Bone anchored hearing aids (BAHA)
Written by Robert Stroud, MD, Otolaryngologist
Bone anchored hearing aids (BAHA) are a good option to enhance hearing in patients with severe one-sided nerve hearing loss or patients with conductive or mixed hearing loss. There are often challenges that make a traditional hearing aid ineffective in these patients. The effectiveness of BAHA is based on the fact that the conduction of sound waves through the bone is much more efficient than the transmission of sound waves through air. A BAHA is made up of two components: a metal screw that is inserted into the bone of the skull and an external sound processor.
BAHA requires a surgical procedure where a metal screw-like post is placed into the skull behind the ear. The procedure is only about 45 minutes to an hour in length and is performed under general anesthesia in the operating room. Recovery is generally very quick with very little pain. After a healing period of approximately 2-3 months, the external sound processor can be attached and the patient can begin using the device. There are two options for attaching the processor to the post:
(1) BAHA Connect - The processor attaches directly to a post that protrudes through the skin allowing the processor to firmly snap to it. The area where the post protrudes from the skin requires some regular care and cleaning but this is minimal in most cases.
(2) BAHA Attract - The processor attaches to the post implanted into the bone using a strong magnet. Some patients choose the magnetic option where nothing protrudes through the skin.
The decision of which to select is made in conjunction with the surgeon and audiologist.
In patients with a severe one-sided nerve hearing loss, the BAHA processor vibrates the post and the sound waves are conducted through the skull to the opposite, normal hearing ear. A conductive or mixed loss results from a failure of sound to be properly transmitted through the ear canal, ear drum and bones of the middle ear, but the inner ear function is good. Using a BAHA, the sounds waves are transmitted directly through the bone of the skull to the normal inner ear on the same side as the implant. In either case, the user is better able to localize and perceive sound even when the source is on the side of the deaf ear.
BAHA is a relatively new technology that allows patients who previously did not achieve good results with traditional hearing aids to have better hearing and communication. Not all patients with hearing loss are candidates for BAHA. While BAHA does require a surgical procedure, this is generally very well tolerated. Unlike traditional hearing aids, many insurance companies cover BAHA making it attractive to suitable patients. If you are interested in learning more or think you may be a candidate for BAHA, I encourage you to make an appointment to see one of our audiologists at The Hearing Center at Quail Creek.