Bone conduction hearing implants
Learn about how a bone conduction hearing implant works and who they can help.
What is a bone conduction hearing implant?
A bone conduction hearing implant is a medical device that uses your body’s natural ability to conduct sound through bone. Unlike hearing aids, which simply amplify sound, conduction hearing implants bypass the damaged part of the outer and middle ear to send sound directly to the inner ear.
Who can they benefit?
Bone conduction hearing implants are a good solution if you have a conductive hearing loss, mixed hearing loss or single-sided deafness (SSD). If you are deaf in one ear, direct bone conduction systems send sound via the skull bone from the deaf side to the healthy cochlea on the other side. This transfer of sound delivers 360-degree sound awareness, which may improve your understanding of speech in noisy environments. 1 If you have hearing loss in both ears, getting a bone conduction hearing implant for both sides can also improve your listening in challenging environments and make it easier to identify where sounds are coming from.
What do they look like?
A bone conduction hearing implant has three parts: an external sound processor, a connection (abutment or magnet) and an internal titanium implant. The titanium implant is inserted into the bone behind the ear by the implanting surgeon. The external sound processor (or outer part) is then snapped onto the connection, which links the sound processor to the titanium implant. The bone naturally fuses with the titanium implant, which becomes affixed over time.
What else should I know?
Air conduction vs bone conduction
We hear sound in two different ways - by air conduction and bone conduction. Air conduction hearing is when sound waves travel from the outer ear, through the middle ear to the inner ear. Bone conduction hearing is when sound vibrations travel directly to the inner ear through the skull bone. When the outer or middle ear is damaged or not functioning correctly, sound has trouble reaching the inner ear. While hearing aids try to push sound through the damaged area, bone conduction hearing implants send it directly through the bone, naturally stimulating the inner ear.
Bone conduction hearing implants vs hearing aids
Most hearing specialists agree bone conduction hearing implants are a more effective solution than air conduction devices such as hearing aids for patients with mixed hearing loss, conductive hearing loss or single-sided deafness. 2, 3, 4, 5 Unlike hearing aids, bone conduction implants are also covered by many private and government health insurance policies, as long as you meet certain guidelines or requirements.
Try before you decide
A unique advantage of the bone conduction hearing implant is that you try it out before deciding to get one. Your hearing specialist can fit you with a sound processor (using a headband or test rod) so you can hear how it might sound. You will hear how bone conduction enhances the clarity and quality of sound, even with skin acting as a sound barrier. Most people hear even better once the direct bone conduction system is implanted and they receive a direct connection.
1. Zeitooni M, Sadeghi A, Flynn MC. Benefits of localization and speech perception in patients fitted with bilateral Baha or air conduction hearing aid. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Cochlear Implants and Other Implantable Auditory Technologies; 2010; Stockholm, Sweden.
2. Hol MK, Snik AF, Mylanus EA, Cremers CW. Long-term results of bone-anchored hearing aid recipients who had previously used air-conduction hearing aids. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2005 Apr;131(4):321-5.
3. Snik AF, Mylanus EA, Proops DW, Wolfaardt J, Hodgetts WA, Somers T, Niparko JK, Wazen JJ, Sterkers O, Cremers CW, Tjellström A. Consensus statements on the Baha system: Where do we stand at present? The Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology 2005 Dec;114(12) Suppl 195:1-12.
4. MK, Bosman AJ, Snik AF, Mylanus EA, Cremers CW. Bone-anchored hearing aids in unilateral inner ear deafness: an evaluation of audiometric and client outcome measurements. Otology and Neurology 2005 Sep;26(5):999-100.
5. Lin LM, Bowditch S, Anderson MJ, May B, Cox KM, Niparko K. Amplification in the rehabilitation of unilateral deafness: speech in noise and directional hearing effects with bone-anchored hearing and contralateral routing of signal amplification. Otology and Neurology 2006;27(2):172-82.
- What to expect
During the first few months you will work together with your audiologist to fine tune and learn how to get the most out of your hearing device.
Bone conduction hearing implant - after surgery
After your surgery, it takes a few weeks for the bone to bond with the implant (a process known as osseointegration) and for the skin to heal before the sound processor can be attached. Your surgeon will give you an estimate of how long this will take.
Bone conduction hearing implant - fitting
At your fitting session, your audiologist will provide you with your sound processor. You won’t be able to hear sounds until the sound processor is switched on. While your pre-implant test provides a good idea of how your hearing will improve, most people enjoy even better sound quality and clarity once their direct bone conduction system is fitted. The fitting experience is different for everyone, and your first perception of speech and sounds will depend on the degree of your hearing loss and how long you have been living with it.
During the session, your audiologist will test your hearing and adjust your device as necessary. They will also instruct you on how to best use and care for your device.
Bone conduction hearing implant – follow-ups
It may take you a few weeks to adjust to all the new sounds you experience, and to get used to your Baha sound processor.
After a few months you will have a follow-up visit with your audiologist to make adjustments to your sound processor if needed.
You will continue to visit your audiologist for annual check-ups and for adjustments and reprogramming to meet your changing hearing needs and lifestyle. You may also have the opportunity to upgrade your sound processor as the technology advances.View Cochlear support resources
The information on this website is for educational purposes, and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.