Joann Harano, AuD, explains BAHA bone anchored hearing aids and when a child is a good candidate for them.
Announcer: It's time for another episode of Pediatric Specialty Care Spotlight, the podcast series presented by Shriners Hospitals for Children Chicago, where hope and healing meet. Here's Melanie Cole.
Melanie Cole: As every parent knows, every child is different and so is a child's hearing loss. If your child suffers from hearing loss, traditional hearing aids may not be the best option. My guest today is Joann Harano. She's an audiologist with Shriner's Hospitals for Children in Chicago. Joann, I'm so glad to have you joining us today. Tell us a little bit about some of the most common reasons for hearing loss that you see.
Joann Harano: Here at Shriners, we see children and most of the children we see have hearing loss called conductive hearing loss, which is due to problems in their outer or middle ear. And one of the most common things we see are children that have an outer ear malformation called microtia, which means that they have an absence or a malformation of the outer ear or if they have an absence of an ear canal, which is called atresia.
Melanie Cole: Tell us a little bit about the system we've heard about called the Baha system. What is it?
Joann Harano: The Baha system stands for bone-anchored hearing system, and it is a medical device that treats hearing loss for individuals who are not able to wear traditional hearing aids because of certain types of hearing loss. And it has three parts to it. And the first one is a titanium implant that is surgically implanted in the bone behind the ear. And this implant will fuse with the bone and there's an abutment, which acts as a connector to the implant and a sound processor, which is worn on the outside of the head. And the sound processor is the external part that picks up the sound and delivers it through the abutment to the implant.
Melanie Cole: Joann, why would traditional hearing aids not be the choice for these patients?
Joann Harano: For some of the patients, they have outer ear malformation. So they do not have an outer ear for the hearing aid to sit on and they do not have an ear canal for the sound to go through.
Melanie Cole: So what are the benefits of the Baha system?
Joann Harano: The benefits of the Baha system is that it goes to direct bone. And so we're bypassing the outer and middle ear, which may be damaged and it goes directly to the bone versus air conduction.
Melanie Cole: Isn't that cool? Who is a candidate? Can this device be used on infants? Who uses it?
Joann Harano: Yes, it can be used for an infant as young as a few months old, but they would be using it on a soft band, which is an elastic flexible band with a connector, and the sound processor would be placed on that. When the child is older at age five, usually age five, they can have a surgical procedure and they could have direct bone contact to hear the sounds.
Melanie Cole: Wow. So what is this procedure like for kids? And can they hear right away?
Joann Harano: The surgery is considered a minor surgery and the surgeon places the implant into the bone behind the ear. And then there's an abutment that acts as a connector between the implant and the sound processor. But there is a waiting period. That skin around the abutment area needs to heal and also the bone needs to fuse with the titanium implant. So for adults, it's about a two- month waiting period. And for children, it's a little bit longer, about three to six months depending on their age.
Melanie Cole: Is it a reversible procedure?
Joann Harano: Yes, it is a reversible procedure. If the person decides that they do not want to have the Baha system, the abutment can be removed, but the titanium implant remains in the person's head, but that would not cause any damage to their hearing.
Melanie Cole: Do you mostly see children that are older at Shriners Hospitals for Children for a procedure such as this?
Joann Harano: We are implanting children of age five and older. And most of our children right now are about eight or older that have received the device.
Melanie Cole: Then tell us some of the comments that you've heard, Joann. What are the family members and the children themselves think of this Baha system?
Joann Harano: A lot of them are very impressed with the Baha. And one of the most important thing is that they feel that they can hear better. They're hearing more sounds. Initially, sounds are louder to them because it's something new. And now, they're hearing out of the other side of the ear, which is their core ear. The most amazing thing is that they can hear people on the side that they couldn't here without turning their head when they're using the Baha system. And also, they're having easier time when there's background noise. They also are more attentive in school because they can hear the teachers better and their classmates. They're hearing a wide range of sounds. And also for safety reasons, when they're riding their bikes or they're walking down the street or crossing the street, they're aware of the sounds around them in their environment.
Melanie Cole: Wow. It is amazing what you're doing, Joann. Wrap it up for us. Tell families what you would like them to know about the Baha system and what you can do for their children with hearing loss at Shriners Hospitals for Children Chicago,
Joann Harano: I would like to let the parents know that this is a proven, safe, effective device that can improve the quality of their child's life by allowing them to hear more sounds in their environment and also doing better in school, because they're more focused. Here at Shriner's, we would love to have families come in and have their child evaluated to see if they would benefit from the Baha system.
Melanie Cole: Thank you so much, Joann. I mean, it really is amazing what you can do for these children. This is Pediatric Specialty Care Spotlight with Shriners Hospitals for Children in Chicago. For more information, please visit shrinerschicago.org. That's shrinerschicago.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for tuning in.
About The Speaker
Joann Harano, AUD
Joann Harano, AUD, is an audiologist with the craniofacial team at Shriners Children's Chicago.
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