In December 2013, Dr. Hwa Jung Son, Attending, Ear, Nose, and Throat, performed an innovative Bone Anchored Hearing Implant surgical procedure, a first for BronxCare Health System. This procedure is a minimally invasive corrective measure (performed under local anesthesia) which is used in patients having difficulty hearing. According to Dr. Son, “Bone Anchored Hearing Implants offer a better alternative to traditional hearing aids.” The operative process involves a titanium screw being inserted through a small incision behind the ear, directly into the skull. This allows the implant to make a connection to the skull, which results in sound waves being transferred to the inner ear, thereby correcting hearing problems.
After a three month integration period, the implant is activated and uses the direct conduction of sound waves to better simulate the hearing sensation. This technology is known as osseointegration and uses three components for hearing, namely a sound processor, the titanium implant, and direct conduction of sound waves to the skull. Sounds enter the sound processor, which is fitted by an experienced Audiologist, and connected to the titanium implant by an abutment that converts the sound waves into raw vibrations. These vibrations are then conducted through the skull into the cochlea, bypassing the outer and middle ear. The brain receives the vibrations as external sounds. This technology also helps patients with single-sided deafness by allowing them to pick up sound from the deaf side and subsequently transmitting the signal to the good ear.
Bone Anchored Hearing Aids are succeeding in helping patients hear without a traditional hearing aid. “Patients who cannot use traditional hearing aids due to a surgically widened ear canal or continued drainage from chronic ear infections, as well as those that feel insecure or uncomfortable in wearing one, are the clear beneficiaries of this advanced procedure,” stated Dr. Son. Another added benefit is Bluetooth capability. In some models, the Bluetooth feature enables patients to communicate with their loved ones directly through the sound processor, even from separate rooms.
Moving forward, the ENT department looks to perform upwards of 15 bone anchored hearing implant procedures per year. “The beauty of the Bone Anchored Hearing Implant is that the procedure is quick, easy, and can be performed on pediatric as well as geriatric patients, with vast benefits, including higher sound clarity and comfort,” stated Dr. Son.