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Bone Conduction Hearing Aid Without Surgery: How It Works

By WebMD Connect to Care Staff
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on January 27, 2021
A bone conduction hearing aid can improve hearing without implant surgery.

When an obstruction occurs in the outer or middle ear — such as an infection, abnormal growth or tumor, or wax buildup — it can prevent sound from reaching your ear. The result is a hearing issue called conductive hearing loss, and a bone conduction hearing aid device (also called a bone-anchored hearing aid or BAHA) can help. Not to be confused with surgically implanted devices, a bone conduction hearing aid without surgery is a possible form of treatment. 

Who Is Eligible for Bone Conduction Hearing Aids Without Surgery?

When a conventional hearing aid isn’t the best option for you, a bone conduction hearing aid may be considered. Conventional hearing aids are inserted in the ear canal, but a bone conduction hearing aid leaves the canal free.

“Someone who may not have an opening to their outer ear or a well-formed ear canal may find a traditional hearing aid cannot sit in this ear,” Catherine Palmer, PhD, professor and director of audiology and hearing aids at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. tells WebMD Connect to Care. “A hearing aid that avoids the ear canal is a good option.”

Candidates for bone conduction hearing aids include:

  • Hearing loss due to outer and middle ear problems 
  • One-sided hearing loss 
  • Mixed hearing loss (conductive hearing loss or sensorineural hearing loss) 

“For these subtle vibrations to result in hearing, the cochlea needs to have near-normal hearing, or at most a mild hearing loss,” Palmer says. 

How Does It Work?

According to Hearing Link, when sound is unable to pass to the inner ear, the use of bone conduction bypasses the outer and middle ear and reaches the cochlear (inner ear) directly. In this way a bone conduction hearing aid provides sound through vibration, stimulating the cochlear organ.

These devices can be worn in two ways. “The bone conduction hearing aid vibrator can be held onto the bone area behind the ear by a softband,” Palmer says. The softband is similar to a headband and is visible through the hair. The second method attaches the audio processor directly to the skin behind the ear. The hearing aids can be used on just one ear or both. 

Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.