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 well..at 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.