While a lot of the sound we hear travels to our ears through the air (air conduction), we actually hear a great deal through vibrations in the bone (bone conduction).
When a person with normal hearing hears their own voice, most of what they actually hear comes through bone conduction.
Problems in your outer or middle ear can block or restrict the flow of sound waves, preventing them from getting through effectively to your inner ear. This is where bone anchored hearing aids can help.
It was the discovery that titanium implanted in the skull will integrate itself into the bone in the 1960s that made bone anchored hearing aids possible.
Being able to use what are effectively titanium screws in the temporal bone in your head, allowed the creation of the first bone anchored hearing system in the 1970s and in the 80s bone anchored hearing aids became commercially available.
Technology has continued to improve in terms of sound processing, battery life and size of devices and these days, bone anchored hearing aids are small, highly technical devices that are giving many people back their hearing.
A hearing aid relies on forcing enough sound through any problem areas in your ear, whereas bone conduction implants uses the body’s natural ability to transfer sound.
While a hearing aid tries to push sound through the damaged area, a bone conduction system sends sound directly to your inner ear through the temporal bone in your skull.
There are two types of bone conduction systems, abutment/magnet based systems where the bone conductor transducer and processor are combined, and osseointegrated systems where the bone conductor transducer is implanted into the skull and the processor attaches externally via a magnet.
The combined bone conductor processor systems consist of two parts: the sound processor, and the abutment or magnet. The osseointegration consists of the speech processor, the internal bone conductor transducer and a magnet.
With an abutment, the implant integrates with the bone in your skull over time. It is to this implant that the abutment is attached. The abutment protrudes from the skin by about 3-4 millimetres allowing the sound processor to be attached to the implant.
The sound processor captures sound in your environment and turns those sounds into vibrations. It sends those vibration through the abutment to the implant, which in turn sends the vibrations along the bone to the inner ear.
Unlike cochlear implants, a bone anchored hearing aid does no damage to the inner ear and so can be removed without having any long-term effect on the patient or their existing hearing.
Recently similar technology has made it into consumer products and you may have seen consumer based headphones that use a similar principle without the need for the initial implant.
Because a bone conduction system diverts sound around the outer and middle ears a bone anchored hearing aid is particularly useful for people with blockages or other disorders in those areas of the ear.
People with chronic ear infections usually have a chronically discharging ear which can block the ear canal and make hearing problematic. The use of standard hearing aids can block the ear canal and exacerbate the problem. By using a bone anchored hearing aid, we are able to bypass any constant blockages of the ear.
Where the middle or outer ear has been malformed bone anchored devices provide another solution where traditional hearing aids would provide no benefit.
In some cases some patients may be allergic or sensitive to some of the materials used in their hearing aid mould. Or they may be susceptible to inflammation or eczema. Again, traditional hearing aids are not suitable in these situations and bone conduction devices may be an option.
Where a patient suffers from single sided deafness (complete deafness in one ear with anywhere from normal to profound hearing in the other ear) a bone anchored device may be used as a CROS device. A CROS device essentially picks up sound from the deaf side and transmit it to a hearing device on the good side allowing the user to hear sounds equally as well on both sides of their head.
With a bone anchored hearing aid, the second device is not needed for the CROS function as the sound is transmitted via the bone to the better ear.
If you believe you’re a candidate for a bone anchored hearing aid and want more information, please contact us today.
Apart from the benefits mentioned above where a bone anchored device is a better option, there are other benefits to suing a bone anchored system.
Some people say the sound is clearer than a standard hearing aid as the sound is transmitted as directly as possible through the bone to the inner ear.
It is also touted as being more comfortable. With no device in or on your ear, a very light sound processor is placed behind your ear attached to the abutment from your skull. People say they forget they are wearing them as there is no discomfort around the ear.
Several manufacturers have developed bone anchored hearing loss solutions and Clarity is proud to provide technology from the following manufacturers.
Cochlear are best known for their cochlear implants but they also produce a range of bone anchored hearing aids.
The Baha 5 is Cochlear’s latest bone anchored hearing loss solution and is touted as the smallest in the world as of writing. It is available in a variety of different configurations including models that provide additional power. Features across the range include:
MED-EL not only produce the BONEBRIDGE Samba bone anchored hearing aid but have also pioneered the ADHEAR – a unique stick on bone conduction hearing aid.
The Samba sound processor is paired with the MED-EL bone conduction implant to provide optimal sound transmission via direct stimulation.
The MED-EL ADHEAR system is the very latest in innovation from MED-EL. It provides a bone conduction style solution with no surgical procedure required. The sound processor is clicked on to the ADHEAR adhesive adapter that you literally stick to your head.
ADHEAR is a solution for people with conductive hearing loss. Temporary hearing loss can be treated just as well as chronic hearing loss in an effortless and effective way. The system is suitable for people who do not want or cannot undergo implant surgery.
Best know for their range of advanced hearing aids, the Oticon Medical arm produces a bone anchored hearing aid system called the Ponto.
Oticon Medical’s bone anchored hearing system is called the Ponto system. The Ponto processor is available in a number of different configurations including high power models.
If you would like to consider bone anchored hearing aids, make an appointment with Clarity to discuss your options.
We will outline all options available to you, not just bone anchored hearing aids, so you can make an educated decision.
Contact us today and we’ll arrange it for a time that suits you.
Call today on 1300 252 748 or make an appointment using the button below to discuss how implants can help you.
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