What is a BAHA/BAHS?

(Bone Anchored Hearing Aid/Bone Anchored Hearing System)

* Cochlear Americas has made the following suggestion: try using the following two descriptions for a BAHA when speaking with your ENT, audiologist and/or insurance companies: “bone-anchored auditory device,” “bone anchored hearing system” or “bone-anchored auditory implant.” Try not to use generic names or descriptions such as “hearing aid” as labels like this are what often cause discrepancies with insurance companies when it comes to coverage.

  • Note: The acronym “BAHA” not only has the description of “hearing aid” in it, but it also contains the description of “bone anchored” and for some wearers, the processor is not implanted (bone anchored), and is worn on a soft band head band instead.

  • Note: The above (2) suggested descriptions were suggested directly by Cochlear Americas.

  • Note: Although the acronym “BAHA” is used throughout the industry, only Cochlear has a registered trademark on it. Recently, the acronym “BAHA” has become a branded product for Cochlear as Baha. Other manufacturers may refer to their “BAHA” as a bone anchored sound processor or even a BCHA, which is known as a bone conduction hearing aid, or a BAHS, which is known as a bone anchored hearing system.

  • The BAHA may also be known as or referred to as: Bone Conduction Auditory Processor, Bone Conduction Auditory Device, Bone Conduction Sound Processor, Bone Conduction Processor, Sound Processor, Osseointegrated Hearing Implant, Osseointegrated Hearing Device, Osseointegrated Device (OID), and BAHS (Bone Anchored Hearing System).

Bone Conduction Auditory Processors

Some, individuals may not have an ear canal present that would typically allow for sound to travel to the inner ear. Some individual’s may not have all of the tiny ear bones (incus, stapes and malleolus) in the middle ear functioning completely to where sound can make it to the cochlear in the inner ear. Some individuals may have trouble with sound making it to the cochlea as the tiny hairs inside of the cochlear can no longer change the sound vibrations into electrical signals that the brain can interpret sound into. This is where bone conduction technology can possibly help an individual hear again. The technology behind “bone conduction” allows a hearing device to vibrate or oscillate sound through an individual’s skull allowing the sound to reach the inner ear (cochlea) helping an individual hear. The processor is powerful enough to help the sound make it to the inner ear when otherwise, it can not. The technology behind bone conduction may help individuals who have a bone conductive hearing loss, mixed hearing loss, or sensorineural hearing loss, hear again.

Diagram of the outer, middle, and inner ear (click to enlarge image)

Bone anchored implants were developed in other countries in the 1970s , but not cleared by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until much later. The FDA approved the bone anchored implant for use by adults in 1996. In 1999, the FDA approved it for use by children five years and older. Finally, in 2002, it was approved for use for single sided deafness (also known as unilateral deafness).

Originally, the bone anchored implant was manufactured by Entific, which sold the product as a bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA). Then in 2005, Cochlear bought Entific. Cochlear re-named the product’s name from “BAHA” to Baha, a bone anchored implant. (Yes, BAHA and Baha are the same except the case is different.) This was done to remove the association with hearing aids and emphasize that the Baha is a surgical implant. (The term bone anchored hearing aid is still in common use, however.)

* The above two paragraphs were sited from the article “Hearing Aids – Bone Anchored Implants: Another Way to Hear” By Jamie Berke, About.com Guide (last updated on September 30, 2010)

You may access the rest of this article at the following link: http://deafness.about.com/od/hearingaidbasics/a/bahas.htm

There are many manufactures who market bone conduction hearing devices or auditory processors. Some are: Cochlear, Oticon Medical, MedEl, and Sophono (previously known as Ottomag Gmbh in Germany and now acquired by Medtronic). Below are some images of bone conduction auditory processors:

The Cochlear, Oticon Medical, and Sophono (Medtronic) processors pictured above can be implanted into the skull as well as be worn on a soft band head band. A small screw with an abutment is surgically implanted into the surface of the skull and sticks out slightly for the processor to snap onto for both the Cochlear and the Oticon processors. The Sophono (Medtronic) processor and the Cochlear Baha 4 and Bah 5 Attract magnetic systems have a magnetic plate that is implanted instead of a screw with an abutment. So, nothing protrudes through the skull. A base plate then magnetically couples to the implanted plate keeping the processor on an individual’s head. MedEl offers a couple of implantable bone conduction devices as well known as the SoundBridge (a middle ear implantable hearing device) and the BoneBridge (a magnetically coupled device that also magnetically couple to the implanted plate similar to that of Cochlear’s Attract system and Sophono’s (Medtronic) Alpha I and II).  Below are some images of some of these processors and how they look while being worn as an implantable device:

Below are images of some of these processors and how they look when worn on a soft band head band:

Traveling and Airport Information for BAHAs

When traveling, some of us may wonder if our sound processors will set off the alarms at airports when passing through security.  The implant and abutments of BAHAs are typically made of titanium.  Titanium will not set off the alarm when going through security.  However, there may be other components that the processors are made up of that may set off the alarms when passing through securities, such as the battery for the processors.  Most times, individuals who wear BAHAs have no problem going through security and do not set off the alarms.  If you are concerned that you may be stopped in security and asked to explain what a BAHA is and why you are wearing one, you can visit the following links and print off a helpful security card that will help get you on your way with an explanation of what your hearing device is:
For Cochlear sound processors:  http://www.cochlearcommunity.org/Parri/files/652      Just click on the pdf file and download to print your card.
For Oticon Medical sound processors:    http://www.oticonmedical.com/Medical/YourTreatment/Everyday%20life/Questions%20and%20answers.aspx    Just select which language you would like and then print your card.

Janurary 17, 2012 – Washington – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced the launch of TSA Cares December 22, 2011, a new helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions, prior to getting to the airport. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint.  Here is also a helpful link with commentary straight from the TSA offering some helpful suggestions for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing and what they can do to help make their travel easier when wearing hearing devices:  http://www.hearingaids.com/life-with-hearing-aids/the-hearing-aid-experience/traveling-with-hearing-aids/

* Please note: a bone conduction sound processor or a BAHA is not the same as a Cochlear implant. If a child or an adult can still hear with one ear, he/she is not a candidate for a cochlear implant. Also, if a child or adult has trouble hearing with both ears, but can still hear mildly, they are not a candidate for a cochlear implant. An individual must have a profound hearing loss in both ears to be a candidate for a Cochlear implant. A Cochlear implant is an electronic device that provides sound to individuals who typically have a severe-to-profound hearing loss (71-90dB Severe Hearing Loss, and >91dB is considered profound hearing loss). A cochlear implant functions by bypassing damaged structures of the inner ear directly stimulating the auditory nerve. If the cochlea is not functioning properly and the auditory nerve is not being stimulated, then it is possible that a cochlear implant can help. In most cases of atresia (absence of an ear canal), the auditory nerve does not experience problems being stimulated and the individual’s cochlea often functions just fine. It is just the problem of transferring sound to the inner ear when there is no pathway (ear canal) to do so. Through bone conduction, sound is vibrated through the skull and bony surfaces helping sound make its way to the inner ear through vibration. For some forms of sensorineural hearing loss, it is the tiny hair cells that are located within the cochlea that often have trouble relaying sound, again, not the auditory nerve. Therefore, the simple vibration or oscillation of sound through a bone anchored auditory device can help an individual hear who has what is commonly known as a “conductive” hearing loss. Some individuals may have mixed hearing loss where a bone anchored auditory processor can be worn on one ear and a traditional hearing aid is worn on the other (depending on the type of and grade of hearing losses being experienced).

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