Everything You Need to Know About Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids - Attune
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Everything You Need to Know About Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids

Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids

What are bone-anchored hearing aids? If you haven’t heard of this type of hearing aid before, the simplest explanation is they conduct sound directly through the bone! 

If you or a loved one are considering hearing aids, a bone-anchored hearing aid might be the right device for you. 

To learn more about what bone-anchored hearing aids are, how they work, who may benefit from getting such a device and how to access the assessment process, you’ll want to read on. 

What are Bone-Anchored Hearing Devices?

First invented in Sweden, bone-anchored hearing aids have been around for 40 years. There are various bone-anchored hearing aids such as the BAHA (a Cochlear product) and Bonebridge (a Medel product).

Depending on your type of hearing loss, you may benefit from a bone-anchored hearing aid. Ultimately, a proper assessment from an Audiologist and ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) Implant Surgeon will determine whether a bone-anchored hearing aid might be the right choice for you. 

How do Bone-Anchored Hearing Devices Work?

Bone-anchored hearing aids are implantable hearing devices that transmit sound to the inner ear (cochlea) by mechanical skull vibration. 

Normal hearing has a component of bone conduction hearing. A bone-anchored hearing aid bypasses the outer and middle ear hearing systems and sends an auditory signal directly to the cochlea to improve your hearing loss.

BAHA vs Bonebridge Hearing Aids

BAHA (bone-anchored hearing aids) is a Cochlear company product. It consists of a titanium implant that is placed in the bone behind the ear. The implant then transfers sound vibrations directly to the cochlea via bone conduction. The implant is directly anchored by the formation of bony tissue around the implant in a process called osseointegration. 

The BAHA product has two different ways of delivering sound: percutaneous and transcutaneous. The percutaneous system directly links the bone and the outside with a titanium screw (abutment) that protrudes through the skin. The bone-anchored sound processor then attaches to the screw. 

What is needed to use a bone-anchored hearing device? 

Using a bone-anchored hearing device requires good hygiene to avoid the risk of infection around the abutment area. The transcutaneous system involves a magnet placed under the skin so that the sound processor can attach to it through magnetic attraction, thereby maintaining intact with a lower risk of infection. It can be a more discreet and aesthetically appealing option. 

The BAHA products cover all types of suitable hearing losses by allowing the transcutaneous option to be changed to percutaneous if the hearing loss deteriorates to the degree that requires maximum gain and performance. 

Is there a non-surgical option?

BAHA also has non-surgical options (soft band and SoundArc), which allow for temporarily trialling bone conduction (e.g. pre-surgery to assess benefit) or wearing a bone-anchored hearing aid permanently without having it implanted. They both work by having a band device that sits on the head and has the bone-anchored sound processor attached for placement against the bone just behind and slightly above the ear.

Bonebridge differs because it is only a transcutaneous system with the implanted device using magnetic attraction to communicate with the external sound processor.  

The sound processor is slimmer and more cosmetically appealing than the BAHA and just sits directly on the scalp, compared to the bulkier BAHA, which consists of a sound processor rather than a magnet plate with a foam base. 

Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid Surgery

To use all bone-anchored hearing aids, surgery is required. During surgery, the device is implanted onto the mastoid bone of the skull, which enables bone conduction transmission of sound. This is usually minimally invasive surgery making it a straightforward surgical procedure. There is a four to eight week healing time required between surgery and fitting the external sound processor. 

Your Audiologist will make an appointment for you to visit your local Attune hearing clinic to fit the sound processor, and assist you with information on how to use and look after your bone-anchored hearing device.

Non-Surgical Options to Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids 

Some people cannot undergo the surgical option. This may be because they are an infant or young child and their skull thickness is not enough to support the implant. 

Other reasons are a lack of manual dexterity to manage the device or not being ready for surgery despite experiencing difficulties due to hearing loss. Adults may have a contraindication to having the implantable device if they work in areas of high concern, e.g. strong magnetic fields. An  Audiologist can assist you with this non-surgical option.

Suitable Candidate

How do I Know if I’m a Suitable Candidate? 

It is important to see an Audiologist who will perform a diagnostic hearing test to determine whether your hearing loss meets the criteria for a bone-anchored hearing device. 

Your Audiologist will then ask your GP to refer you to an ENT Implant Surgeon who will discuss in more detail the surgical procedure for getting a bone-anchored hearing aid and assess your medical suitability. 

There are different types of hearing loss that may benefit from a bone-anchored hearing aid. These include:

  • Conductive hearing losses have a problem with the conduction of sound via mechanical means through the outer and middle ear systems to the cochlea (inner ear). This may be caused by anatomical deformities and middle ear infections that make wearing conventional hearing aids impossible.
  • Mixed hearing losses have a conductive and sensorineural part, which also involves a problem with the inner ear (cochlea) and the hearing nerve. This means that sound is not transmitted normally to the auditory nerve from the cochlea and beyond and can be due to age-related hearing loss or noise-induced hearing loss. 
  • Single-sided deafness means that one ear has normal hearing and the other ear has a hearing loss. This could be caused by trauma or sudden hearing loss due to an infection that affects only one ear.

The assessment process for bone-anchored hearing aids involves a medical referral to an ENT Implant Surgeon and audiological assessment by your Attune Audiologist. 

What are the Funding Options for Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids? 

Several funding options are available depending on your circumstances and eligibility for each.

Private health funds

If you have private health fund cover, you need to check:

  • What level of cover you have 
  • Have you had the policy for more than 12 months?
  • Are you eligible for bone-anchored hearing aid coverage? 

You have the option to upgrade your cover and wait 12 months or join a fund and wait for 12 months, if not already a member. 

DVA cardholders

If you have DVA (Department of Veterans) cover (Gold or White card for hearing loss), you may be covered for all medically necessary expenses to improve your hearing loss. 

Concerning bone-anchored hearing aids, DVA may approve funding to cover the costs of the surgery and the implant (internal/external) devices. If you are eligible for Hearing Australia (a government agency), they will fund the bone-anchored hearing aid sound processor, ongoing maintenance, consumables, and audiological services. 

Public funding options

Public funding is limited, and on a state-based system, so the best person to advise you of what level of public funding may be available is your ENT Implant Surgeon. You can choose to self-fund a bone-anchored hearing aid and would need to get quotes for all associated costs from the product company (e.g. Cochlear or MEDEL), the implant surgeon, the hospital, and your Audiologist. 

Suitable Hearing Aid

Allow Attune Hearing to Pair You with Your Suitable Hearing Aid 

If you can’t tolerate conventional hearing aids or the hearing aid currently used is limited by medical issues, then a bone-anchored hearing aid may be the best solution for you. 

Which device or product provides the optimal outcome for you will depend on several factors such as the type of pathology and hearing loss, your lifestyle, skin condition, general health, cognition, environment and personal preferences. 

Assessing your suitability for a bone-anchored hearing aid is as easy as asking your Audiologist to do a diagnostic hearing test and then getting a referral from your GP to an ENT Implant Surgeon

You will always have the support of your Attune Audiologist throughout the assessment process and post-surgery for ongoing care and maintenance of your hearing and the bone-anchored hearing device. 

Reach out to us today to schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment with Australia’s only accredited hearing healthcare provider and start your journey to better hearing health. We can’t wait to support you along the way. 

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