Safer, less visible hearing aid now here

Benjamin (centre) with his parents showing the Baha Attract, a new hearing aid that uses a magnet embedded under the skin instead of a screw to hold the sound processor in place.
Benjamin (centre) with his parents showing the Baha Attract, a new hearing aid that uses a magnet embedded under the skin instead of a screw to hold the sound processor in place.PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A safer and less noticeable hearing aid is now available here for those with conductive hearing loss.

This is a condition in which the passage of sound waves from the outer to the inner parts of the ears is impaired.

Current hearing aids for this use an exposed titanium screw to hold a sound processor in place. Now, a magnet embedded under the skin does the job.

The first child to use the new Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid Attract system (Baha Attract) in Singapore is Benjamin Wee, aged 10, according to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

The device is a huge relief for his mother, Ms Jacqueline Ng, 43.

She had been worried that the stigma associated with wearing unwieldy hearing aids would affect Benjamin's social life.

She said: "No one's ever teased him (in primary school) but he will be starting secondary school in a couple of years. We were worried that his new classmates might not be so understanding and kind."

The hidden magnet means that without the sound processor attached, the implanted part of the aid is now invisible.

Dr Barrie Tan, 40, the surgeon who operated on Benjamin in November last year, felt the new system was especially suitable for children as it needed less daily care and so had a lower risk of infection.

The director of the Centre for Hearing and Ear Implants at SGH said: "Even if there is head contact during contact sports, the impact is spread out over a much larger area, lowering the risk of traumatic skull injuries."

A further benefit is its shorter recovery period - just one month instead of the previous three for the implant to integrate with the skull.

Those with single-sided hearing impairment can also use the Baha Attract: The aid vibrates the entire skull, routing the signals on thenon-hearing side to the functioning inner ear on the other.

Each device costs about $10,000, a price comparable with the older version. Subsidies are available, according to SGH.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2016, with the headline 'Safer, less visible hearing aid now here'. Print Edition | Subscribe