Bone Conducting Hearing Aids and BAHA Implants
Bone Conduction Hearing Aids – An Alternative Solution
For some sufferers of hearing loss, traditional hearing aids cannot be used. There are a range of reasons for this, including:
- Continual ear infections or eczema.
- Missing parts of ear or ear canal.
- An unusually small ear canal.
This doesn’t mean, however, that nothing can be done. For these cases, bone conduction hearing aids and BAHA implants provide a solution.
What is Bone Conduction?
Generally we hear via soundwaves, which are tiny vibrations in the air. These travel through our ear canal to the ear drum, which decodse these waves into vibrations received by the inner ear, or the cochlea. The cochlea is connected to the auditory nerve, which then transmits sounds to the brain.
However, sound can reach the inner ear by another route – by conduction through the bones of the skull. This is how you hear your own voice. As another example, if you hold a ticking watch between your teeth and block your ears, you can distinctly hear the sound of the watch. (This method of hearing was discovered by Ludwig van Beethoven, the eighteenth century composer who became almost entirely deaf – he found that by attaching a rod to his piano and clenching it in his teeth, he could hear its sound through his jawbone.)
Therefore, if the cochlea is undamaged, it’s possible to bypass the ear drums entirely and facilitate hearing directly via the skull and the inner-ear.
How does a BAHA Implant work?
As discussed above, bone conduction hearing aids and BAHA implants completely bypass your eardrums, magnifying your body’s natural ability to send sound through the bone, through the implantation of a titanium implant and abutment into the skull behind the ear. This direct implantation means the sound is stronger and clearer as it does not have to be transmitted through the skin.
The device is made up of three parts:
- The titanium implant
- A sound processor
- An abutment
Sound is picked up by the processor and transmitted into mechanical vibrations. These vibrations travel through the abutment, into the skull and then directly into the cochlea.
Once the implant is inserted into the skull, a process called osseointegration takes place. This refers to the bone growth that happens around the implant. It takes about six weeks for the bone to grow sufficiently for the proper attachment of the BAHA implant.
Who Can Bone Conduction BAHA Implants Help?
Bone conduction hearing aids and BAHA implants don’t suit everyone, but they can provide significant assistance to those suffering from the following:
- Conductive hearing loss (outer or middle ear problems)
- Mixed hearing loss (both outer/middle and inner ear problems)
- Single-sided deafness (total deafness in one ear)
It also helps if you:
- Can hear sounds well through bone conduction – for example, understanding 60% or more of a speech on a standard test using this method.
- Are able to keep the implant area clean, either by yourself or with help from others.
Can I Trial a BAHA Implant?
Unlike other hearing implants, you can trial BAHA before making the decision to proceed with surgery. The sound processor is connected to a test band, test rod or BahaSoftband, allowing you to instantly experience the difference a BAHA can make to your hearing.