Bone Anchored Hearing Aid

I was born with a moderate conductive hearing loss. Sound cannot ‘pass’ through to my cochlea because of my narrow ear canals and malformed little ‘ear bones’. I have a perfectly ‘normal’ inner ear, meaning that I would not need a cochlear implant. However, I would still need hearing aids.

From the age of 2, I had ‘BTEs’ – Behind The Ear hearing aids, the normal ones you’ve probably seen everywhere. But, my ears are malformed (because of my Treacher Collins Syndrome), so these hearing aids didn’t work so well for me. They weren’t a very good fit and were always falling out of my ears, not good when you’re a toddler running around. Extreme measures were taken, in the form of double-sided stickers. They sort of worked, but not quite good enough.

Then along came someone who mentioned ‘Bone Anchored Hearing Aids’ (BAHA) to my parents. A sound processor that transmits sound directly to the inner ear. This is what they were waiting for, and it was the best decision my parents have ever made for me. I had the BAHA fitted when I was 5. They had a lot of courage going ahead with this hearing aid. Back in those days (nearly 20 years ago now) there wasn’t nearly as much information on the benefits/downsides of BAHAs available, nor was there was anyone they could talk to who already had it. Luckily my consultant and audiologists persuaded them enough that this was the right path to take.

In today’s time, I’m supposed to call them ‘Bone Anchored Hearing Aid Systems’, as they are, a system. The conventional system comprises a titanium implant, an external abutment (screw) and the detachable sound processor. I say conventional, because thankfully, technology is advancing and they’re always looking for new ways to conduct sound to the inner ear.

You can find a detailed diagram of how it works here:

It’s a relatively small operation, obviously I was a child, so I had mine done under general anaesthetic. Some adults can have the procedure done under local anaesthetic. People have often asked if I remember the operation, but all I remember is waking up with a huge, ginormous bandage on my head – which consequently made me very grumpy. And then on the way home, I discovered a teddy bear in the car as a little get well present for me, and I still have the teddy bear today 🙂

When I went back to school, I got to show everyone my stitches! I was the cool kid for a few days…

I was fitted with the sound processor around 2 months later, an event which I unfortunately can’t remember. Where were camcorders then eh? Oh least I can hear with ‘clarity’ now. Compared to the BTEs, I find it so much clearer and louder.

I’ve had my ups and downs with the this hearing aid, having a screw sticking out of your head isn’t exactly normal. The area around the abutment gets inflamed every now and then, and infections have been experienced more often than I would have liked. Nothing too serious that some cream won’t sort out.  However, no matter how much pain/soreness I’ve suffered, hearing with the BAHA has always made it worth the while.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great team of surgeons, nurses and audiologists supporting me to this very day. Without them, and my family, I would not be where I am today.


7 thoughts on “Bone Anchored Hearing Aid

  1. Your story sounds very similar to that of my 6 year old. She only has bone instead of an ear canal. She had the 1st part of the procedure done last July,the 2nd part early November and got the final device fitted on 21st Nov. It has helped her greatly already. Her confidence is starting to grow too.

    • Hi Jane, that’s lovely! How are you all getting on with it? I’ll be writing more about growing up with the BAHA, so please do check back 🙂


      • She is doin very well. Please do update us on all your experiences. It is so good to learn about other people. I’m glad you mentioned youq parents. As Emily’s parents it was a very hard decision. But you sayin that your parents made the right choice for you does help. 🙂

  2. My five year old son just lost all of this hearing on his left side, due to an ear infection. His right ear still has perfect hearing. The ENT has recommended pursuing a BAHA for his left side. We’ll get to try a softband version in a few months. I would be very grateful to read what it is like growing up with one. My son is also autistic – very mildly, except his sensory issues can be very extreme. We will need to consider how the device will affect his sensory issues, as well as how the returned volume of hearing, any differences from ‘normal’ hearing, and directional issues might affect him. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Lalita, thank you for your comment, you have a beautiful name! Growing up with the BAHA had its’ ups and downs for me, but I would never opt to turn the clocks back and not have it! Every person is different and it just so happens that I have sensitive skin which makes the maintenance issues of the BAHA more prominent. In terms of the soft band, I’ve never used them myself, but because of yours sons sensory issues, it might take a bit more perseverance before you see any benefits. An advantage of being 5 years old is that you adapt very quickly, so this could work for you both! The BAHA won’t get in the way of your son being a normal 5 year old boy, he can still run around and have fun like he should! Having the BAHA will help him directionality issues as he will be in a better position to hear where sound is coming from. This is unfortunately something I still struggle with. I hope this helps a bit more, please ask any questions you might have and keep us updated on your journey. Thanks 🙂

    • P.S. Forgot to mention the National Deaf Children’s Society have loads of great information children with hearing loss and additional needs, if you look at you can have a look at all their resources and information once you sign up as a member (its free). I’m not sure what country you’re based in, but if you’re outside the UK then you have to sign up as an international member, but you can still view all the information that is available on the website. Happy viewing!

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