While traditional hearing aids help many patients to communicate, they don’t work for everybody. Patients with chronic ear infections, abnormalities in the ear canals, single-sided deafness, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss may need to rely on a bone conduction hearing aid instead. These devices work on a different principle than traditional hearing aids, which amplify sounds before transmitting them to the cochlea in the inner ear. Bone conduction hearing aids, by contrast, bypass the auditory canal and middle ear completely, relying on direct bone conduction. A sound processor transmits sound vibrations to a surgically implanted titanium oscillator, utilizing the bones as natural pathways. The inner ear is able to pick up these vibrations, and interprets them as sound.
The BAHA BP-100 is the first programmable bone conduction hearing aid on the market. Advanced digital signal processing translates to automatic adjustment of environmental sounds without any noticeable degradation in hearing performance, a drastic improvement over earlier systems. The list of features is lengthy, and includes:
- Multiple fitting options for flexibility and comfort
- 12 channels
- Automatic multi-band directional microphone
- Advanced noise reduction and feedback manager to reduce background noise and interference
- 3-button interface for selecting different listening programs and adjusting the volume
- Tamper-resistant battery doors
- Water-resistant microphone covers
- IPod and Bluetooth compatibility
- Variety of colors to match virtually any skin tone
For those who feel additional power is beneficial, the BAHA BP-110 was recently introduced. This sound processor provides more amplification in the higher frequency ranges, and is designed for better performance in noisy situations and improved speech understanding. It’s a good choice for patients with single-sided deafness and moderate hearing loss in their better ear.
Those with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss who can’t benefit from traditional or bone-anchored hearing aids may find cochlear implants beneficial. These surgically implanted devices utilize electrical signals that bypass damaged hair cells and directly stimulate the auditory nerve, which the brain interprets as sound. They are made up of an external portion that is positioned behind the ear, and includes a microphone, sound processor, and transmitter; and an internal implant containing a receiver and electrodes. While they can’t cure deafness or restore hearing loss, they do allow patients to perceive sound and, with training and post-implantation therapy, communicate with others.