BAHA devices are FDA-approved for use on patients with conductive, unilateral, and mixed hearing loss.
Bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA) are implantable systems that use bone conduction and sound vibrations to create a more complete and comprehensive listening experience for individuals with a hearing impairment.
Developed in the late 1960s, bone-anchored hearing aids differ from standard types of hearing aids in that they amplify acoustic sounds as they enter the ear canal.
Reasons to Consider Bone-Anchored Devices
BAHAs work by sending sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through the skull bone, which bypasses problems with other parts of the ear that may be interfering with hearing. This can be helpful if there are issues with other parts of the ear that are preventing sounds from reaching the inner ear.
Good candidates for bone-anchored hearing aids include patients with chronic ear infections since placing regular hearing aids can be difficult or painful when dealing with recurring ear infections and individuals with outer or middle ear abnormalities, such as a malformed external ear (absent pinna) or a narrow ear canal. BAHAs may also benefit patients with:
- Single-sided deafness (SSD)
- Acoustic neuroma
- Middle ear diseases
How BAHAs Work
Typically, bone-anchored hearing devices have three parts. A titanium implant is placed in a bone behind the ear. A sound processor and removable microphone are attached to a support structure (abutment). Sound vibrations are either transmitted by a process called electromagnetic coupling or via the abutment. The implant vibrates nearby bones, which stimulates tiny hair cells that trigger a response from the auditory nerve.
Cochlear Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids
A cochlear bone-anchored hearing aid is designed to take over the role of a damaged inner ear (cochlea). It sends sound signals to the brain so they can interpreted as words, conversations, or various noises. Cochlear BAHAs may improve hearing for patients with moderate-to-profound hearing loss affecting both ears or those having only one ear affected this way. Cochlear hearing aids may also be recommended when traditional hearing aids aren’t significantly improving quality of life or if patients score less than 65 percent on sentence recognition tests performed by an audiologist.
Sophono Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids
The Sophono processor is a type of non-percutaneaous bone-anchored hearing aid. It’s similar to other BAHAs in that it bypasses other parts of the ear and converts vibrations in the inner ear. What’s unique about this BAHA is that it’s all under the skin. The implant is made up of magnets concealed in a titanium case attached to the skull. A bone conduction vibrator is attached to a metal plate. A sound processor is placed behind the reconstructed ear. Sophono BAHAs can be used on patients as young as five.
The main benefit of both Cochlear and Sophono bone-anchored hearing aids is the ability to work around the outer and middle ear. However, this type of hearing solution isn’t for everyone. It may, however, improve hearing and comfort for patients with ear deformities or conditions that affect the hearing process in other parts of the ear. Since BAHAs do not affect the inner ear’s structure, removal is possible, if necessary, without impacting hearing capabilities as they were prior to implantation.