Bone Anchored Hearing Aid, or BAHA, is a hearing device that relies on direct bone conduction to transmit sound. This surgically implanted device bypasses the auditory canal and middle ear, utilizing bones as a pathway for sound to reach the middle ear. It’s an alternative for people with chronic ear infections, congenital external auditory canal atresia and single-sided deafness. These patients usually do not benefit from conventional hearing aids.
In a person with normal hearing, sound enters the external ear and travels down the ear canal through the middle ear to the cochlea, or inner ear. This process is called air conduction. For individuals with certain types of hearing loss, sound is unable to travel down these pathways. The BAHA system takes advantage of the bones’ natural conductive abilities by sending sound vibrations directly to your inner ear, bypassing the auditory canal and middle ear completely.
The BAHA device is made up of three components: a titanium implant, an external abutment and a sound processor. Once the surgical implant is in place, it gradually fuses with the skull bone over a period of several months in a process known as osseointegration. The BAHA unit is then ready to be fit and programmed. The sound processor transmits vibrations through the external abutment to the implant, where vibrations in the skull and inner ear stimulate the nerve fibers responsible for hearing.
BAHA is a safe and effective FDA-approved treatment alternative that enables many hearing-impaired individuals to communicate more effectively. It has been available in the U.S. since 1977.
Candidates for BAHA are typically patients with conductive and mixed hearing losses, or those with unilateral (single-sided) hearing loss.
If you experience chronic ear infections that do not respond to treatment, you may find the BAHA system particularly beneficial. Conventional hearing aids can aggravate the condition due to humidity and moisture building up in the ear canals. Those with congenital ear defects (such as ear canals that are narrow or absent) are good candidates, as well.
Otosclerosis is an abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear that causes hearing loss. It typically begins in the early 20s, and is the leading cause of middle ear hearing loss in young adults.
The exact cause of otosclerosis is not known, but evidence suggests a genetic link passed down from parent to child. Middle-aged Caucasian women are most at risk, and pregnancy seems to be a contributing factor, perhaps due to hormonal changes a woman is undergoing at the time. This bone growth usually occurs around the stapes bone in the middle ear, preventing it from moving freely, essential to proper hearing.
Gradually worsening hearing loss is the primary symptom of otosclerosis. It may begin with an inability to hear low-pitched sounds or whispers. Other symptoms may include vertigo or dizziness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
The symptoms of otosclerosis are like those of other conditions, so a thorough examination by an otolaryngologist is essential in ruling out other problems and diagnosing the disease. A hearing test will usually show signs of conductive hearing loss in the lower frequency tones, a hallmark of otosclerosis.
Mild cases of otosclerosis can be corrected with a hearing aid designed to amplify sounds. Orally ingested sodium fluoride has been shown to slow the progression of the disease, and may be an option.
In more advanced cases, a surgical procedure known as a stapedectomy is often performed. In this surgery, part or all of the affected stapes bone is removed and replaced with a prosthetic device that enables the bones of the middle ear to resume movement, allowing sound waves to reach the inner ear, improving or restoring hearing.
There are inherent risks in any surgery, but left untreated, otosclerosis will only get worse. Speak to your doctor about the best treatment options for your hearing loss.
Call (913) 663-5100 for more information or to schedule an appointment.