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Hearing Devices

Cochlear Implants and BAHA

Using the most up-to-date technologies available, ENT experts at Florida Hospital for Children are able to help children with deafness hear again using implants that can compensate for hearing loss in cases where traditional hearing aids are inadequate.

Arguably one of the most important advances in auditory medicine since the invention of the hearing aid, doctors at the hospital can implant a device within the cochlea that will allow your child to not only hear, but continue to develop critical speech and language skills.

Bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA) technology has changed the way children with congenital malformations of the ear canal and middle ear hear. 

Before doctors recommend implantation, they will work closely with other professionals at the hospital to assess your child’s hearing problem. These specialists may include audiologists, speech pathologists and other experts in learning and development. The goal is to create an accurate diagnosis and an effective, lasting solution.

Who is a candidate for an implant?

For cochlear implants, the FDA has approved the procedure in children as young as 12 months. However, with the proven success of this technology, it is not uncommon to implant children under 12 months.  The best candidates for cochlear implants:

  • Have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears and hearing aids have offered only limited benefits.
  • Have had medical evaluations by an implant surgeon and testing including specialized hearing tests and CT and/or MRI.
  • Are willing and able to be active in rehabilitation following surgery.
  • Have the support of an educational program that emphasizes the further development of auditory skills.

Nearly 30,000 children and adolescents have received cochlear implants. When combined with therapy following surgery, young children can acquire solid speech, language and social skills. Most children receive the implants when they are between one and six years old. The earlier implantation is performed, the greater the chance your child will learn critical speech and language skills.

BAHA surgery can help children who:

  • Have conductive hearing loss due to problems with the outer or middle ear
  • Have mixed hearing loss
  • Experience total deafness in one ear

Candidates for BAHA surgery may have had a chronic infection of the ear canal that leads to hearing loss, have an extremely narrow or absent ear canal due to a congenital ear malformation or infection or loss their hearing because of vestibular schwannoma (a tumor affecting the balance and hearing nerves) surgery.

BAHA implants conduct sound through vibrations routed through the skull and into the inner ear, stimulating the nerve fibers in the inner ear, bypassing any physical roadblocks that may be preventing normal hearing.

The ENT experts at Florida Hospital for Children will review your child’s hearing loss and assess whether or not your child would benefit from cochlear implants or BAHA surgery.

How the surgeries are performed

Cochlear Implant

The cochlear implant is effective for children and adolescents who are either profoundly deaf or are very hard of hearing. The implant consists of a microphone, speech processor, transmitter and receiver/stimulator and an electrode array that sends the impulses from the stimulator to the different regions of the auditory nerve. The implant can’t restore hearing but emulates it instead so the wearer can understand speech.

If your child or adolescent is a candidate for surgery, your cochlear implant surgeon will explain the entire procedure to you, which is a fairly safe operation, though not without potential complications. Under a general anesthetic, the operation takes 1 ½ to 4 hours. Usually, the patient can go home the same day, though a stay of one to two days is not uncommon. After surgery your child will need to undergo therapy to learn or relearn how to hear using the device, which will involve other hospital experts, including audiologists and speech pathologists.

BAHA Surgery

There are three parts of a BAHA system: the sound processor that captures sounds and turns them into vibrations, the connecting abutment that transfers these vibrations to the titanium implant, and the implant itself, which fuses to the bone behind the ear, transmitting the vibrations directly to the cochlea. The BAHA implant uses bone to transmit sound to the nerve fibers in the ear, allowing your child to hear. The procedure is conducted in a single or two-stage surgery under general anesthesia and many patients can leave the hospital the same day.

One of the advantages of the BAHA is that it can be tried out before the surgery. The device is connected to a test band that looks a lot like a headband. This allows surgeons to test the device and gauge its effectiveness before recommending surgery.

Before any surgery is conducted, you will be presented with a comprehensive overview of the procedure, any risks or complications and the expected results so you can make an informed decision.

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