The world of health saw an innovative new hearing technique a few days ago. The patient to be treated was an aspiring TV and theatre star, Billy Coughlin. The device that was implanted was a bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA) and replaces its older version.
The older version of BAHA had a viable metal screw that was entrenched in the person’s head. The metal transferred the vibrations to the inner ear. In this new version, a metallic disc is planted in the skin behind the ear. So, the receiver is simply stuck to the skin as and when needed. When the receiver is not worn, the head looks perfectly normal. There is no metal poking out of the head and hence, it is cosmetically better too.
Billy had a fully functional right ear, while the left ear had lost its hearing due to an infection of inner ear bones called mastoiditis. So he had the transplant in his left ear.
The BAHA treatment depends on the physical cause of the problem. Mr Trotter explains: ‘BAHAs are suitable for patients who have problems with the outer and middle parts of the ear, usually due to infections or previous surgery. In these people, using a normal hearing aid in the ear canal won’t help because the transmitted sounds won’t reach the inner ear.
It’s important to note these are not cochlear implants, which are for yet another group of patients – those with hearing loss due to problem in the inner ear.’
The implant is a 40-minute procedure that is carried out under a general anesthetic. The disc is placed in a 2 inches deep and about half an inch deep hole drilled behind the ear. The skin is healed in a fortnight and the bone takes about a month to fix with the screw. After this stage, the patient is safe to use the receiver.
About half of the total number of patients suffering from a hearing loss who are recommended a BAHA treatment can benefit from this new device.
Many other patients are now joining Billy in his experiences who doesn’t have to answer the phone from one particular ear. The patients from all over the world are sharing their happy stories at the BAHA blog.