Cochlear celebrates the 40th anniversary of the world's first bone conduction hearing implant

07 June 2017

In 1977, Gothenburg resident Mona Andersson became the first person to experience the benefits of a bone conduction hearing implant (commercially known as a Cochlear™ Baha® System), which was set to give her access to the hearing she had been missing for thirty years. Today, more than 150,000 people worldwide have gained access to better hearing through a bone conduction implant system.

Hearing loss is a major public health issue. More than 360 million people live with disabling hearing loss and this figure is set to increase significantly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there will be 1.2 billion people living with disabling hearing loss in 2050. The WHO also warns that unaddressed hearing loss costs the global economy a staggering 750 billion international dollars annually1, 2.

Mona's life took a radical turn after the surgery

Already in early childhood, Mona suffered from chronic infections in both ears, a complication of her scarlet fever. Mona’s natural capacity to hear decreased dramatically and it was not long before she had serious problems with her hearing. At the age of 15, Mona received her first hearing aid, which improved her hearing slightly, at the cost of constant headaches and a feeling of embarrassment. When she started working at a plastic factory, Mona soon realised that exposure to warm temperatures affected her hearing even more severely.

She reached a turning point in 1965 when she became a mother.

"It was difficult to communicate with my daughter in the first years of her life. I felt I had nothing to lose when I accepted Dr. Tjellström's proposal to receive a bone conduction implant", says Mona.

Dr. Anders Tjellström pioneered the first bone conduction hearing implant in the 1970's, after he joined Professor Brånemark's research team to evaluate the clinical stability of osseointegration.

Osseointegration is a biological process that was serendipitously discovered by Swedish Professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark in the 1950's4 and its applications today spread across the fields of dental implants, bone conduction hearing, reconstructive surgery, and limb and craniofacial prosthetics.

On June 7, 1977, Mona underwent the world's first bone conduction hearing implant surgery at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. The implant was designed to help people affected by conductive hearing loss, just like Mona. She was not only struggling with hearing impairment3, but also with the limitations of conventional hearing aids.

After the surgery, Mona's life took a radical turn.

"For the first time since childhood I could hear birds singing", she told Dr. Tjellström when she received her implant.

Sounds like the buzz of a fly or ice cubes clinking in a glass, suddenly became new experiences for Mona.

Today, Mona celebrates not only functional hearing, but hearing that goes beyond what most "normal hearing" people can experience. The latest technology developed by Cochlear in Gothenburg, the Baha 5 generation of sound processors, allows Mona and other users of the Baha System to stream sound from mobile devices such as an iPhone and iPad directly to their ears, making it easier to talk on the phone and enjoy music and movies.

Baha Recipient Mona Andersson and Dr Ander Tjellström
(Photo: Dr Anders Tjellström and Mona Andersson, 2017)

"Bone conduction technology has come a long way. Today, Mona is using a sound processor that has the capacity to adapt to different noise environments, something we had never imagined possible all those years ago", explains Dr Tjellström.

Bone conduction hearing implants are used worldwide by more than 150,000 people and are considered an effective solution for people with conductive hearing loss, mixed hearing loss, and single-sided deafness.

Facts

  • The bone conduction system consists of a titanium implant, an abutment or a magnetic attachment, and a sound processor. The sound processor detects sound and transforms it into vibrations; the abutment/magnet receives the amplified vibrations and transfers them to the titanium implant; the implant transfers sound vibrations to the cochlea.
  • Bone conduction sound processors, like the Baha 5 Sound Processor, can also be used on a Baha Softband. This non-surgical configuration allows people to experience the benefit before deciding to get an implant and also provides amplification for children who are too young to undergo surgery.
  • Implantation must wait until the child has developed sufficient bone thickness and bone quality. How long this takes can vary from child to child but, according to studies, the child should be more than two years old. In the United States and Canada, the placement of a bone-conduction implant is indicated in children over the age of 5.

About Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH)

Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions. The company has a global workforce of 3,000 people and invests more than AUD$100 million a year in research and development. Products include hearing systems for cochlear, bone conduction and acoustic implants. Over 450,000 people of all ages, across more than 100 countries, now hear because of Cochlear.

Cochlear Bone Anchored Solutions AB is a division of Cochlear Ltd and the world leader in bone conduction hearing solutions. Situated in Mölnlycke, outside Gothenburg, Sweden, the head office employs approximately 220 people to develop, manufacture and support Baha and Vistafix® products.

Media contact
To arrange a media interview with a Cochlear spokesperson or for any further information, please contact:
Claudia Pricop
Communications Manager
Mobile: +46766498552
Email: cpricop@cochlear.com

Footnotes

 

  1. World Health Organization. Action For Hearing Loss: Make a Sound Investment (brochure). March 2017. Available at http://www.who.int/pbd/deafness/world-hearing-day/2017/en/
  2. World Health Organization. WHO estimates 2016 (cost in international dollars). Available at
  3. Living with Hearing Impairment (brochure, available in Swedish). Available at https://hrf.se/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/slutversion_hnedsatt_Maj-2016_LOW.pdf 
  4. History of Osseointegration. Available at https://www.eao.org/history-of-osseointegration
For enquiries or to direct questions or requests for information to the Company Secretary, CEO & President or Chairman, please contact:
Jennifer Stevenson

Head of Corporate Communications
jstevenson@cochlear.com
Tel: +61 2 9611 6959