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First procedure to implant hearing aid that transmits sound through bone performed at RMH

In early May, Harrisonburg otolaryngologist Dr. Michele Streeter performed the first surgery at RMH to implant a device that improves hearing by transmitting sound through the bone of the ear.

The Baha® implantable hearing device corrects hearing for patients who have deafness in one ear or who have trouble tolerating traditional hearing aids, said Dr. Streeter. She is on the staff of Meadowcrest ENT & Facial Cosmetic Center in Harrisonburg.

The Baha implant requires an outpatient surgery performed under local or general anesthesia in the operating room, Dr. Streeter explained. During the procedure, the doctor implants a tiny titanium screw into the bone behind the patient’s ear. The patient goes home with a dressing over the implant. After the bone integrates into the implant, which takes three to six months, a “processor”—a small device that looks like a regular hearing aid—is attached to the end of the implant that projects through the skin. The patient operates the hearing device by attaching the processor to the implant. The processor and implant vibrate the bone, and that vibration is turned into sound in the inner ear.

“In normal hearing, sound is transmitted through three small bones of the middle ear, and this device bypasses the middle ear,” Dr. Streeter explained.

The Baha implantable hearing device may be used on children over age 5 as well as adults, Dr. Streeter said. However, she added, the procedure is not for patients with total hearing loss, a condition that requires a cochlear (inner ear) implant. All prospective Baha implant patients undergo screening and must meet certain criteria.

“It’s an easy procedure from a surgical standpoint,” Dr. Streeter said. “The device works very nicely and patients love it.”

Dr. Streeter had performed about a dozen bone-anchored hearing device implants prior to joining the RMH Medical Staff in 2010.