Thinking about getting a bone conduction hearing aid or implant? There are a lot of options to choose from and sometimes picking the right one can feel overwhelming.
Just like any other medical decision, the best person to advise you is your hearing professional. And to get you started, here are seven questions to ask your doctor before getting a bone conduction hearing aid.
1. How does a bone conduction hearing aid actually work?
Well that depends on which device you have. There are a few different types, such as active bone conduction implants, bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHAs), or non-surgical devices. However all of them have one basic principle: they transfer sound vibrations to the bones of your skull. These are then picked up by the cochlea and sent to your brain.
But each device transfers vibrations to your bones in a slightly different way, and these small differences can have a big impact on your hearing experience. That’s why it’s important to ask your doctor how each device works before you make a decision.
2. Will I need surgery?
Again, this depends on your device. There are non-surgical devices, which are ideal if you have conductive hearing loss but don’t want (or can’t have) surgery. Some non-surgical bone conduction hearing aids involve wearing a special headband, which presses the device tightly against your head and sends the vibrations through your skin to your bones. Other non-surgical devices, like ADHEAR, do not need painful pressure to help you hear. You simply stick them on behind your ear and they vibrate your bones without you feeling a thing.
But if your hearing loss is more severe, you might need a bone conduction implant. These devices are surgically implanted under the skin, just behind your ear. The surgery is very easy—it usually takes less than an hour and most people are back on their feet the next day. The advantage of active implants like this is that the vibrations are delivered straight to your bone. Because the vibrations don’t have to go through your skin first, they are much more powerful and give you better hearing.
3. Will I have anything sticking out of my head?
This may sound like a strange question, but in the world of bone conduction hearing aids, it’s very possible! Some devices, like a BAHA, involve surgically implanting a screw into your bone. The end of the screw, called an abutment, is left sticking out through your skin. The audio processor snaps onto this abutment, which vibrates the screw and sends sound to your cochlea. This is great for hearing, but not so great for your skin. The permanent wound around the abutment requires daily cleaning, and can get easily infected.
But thankfully, with today’s technology, you don’t need to have anything sticking out of your head. There are plenty of devices available that don’t leave you with an abutment and an open wound. If your doctor has suggested you get a device with an abutment, then be sure to ask about alternative implants that are placed fully under the skin, like BONEBRIDGE. If your clinic doesn’t offer these kinds of implants, then ask why. After all, if a device doesn’t leave you with a permanent wound, your doctor can stop worrying about skincare, and concentrate on helping you hear your best.
4. What will my device sound like?
This is hard to answer, as the same device can sound different to different people. However one advantage of non-surgical devices is that you can try them out and see how they sound, without committing to surgery first. In fact, even if you’re planning on getting an implant, you can ask your doctor if you can try a non-surgical device first. That way, you can get an idea if bone conduction is the right solution for you.
5. Can I go swimming with a bone conduction hearing aid?
Unfortunately, most bone conduction devices are not waterproof, so you can’t wear them while in the pool or at the beach.
However there is one exception: BONEBRIDGE. The implant itself is no problem—because BONEBRIDGE is fully implanted and doesn’t leave anything sticking out of your head, your skin acts as a natural waterproof barrier. And the SAMBA audio processor, which is worn on the outside of your head, can be made waterproof using WaterWear. These reusable covers are great for swimming or splashing around in the sea, and they make BONEBRIDGE the only waterproof bone conduction hearing aid out there.
6. Can I still have MRIs?
Medical devices don’t always work with MRIs. They often contain metal or magnets, which are pulled around by the large magnet in the MRI machine. Thankfully, most bone conduction hearing aids have been designed so that you can have standard MRIs at 1.5 Tesla, without damaging your implant. But if you’re getting an implant, this is still a good thing to check with your doctor beforehand.
7. Will other people be able to see that I’m wearing a bone conduction hearing aid?
Some people like to wear their hearing device loud and proud, others would rather make it invisible. Check with your doctor to find out which options are available with your chosen device. Many devices can be easily hidden away under hair, making them almost invisible to the average person. Others come with various covers and accessories, so you can personalize it to match your style. It’s your device, and you have to wear it every day, so it’s important you feel comfortable wearing it!
Want to find out more about bone conduction hearing solutions?
Take a look at BONEBRIDGE, the only active bone conduction implant.
Read more about ADHEAR, a revolutionary non-surgical bone conduction device.
Subscribe To The MED-EL Blog
Want to make sure you get all the latest articles from the MED-EL Blog? Subscribe now!