How hearing loss impacts brain function


We already know that there is a correlation between hearing loss and decreased brain function. But how does this work exactly?

A study from 2015 focused on neuroplasticity – how the brain reorganizes itself by forming new neuron connections throughout life – and found that in the case of hearing loss, the part of the brain devoted to hearing can actually become reorganized, i.e. reassigned to other functions.

By using EEG recordings the researchers found that when hearing loss occurs areas of the brain devoted to other senses, such as vision or touch, will actually take over the areas of the brain which normally process hearing. It’s a phenomenon called cross-modal cortical reorganization, which is reflective of the brain’s tendency to compensate for the loss of other senses. Essentially, the brain adapts to a loss by rewiring itself. It is a makeover of sorts, but one that can have a serious effect on cognition.

In people with hearing loss, this compensatory system greatly reduces the brain’s ability to process sound, which in turn affects a person’s ability to understand speech. And even with mild hearing loss, the hearing areas of the brain become weaker. What happens next is that the areas of the brain that are necessary for higher level thinking, compensate for the weaker areas. They step in and essentially take over for hearing, leaving them unavailable to do their primary job.

“The hearing areas of the brain shrink in age-related hearing loss,” said Anu Sharma, PhD, a researcher on the University of Colorado study. “Centers of the brain that are typically used for higher-level decision-making are then activated in just hearing sounds. These compensatory changes increase the overall load on the brains of aging adults. Compensatory brain reorganization secondary to hearing loss may also be a factor in explaining recent reports in the literature that show age-related hearing loss is significantly correlated with dementia.”

Even in the early stages of hearing loss, the brain begins to reorganize. Knowing this, the solution could be as simple as early hearing loss screening programs for adults.

Read the whole article at Healthy Hearing 

How losing your hearing is different than losing your vision


While hearing loss is still surrounded by a bit of a stigma, this is not the case with losing your vision. Who doesn’t use glasses in this day and age, right?

And though hearing and vision are both senses, that’s where the similarity ends. Losing your hearing is much different than losing your vision. Vision loss can often be corrected to a normal level with eyeglasses while hearing devices cannot restore hearing to normal.

Eyesight can be corrected back to normal vision with the correct prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses or corrective eye surgery. But even though hearing device technology has improved substantially in the last 10 years, hearing aids can never repair the damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. The hair cells do not regenerate, so when they die or are damaged, the brain has a harder time interpreting the signals they send.

Also, the average person unfortunately waits 7-10 years to get their first hearing aids, reducing the stimulation of sound of the brain during this time. When the hearing aids are finally fitted, the first time user often needs to retrain the brain to get used to sound stimulation again. In general, people tend to get their eyesight checked more often than their hearing, even though hearing loss can have a great impact on the mental health.

Read the full article at Healthy Hearing

I am deaf in one ear, can the Baha System help me?

QuestionI am 59 years old and been deaf in my left ear all my life (the nerve is dead say the experts). Could this new device do anything for me? // Terry

Answer: Dear Terry,

The Baha System is a good solution for single sided deafness (SSD), in fact it’s one of the most common reasons to get a Baha System. Using bone conduction the system will send the sound as vibrations through the skull and transfer them from the poor side to the good hearing side, to give 360 degree sound awareness. The fact that your nerve is dead does not matter.

As long as you have normal hearing in your good ear, a Baha System should provide benefit. Another good thing is that you can test the Baha System and the benefit you get before you go ahead with the surgery!

Always consult a hearing healthcare specialist who can recommend what hearing solution is best for you.

~ Fredrik Breitholtz, Head of Training and Clinical Communication, Cochlear Bone Anchored Solutions



Read more: How bone conduction works

Has your child heard 30 million words by their fourth birthday?

Dana Suskind is a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago, whose speciality is cochlear implants that allow people who are born deaf to hear. She is also founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, also based at the University of Chicago. TMW researches programs that maximize the critical language development period of birth to 3 years old while helping to draw public attention to this critical phase of brain development.

Suskind discovered that children who appeared similar in every other respect would differ dramatically in how quickly they learned language after their hearing was restored. She discovered that the difference fell largely along socio-economic lines, and that the key difference was how much language the child was hearing at home.

Read the entire article here!


Early treatment of hearing loss helps children’s development

Treating babies with hearing loss has a positive effect on their future learning.

Various studies show that children who suffer from mild and moderate hearing loss are not given enough support in school, which has negative effects on their academic achievements. An Australian long-term study found evidence that early treatment of hearing loss, as young as six months, benefits children’s development. The study followed 450 Australian children with hearing loss. From birth and through school, the children’s long-term speech, language, psycho-social and educational outcomes have been measured and compared.

Lead researcher of the study, Dr. Teresa Ching, stresses the importance of early intervention:

“Our assessment of the children at 5 years clearly shows that the earlier the intervention the better the outcome for the child’s development. Early detection and early treatment is vital before development delays set in.”

If your child has a conductive hearing loss or is deaf in one ear, a Baha Softband can help. It’s designed specifically for infants and toddlers and is an ideal first step for children not yet ready for an implant. It is also a practical way to evaluate if your child can benefit from a bone conduction hearing solution.

