What is a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid?
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According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 15% of American adults have some level of hearing loss. As people age, the likelihood of experiencing hearing loss increases, which is why hearing aid use is most prevalent among seniors.
Along with traditional behind-the-ear and in-ear hearing aids, a number of innovative implantable devices are now used to treat hearing loss, including the bone anchored hearing aid, or BAHA.
What Is a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid?
Also known as a bone conduction hearing device, this type of hearing aid consists of two parts: a permanent surgically-implanted titanium fixture that’s placed in the skull bone directly behind the ear and an external processor with a microphone.
The internal portion of the device conducts sounds received through the external portion via the bone, bypassing the middle ear. The processor is powered by a small user-replaceable hearing aid battery.
There are three types of sound processors, and these processors connect to the implanted portion of the bone anchored hearing aid with a small, high-powered magnet. Since the processor sits on the outside of the skull, it comes in a variety of colors to match users’ hair color and skin tone.
Who Should Consider a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid?
Bone conduction hearing devices are geared toward patients who cannot use traditional behind-the-ear or in-ear hearing aids because their middle ear is either deformed or damaged. These issues could be due to a congenital defect, chronic or acute viral ear infections, or injury.
Because this type of hearing aid works by conducting sound through the skull bone to the inner ear (cochlear), patients need to have their inner ear function tested before they can be approved for a BAHA.
What’s the Difference Between a BAHA and a Cochlear Implant?
While both bone anchored hearing aids and cochlear implants are surgically-installed hearing devices, there are some major differences between these two types of permanent hearing aids.
Bone conduction hearing devices use an external microphone and sound processor to convert sound waves into vibrations that are transmitted directly to the inner ear via the titanium bone implant. Cochlear implants also use a small external processor and microphone to convert sounds into electrical signals, but unlike a BAHA, the internal portion of a cochlear implant sends these signals directly to the auditory nerve.
Another important difference between these two types of surgically-implanted hearing aids is that the surgery to install a BAHA is far less invasive than the procedure used to place a cochlear implant. In fact, bone conduction hearing aids can often be installed under local anesthesia, while the cochlear implant procedure is performed using general anesthesia, and the surgery can take up to four hours.
How Much Does a Bone Conduction Hearing Device Cost?
Pricing for BAHAs varies widely but generally ranges between $4,500 and $8,000. This makes the cost of a bone conduction hearing device much higher than most conventional behind-the-ear or in-ear hearing aids but far lower than that of a cochlear implant, which can cost anywhere from $30,000 and up.