A bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA) is a hearing device that is attached to a titanium screw, or magnet, which has been surgically placed into the skull during a short, outpatient surgery. Children or adults may be candidates for this procedure. After approximately 3 to 6 months, the surgically placed component integrates with the bone and an external hearing device, called a sound processor, is attached. The sound processor rests along the outside of the head and can be taken on and off. The screw or magnet remains in place. For the rare cases in which listeners decide they no longer want the BAHA, the screw or magnet could be removed surgically. A physician can help determine whether a BAHA is an appropriate hearing device option for a particular individual.
Hearing Through Bone Conduction
Sometimes, certain individuals with hearing loss are not good candidates for traditional hearing aids. For some of these cases, a device that bypasses the ear canal and middle ear, and instead transmits sound through the bone to the inner ear, may be an option. The process of stimulating the bone behind the ear in order to transmit the sound signal to the inner ear is known as bone conduction. This process is considered for people who don’t receive good benefit from traditional hearing aids due to problems such as atypical formation of the ear or ear canal or unilateral deafness. People who have conductive or mixed hearing loss and experience chronic ear infections that make traditional hearing aid use difficult may also be candidates. BAHAs work through a process similar to bone conduction hearing aids, but may be preferable to a traditional bone conduction hearing aid for a variety of reasons.
Benefits of BAHAs
Because the BAHA is secured directly into the bone of the skull, sound quality is improved compared to that of a traditional bone conduction hearing aid which vibrates the bone through the skin. Difficulties such as improper placement and uncomfortable pressure related to securing a bone conduction hearing aid with a headband are also avoided, as well as problems with traditional hearing aids, such as inserting something into the ear canal which could agitate the canal or contribute to ear infections.
People with one sided deafness, who may have needed two hearing aids in the past, would be able to receive sound signals from both sides using only one BAHA. Being able to detect sound from both sides has important implications for social interactions as well as practical concerns such as determining the location of a sound, and hearing better in noise. Hearing aid users who felt self-conscious about the visibility of other devices may find that the BAHA is less noticeable and more easily concealed by hair. Finally, it is reported that listeners using a BAHA find that the sound quality is better than other options such as traditional bone conduction hearing aids or CROS hearing aids.