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Otolaryngology (ENT)/Head and Neck Surgery
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- When to Make an Appointment
Hearing Loss & Reconstruction
A child may be diagnosed with hearing loss if they can’t hear sounds below a certain level of volume. Hearing loss can occur in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). Approximately one to six of every 1,000 newborns are born with hearing loss every year. By the time they are between the ages of six and 19, about 15 percent of children have hearing loss in at least one ear. Appropriate management of hearing loss is instrumental in helping kids succeed in their development. Hearing loss can affect a child in the following ways:
- Typically, children find it more difficult to learn vocabulary, grammar, word order and other aspects of verbal communication.
- Some children with hearing loss experience delays in speech development, as they often cannot hear quiet speech sounds, such as “s,” “f” and “t.”
- Children with hearing loss may also have difficulty hearing their own voices and may not realize they are speaking loudly or mumbling as the sound of their own speech isn’t clear to them.
- Hearing loss can also affect a child’s ability to develop social and emotional skills. Many children with untreated hearing loss will report feeling isolated or unhappy in school.
Appropriate management of hearing loss is instrumental in helping kids succeed in their development. Children who utilize amplification devices, which include hearing aids, the Baha system and cochlear implants, show accelerated growth patterns and better early language outcomes.
The Baha system
The Baha is a surgically implantable system for treatment of hearing loss. It works by enhancing natural bone transmission as a pathway for sound to travel to the inner ear — bypassing the external auditory canal and middle ear. The titanium implant is placed during a short outpatient surgical procedure.
How the Baha system works
There are three primary parts to a Baha system:
- The external sound processor, which is responsible for picking up and collecting the sounds around you.
- An abutment or a magnet, which connects the processor to the titanium implant and converts sound into vibrations that are transferred through the abutment or magnet.
- The titanium implant, which is inserted into the bone and, over several months, naturally integrates with the mastoid portion of the temporal bone behind the ear. This implant transfers the vibrations through the skull to the inner ear and functioning cochlea.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that partially restores hearing. It can be an option for people who have severe hearing loss from inner-ear damage who are no longer helped by using hearing aids.
Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged portions of the ear to deliver sound signals to the hearing (auditory) nerve.
Cochlear implants use a sound processor that fits behind the ear. The processor captures sound signals and sends them to a receiver implanted under the skin behind the ear. The receiver sends the signals to electrodes implanted in the snail-shaped inner ear (cochlea).
The signals stimulate the auditory nerve, which then directs them to the brain. The brain interprets those signals as sounds, though these sounds won't be just like normal hearing.
It takes time and training to learn to interpret the signals received from a cochlear implant. Within a year of use, most people with cochlear implants make considerable gains in understanding speech.