Learning About Bone-Anchored Hearing Systems

Skip Navigation
Parts of the ear, with detail of the middle and inner ear

What is a bone-anchored hearing system?

A bone-anchored hearing system is a device permanently implanted in the skull that helps with hearing loss. The system works by picking up sound vibrations.

The ear is made up of the external ear canal, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The middle ear is separated from the ear canal by the eardrum. The inner ear contains the cochlea, which is the main organ of hearing.

In a typical ear, sound enters the ear canal and strikes the eardrum. The bones of the middle ear vibrate, sending the vibration to the inner ear. There, the cochlea changes sound waves into electrical signals. The brain interprets these signals as sound.

A bone-anchored hearing system can be helpful when there is a problem from the outside of the ear to the cochlea. The system bypasses the middle ear. It sends sound through the skull bone right to the cochlea. The sound is usually very clear.

Some people say they hear better with a bone-anchored hearing system than with a regular hearing aid because nothing is molded into the ear to block sound.

This system may be a choice for people who do not benefit from a standard hearing aid. It may be helpful if:

  • You were born without an ear canal. (This is called congenital atresia.)
  • You have a chronic ear infection, and your hearing aid makes the infection worse.
  • You are allergic to the material used to make standard hearing aids.
  • You have hearing loss on only one side.

How is this system attached?

First, a tiny screw is placed in the skull bone behind the ear. This requires minor surgery. The screw has a metal piece called an abutment connected to it. The hearing device, which is the sound processor, clips onto the metal piece.

All of the pieces sit behind the ear. No part of the system is within the ear itself.

What can you expect when you have a bone-anchored hearing system?

Your doctor will tell you how to care for the site where the hearing aid is implanted.

Once everything is healed, you will learn how to do daily cleaning.

This device is not waterproof. You will need to remove the sound processor before you shower or swim.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.