.
For example, you may be encouraged to wait if you are suffering from viral illnesses like the flu, the common cold, or the chicken pox. Likewise, you may be discouraged from undergoing surgery if you suffer from:
High blood pressure
Your doctor may not allow you to go through the surgery is you are pregnant or nursing as well. Otherwise, you are an ideal candidate as long as you are in good overall health and understand the implications that come with this procedure. You may enjoy better hearing than if you were to wear regular hearing aids or undergo a cochlear implant surgery.
As mentioned, this surgery is done on an outpatient basis, allowing you to avoid having to check into the hospital for a lengthy stay or take a lot of time off from work or school to recover. Because of how fast and simple it can be, many people choose this procedure over other types of hearing loss treatment.
Likewise, patients often remark that their implants are comfortable and hardly noticeable to others, making them easy to wear in public. Cochlear implants tend to be very noticeable as are traditional hearing aids. When you want to wear hearing loss devices that are difficult for others to detect, you may get the results you want with bone anchored hearing aids.
Finally, bone anchored hearing aid surgery is easy to reverse if at any point you decide you no longer want to wear the devices. The screw or magnet can be surgically taken out if you wish. The fact that the devices are not permanent and can be removed relatively easily makes them even more appealing to hearing loss patients who want to avoid the permanence of cochlear implants.