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What are bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHAs)

What are bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHAs)

When hearing loss is due to a problem with the outer or middle ear, a sound may not reach the cochlea properly even with a hearing aid. If the cochlea is functioning normally and the problem only lies in the outer or middle ear, a bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) might be a good solution.

How does it work?

A BAHA has three major parts

1. A sound processor: this piece contains a microphone to capture sounds and rests outside the head, usually just behind the ear.

2. An abutment: located between the sound processor and titanium fixture, it converts the sounds picked up by the processor into mechanical vibrations similar to what the bones of the middle ear should do.

3. A titanium fixture: a simple surgery is required to implant this fixture beneath the skull where the titanium fuses with the bone. A small piece extends from under the skin to the surface and attaches to the abutment. The mechanical vibrations created by the abutment move to the fixture and cause the bones in the skull to vibrate and stimulate the cochlea directly.

Who can use a BAHA?

A bone-anchored hearing aid is an option for anyone with hearing loss whose cochlea is not damaged. Because this hearing aid allows sounds to go directly to the cochlea, it is ideal for those with conductive or mixed hearing loss – a malformation of the outer ear or a problem with the ossicles. However, it is also a good option for people who experience chronic ear infections (otitis media) because, unlike other hearing aids, a BAHA doesn´t block the ear canal so fluids can easily drain from the ear. Others may choose this hearing aid for reasons of comfort. Some may find a hearing aid that blocks the ear canal damp and humid or may feel irritated by the external apparatus. In addition, a BAHA can also be used to give people with single sided deafness a better sense of where a sound is coming from.

Things to Consider:

It is really difficult to remove a bone-anchored hearing aid because the titanium is designed to fuse with the bone. However, removing the external portion is simple. However, unlike the surgery individuals go through for cochlear implants, the surgery for BAHA itself does not damage or impact the structures in your auditory system. Moreover, it is possible to test a BAHA before the surgery by using it on a headband.

Although children younger than five cannot undergo a surgery to implant a bone-anchored hearing aid, they can use an external form of a BAHA, such as a headband. Moreover, the implant is placed just behind the ear and the position is somewhat flexible. Therefore, it is suitable for those who wear glasses. It is important to clean around the outside of the BAHA abutment regularly to prevent a buildup of debris too.

In addition, the processor should not be worn all the time. It should be removed before bedtime and during sports. Most importantly, it is not water resistant and must be removed before bathing or swimming. If it becomes exposed to dampness for any reason, a special dryer designed for hearing aids can be used.