Dr. Jack Wazen, MD, FACS takes some time to answer the frequently asked questions surrounding the Baha System, an implantable hearing device designed to help those with mixed or conductive hearing loss, or single-sided deafness. He answers questions regarding who can obtain it, the procedure for getting one, and the successfulness of the device.
Question: I have single-sided deafness and was wondering, what is a Baha device?
Answer: A Baha device is a bone-anchored hearing device that is placed behind the ear that transmits the sound, through the bone of the skull, to reach into the inner ear on one side or the other. So with single-sided deafness the way this works is that sound comes into the deaf side, the implant transfers the sound into the skull base, crosses over to the good side, so that the good side is helping the bad ear hear sound coming from the deaf side.
Q: What is the difference between a Baha and a cochlear implant?
A: Well they're very different. A Baha system depends on the opposite ear to transfer the sound to the opposite side, or transfer the sound to the same ear if there is a conductive block that interferes with sound reaching that ear. So the cochlear implant is for nerve loss that is necessary in both ears. The Baha is depending on one normal ear in normal inner ear function.
Q: Is the Baha fully implantable? Will anything show?
A: Yes, the processor shows. It does not really show, because it's covered within the hairline, so it's camouflaged with hair. But it is behind the ear, covered with hair. But it is external.
Q: How long is the surgery, and would I have to stay overnight in the hospital?
A: The Baha surgery is very quick. It takes us about 10 to 15 minutes to do this, local anesthesia. There's no hospital stay. Patient gets it done and goes home. About three weeks later they come back to get the processor programmed and attached.
Q: Is it painful?
A: No, there's no pain.
Q: Is this procedure covered by my insurance?
A: Baha procedures are covered by most insurers.
Q: How long has this technology been available, and how many of these have you done?
A: The Baha technology was first described in 1977. It reached the United States in the late '80s. We've been doing that since I've been doing Baha surgery for more than 30 years. I've done thousands of Baha cases. We're very familiar with it, and we have contributed to a lot of the research and development into the Baha field.
Q: Is it successful?
A: It's very successful.
Q: And how long will it last? Will I have to have surgery again?
A: Usually not. Once the implant is in, it tends to stay in for your lifetime. There is about maybe less than 5% risk that the implant could come off. And if it does, then we'll have to replace it.