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Magnetic Hearing Device Avoids Skin Penetration

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 02 Jan 2014
Image: The Baha 4 Attract system (Photo courtesy of Cochlear).
Image: The Baha 4 Attract system (Photo courtesy of Cochlear).
A novel cochlear hearing device creates a pathway for bone conduction hearing, without the need for an abutment that pierces the skin.

The Baha 4 Attract system consists of a titanium implant placed in the mastoid process behind the ear, which allows for transmission of sound vibrations to the inner ear. An advanced sound processor, which uses a front microphone to pick up sounds facing the user and a secondary microphone to filter surrounding noise, sends vibrations to an external magnet, which are transmitted to the internal magnet, which rests under the skin. The internal magnet then relays the vibrations to the titanium implant that is placed in the bone, which in turn transmits the sound waves to the inner ear.

The sound processor uses the Ardium platform, which is three times faster and has eight times more memory than previous generation processors. The added computing power is used to drive sophisticated sound technologies, together with true 2.4 GHz digital wireless connectivity and remote controls. The Baha 4 Attract system is a product of Cochlear (Centennial, CO, USA), and has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The Baha 4 Attract System sets new standards in simplicity, comfort, and hearing performance for magnetic bone conduction implant systems,” said Chris Smith, president of Cochlear. “We are pleased to be bringing this new hearing option to patients who want to enjoy the benefits of the Baha System without a skin penetrating abutment. Cochlear is dedicated to being a leader in bone conduction and this important milestone further emphasizes our commitment to continuing our legacy in innovation.”

In a normal ear, sound vibrations in the air lead to resonant vibrations of the basilar membrane inside the cochlea. The movement of hair cells, located all along the basilar membrane, creates an electrical disturbance that can be picked up by the surrounding nerve cells. The brain is able to interpret the nerve activity to determine which area of the basilar membrane is resonating, and therefore what sound frequency is being heard. The cochlear implant bypasses the hair cells and stimulates the cochlear nerves directly using electrical impulses. This allows the brain to interpret the frequency of sound as it would if the hair cells of the basilar membrane were functioning properly.

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