December 15, 2012

A New BAHA Hearing Aid... Without the Screw Implant

For patients with a significant conductive hearing loss or mixed hearing loss, Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA) are an option that negates the need to place anything in the ear canal.

Traditional hearing aids require some type of ear hook that is inserted into the ear canal to allow amplified sound to reach the middle and inner ear.

BAHA transmits sound to the inner ear via a different mechanism using actual bone vibration. The bone vibration can be transmitted either via direct physical coupling (traditional) or via indirect magnetic coupling (the new way).

The traditional BAHA requires a titanium screw that is drilled into the bone behind the ear. Part of this screw sticks out of the skull through the skin to which the hearing aid is attached. Sound is transmitted into the ear by direct screw vibrations which in turn vibrates the bone that gets transmitted directly into the ear thereby allowing sounds to be heard.


Why would anyone want a BAHA? It would be a better option than a traditional hearing aid if the ear canal is extremely small, prone to getting infected, chronically draining, and/or absence of the middle ear anatomy including eardrum and middle ear bones.

But who wants a metal screw sticking out of their head???

That's where this "new" magnetically coupled BAHA device called Sophono Alpha 1 comes in.

Rather than a screw sticking out of the bone to transmit vibrations, magnets are used instead. First, flat magnets housed within a titanium plate is surgically screwed into the skull underneath the skin. Nothing sticks out!

Over the skin, an external base plate is magnetically coupled to the surgically screwed in plate.

The hearing aid, which is held in place to this external plate, houses a bone oscillator that uses a metal disc and spacer shim to magnetically couple to the internal component in order to deliver auditory stimulation (vibration) through the closed skin.

Early studies suggest, however, that the hearing amplification is not as great as the traditional direct coupling BAHA.

Read more about this new Sophono BAHA here.

Though our office does not offer this device, please contact your local otologic surgeon to see if (s)he offers it!

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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