A bone-anchored hearing aid is a medical device used by people with hearing loss. This type of hearing aid conducts sound directly through the bone to the inner ear. People may be candidates for such devices if they cannot wear conventional hearing aids in the ear. A minimally invasive surgery is required to wear a bone-anchored hearing aid, and the patient will need several appointments to fit and adjust it for comfort.
This device includes a titanium screw used to conduct sound from a fixture attached to a fitting at the top of the screw. In the initial implant procedure, the screw will be placed just behind the ear in the patient's hairline. The bone will eventually grow around the screw in a process known as osseointegration, holding it firmly in place and allowing it to support the external attachment. Sound is conducted along the length of the screw to the patient's cochlea, allowing the patient to hear.
Bone-anchored hearing aids can be useful for patients with conductive hearing loss, caused by problems with moving sound signals through the ear canal. People with unilateral hearing loss, where only one ear is involved, can also benefit from wearing a bone-anchored hearing aid. These individuals can experience disorientation and difficulty understanding speech as a result of the partial hearing loss, and may feel more comfortable with a hearing aid. Individuals with unusually shaped ears or recurrent ear infections may not be able to wear a conventional hearing aid and could find a bone-anchored model more workable.
People can remove the external portion of the hearing aid if they do not feel like wearing it. The screw itself cannot be removed once the bone has started to fuse. People who receive a bone-anchored hearing aid and later change their minds about it can simply leave the attachment exposed, allowing their hair to grow freely over it. It should not be noticeable except when it is inspected very closely.
Bone-anchored hearing aids can be implanted in people of all ages, with successful surgeries in very young children possible as long as their skulls are well developed. If a patient is a good candidate for the procedure, a doctor can discuss the risks and benefits and provide information. The most common risk is infection around the implant site caused by poor hygiene or inadequate safety controls during surgery. Patients will be provided with detailed instructions on caring for the bone-anchored hearing aid to reduce the risk of complications.