A bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) consists of a permanent titanium fixture, which is surgically implanted into the skull bone behind the ear, and a small detachable sound processor that clips onto the fixture. BAHAs are suitable for people with conductive or mixed hearing loss who cannot benefit fully from conventional hearing aids.
To assess the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of BAHAs for people who are bilaterally deaf.
Nineteen electronic resources, including MEDLINE, EMBASE and The Cochrane Library (inception to November 2009). Additional studies were sought from reference lists and clinical experts.
Inclusion criteria were applied by two reviewers independently. Data extraction and quality assessment were undertaken by one reviewer and checked by a second. Prospective studies of adults or children with bilateral hearing loss were eligible. Comparisons were BAHAs versus conventional hearing aids [air conduction hearing aid (ACHA) or bone conduction hearing aid (BCHA)], unaided hearing and ear surgery; and unilateral versus bilateral BAHAs. Outcomes included hearing measures, validated measures of quality of life (QoL), adverse events and measures of cost-effectiveness. For the review of cost-effectiveness, full economic evaluations were eligible.
Twelve studies were included (seven cohort pre-post studies and five cross-sectional 'audiological comparison' studies). No prospective studies comparing BAHAs with ear surgery were identified. Overall quality was rated as weak for all included studies and meta-analysis was not possible due to differences in outcome measures and patient populations. There appeared to be some audiological benefits of BAHAs compared with BCHAs and improvements in speech understanding in noise compared with ACHAs; however, ACHAs may produce better audiological results for other outcomes. The limited evidence reduces certainty. Hearing is improved with BAHAs compared with unaided hearing. Improvements in QoL with BAHAs were identified by a hearing-specific instrument but not generic QoL measures. Studies comparing unilateral with bilateral BAHAs suggested benefits of bilateral BAHAs in many, but not all, situations. Prospective case series reported between 6.1% and 19.4% loss of implants. Most participants experienced no or minor skin reactions. A decision analytic model was developed. Costs and benefits of unilateral BAHAs were estimated over a 10-year time horizon, applying discount rates of 3.5%. The incremental cost per user receiving BAHA, compared with BCHA, was £ 16,409 for children and £ 13,449 for adults. In an exploratory analysis the incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained was between £ 55,642 and £ 119,367 for children and between £ 46,628 and £ 100,029 for adults for BAHAs compared with BCHA, depending on the assumed QoL gain and proportion of each modelled cohort using their hearing aid for 8 or more hours per day. Deterministic sensitivity analysis suggested that the results were highly sensitive to the assumed proportion of people using BCHA for 8 hours per day, with very high incremental cost-effectiveness ratio values (£ 500,000-1,200,000 per QALY gained) associated with a high proportion of people using BCHA. More acceptable values (£ 15,000-37,000 per QALY gained) were associated with a low proportion of people using BCHA for 8 hours per day (compared with BAHA).
The economic evaluation presented in this report is severely limited by a lack of robust evidence on the outcome of hearing aid provision. This has lead to a more restricted analysis than was originally anticipated (limited to a comparison of BAHA and BCHA). In the absence of useable QoL data, the cost-effectiveness analysis is based on potential utility gains from hearing, that been inferred using a QoL instrument rather than measures reported by hearing aid users themselves. As a result the analysis is regarded as exploratory and the reported results should be interpreted with caution.
Exploratory cost-effectiveness analysis suggests that BAHAs are unlikely to be a cost-effective option where the benefits (in terms of hearing gain and probability of using of alternative aids) are similar for BAHAs and their comparators. The greater the benefit from aided hearing and the greater the difference in the proportion of people using the hearing aid for 8 hours per day, the more likely BAHAs are to be a cost-effective option. The inclusion of other dimensions of QoL may also increase the likelihood of BAHAs being a cost-effective option. A national audit of BAHAs is needed to provide clarity on the many areas of uncertainty surrounding BAHAs. Further research into the non-audiological benefits of BAHAs, including QoL, is required.