Lucy, Baha Softband user, USA

Lucy, Baha Softband user, USA


Read more about different types of hearing loss, how each can affect your child and how they can be treated


Proof lies beneath the surface – the DermaLock Abutment

For more than 30 years, titanium implants have been used in bone conduction hearing implant systems. Titanium is a truly remarkable metal with unique properties that make it ideal for human implantation. Its ability to osseointegrate (bond) with bone is the key to making a Baha System work.

Up until a few years ago, the abutment (part of the implant that sticks through the skin) was also made completely with titanium. While ideal for bonding with bone, titanium does not bond with soft tissue (skin and underlying layers). That’s why it used to be common practice to thin the soft tissue around the abutment. This technique worked well and is still performed today in some cases. However, there are many benefits to preserving the soft tissue around the abutment. These include faster surgery time, aesthetics and leaving in place as much of the body’s natural structures as possible to help prevent infections.

If you DON’T thin the soft tissue around a pure titanium abutment, the skin heals down around it instead of bonding with it. This creates a pocket between the abutment and the skin where debris and bacteria can accumulate. It also blocks the immune system from accessing the area, so it’s not able to fight off potential infections to keep the area healthy.

Scientists knew there were benefits from soft tissue preservation but also knew that titanium alone was not the solution. So that’s the challenge that Cochlear set our research and development team – create an abutment that would bond with the surrounding soft tissue.

In 2013 we released the first abutment specifically designed for soft tissue preservation – the Cochlear Baha DermaLock Abutment (BA400). The abutment is still made of titanium, but features a special surface scientifically known as Hydroxyapatite. This is a substance that is found naturally in your body. It’s what allows your teeth to stick out through your skin and remain healthy and bonded to your gums.

Titanium surface on Baha bone conduction implant

Close up view of a smooth titanium surface. Soft tissue does not bond with titanium the same way it does with bone.

DermaLock surface on Cochlear Baha implant

Close up view of the DermaLock surface, proven to promote integration (bonding) with soft tissue.

What is DermaLock

Baha user Randi with the DermaLock Abutment. No need for hair removal or skin thinning around the area

Before we release new technology there is a lot of work and research that goes into making sure our products will improve the lives of the people who rely on a Baha System to hear and be heard everyday. And after new technology is released there are always numerous, long-term, independent clinical studies that take place to evaluate and verify the benefits. By design these studies often take years to complete. This is of course also true for the DermaLock Abutment.

And now the results are in!

Researchers at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands have presented results that show integration actually happening in real people. They used advanced imaging techniques to study both a DermaLock Abutment and a traditional titanium abutment (used primarily by other companies) and how they react with the surrounding tissue.

They concluded that only the DermaLock Abutment achieved integration with soft tissue. This is a great achievement and proof that Cochlear’s dedication to innovation ensures people with a Baha System have access to the latest technology that helps to make hearing carefree.

“This study shows the importance of not only choosing the right Baha sound processor, but also an abutment technology that is accepted and integrated by the patient’s own tissue,” says Stina Wigren, MSc in Materials Science and biomaterials specialist at Cochlear Bone Anchored Solutions. “Cochlear developed this ground breaking technology and is the only bone conduction company in the world that offers this. Strong research evidence underlies our continual improvement and innovative use of technologies.”

titanium surface on Baha abutment

This sample was taken from around a titanium abutment. The dark blue layers resemble the outer layers of skin, clearly showing that no soft tissue has bonded to the abutment.

dermalock surface on Baha abutment

This sample was taken from around a DermaLock abutment. The soft tissue has not hardened and resembles inner, living layers of skin. This indicates a bond with the DermaLock surface.

Read the whole article here.



Cochlear presented clear patient benefits with the Baha 5 Systems at OSSEO 2015


This past week the 5th International Symposium on Bone Conduction Hearing and Related Technologies (OSSEO) took place in beautiful Lake Louise, Canada.

The conference is held every two years and brings professionals, academics and researchers in the bone conduction field together, to discuss the latest scientific research and technologies.

Cochlear introduced the new Baha 5 Systems, featuring the most advanced technology in the industry. The Baha 5 Systems provide users with a choice between two systems and a sound processor with direct to device streaming connectivity.

The Baha Connect System has been updated with more abutment options and the Baha Attract System features new Sound Processor Magnets with Colour covers to further improve aesthetics and discreetness.

Several well-known clinicians shared their experiences with Cochlear’s new bone conduction systems and the benefits they provide:

Mr. Will Brassington, Head of Audiology at Nottingham University Hospital, UK, and Denise Lees, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, presented results from their clinical experience with the Baha 5 Sound Processor. Users reported high levels of satisfaction with the new small and smart sound processor and its smart connectivity. They rated the Baha 5 highly on both sound quality, speech understanding, feedback performance and listening outdoors.

Dr. Ricardo Cristobal, Texas Ear Clinic in Texas, US, presented his clinical experience with 11 children who have transitioned between the Baha Connect and the Baha Attract Systems.

Dr Myrte Hol from Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, reported on their experience of the Baha Attract System with 21 patients from an ongoing multicentre clinical investigation.

Dr. Pete Weber from UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worchester, Massachusetts, US, presented his outcomes with the Baha Attract System including 48 patients, all showing good hearing outcomes and high levels of patient satisfaction.

Read more here