There is a surprising lack of non-clinical information out there regarding the BAHA Attract (magnet). Maybe because it’s relatively new technology? Or maybe it’s because Attract people are just so excited to be living their life in stereo and maintenance-free that they forgot to report back. Who knows. But for me, the pressure to make a decision is on! Only one week until surgery and I still can’t confidently choose one. After hours of research and countless questions for my ENT, I have a list of pros and cons** I’d like to share.
Placement: Because the Attract (magnet) must be placed on the most flat area behind the ear (for the surface area of the magnet to connect), there is considerably less flexibility regarding where it’s placed. And placement is important! If you wear hats/baseball caps, sunglasses, bicycle helmets, cold-weather stuff, etc. then having control over where the processor connects to your head is important. 1 Point for Connect (abutment)
Maintenance: Obviously, the Connect (abutment) requires a significant amount of cleaning and maintenance relative to the Attract. It’s a post that sticks out of your head! Some people report recurring infection, skin irritation at the post site (off and on for years!) and discomfort or pain if the post is bumped (especially in the first 6 months to a year). Also, there’s a concern that the skin will grow over the abutment (in which case you would need to get a longer abutment — side note, a longer abutment means the whole thing sticks out from your head further/potentially more noticeable, if that matters to you). The attract (magnet) simply sits below the skin and – once it’s healed – doesn’t require upkeep or cleaning. 1 Point for Attract
Post surgery and recovery time: The time between surgery and activation for the Attract (magnet) is approximately 5-6 weeks whereas the Connect (abutment) could require 3 months, or more! And the healing process for the Attract is easier, since it’s just an incision. 1 Point for Attract
Interference: In the event that you ever need a MRI (hopefully you don’t!), the magnet aspect of the Attract will be a problem. In contrast, the Connect (just a titanium post) won’t be an issue. (To be fair, I have read that getting the magnet removed is a fairly easy procedure — local anesthesia, can be done in the doctor’s office — but it’s something important to note.) 1 Point for Connect
Size: Without the processor, the Attract (magnet) is incognito! The Connect (abutment) system requires a post that will always protrude from the skin. 1 Point for Attract
Visibility (the vanity part): If you’re like me, the ability to hide the fact that I’m wearing a hearing aid matters! When I meet someone for the first time, I want that person to see my smile first, not my hearing aid. However, designating a clear winner in this category is a little harder. On the one hand, I’ve been told that Attract (magnet) sticks out from the head further because there’s a processor + the size of the external magnet (about the size of a quarter in diameter and maybe a little less than twice the thickness, approx 4 mm-ish). For the connect (abutment), the size of the abutment isn’t necessarily the same for everyone. We can’t know if you or I will be one of the unlucky people who has to get a longer abutment due to skin growing over the post (or simply because you have thicker skin). And it also depends on hair style, which could change over time – obviously having short hair will make it harder to hide the processor. No points. (Also important to note, I was told the size of the magnet is only slightly bigger than the standard abutment – like a millimeter or two. So it’s arguably not even worth taking into consideration.)
Sound quality: Because the attract transmits sound through the external magnet, then skin and hair, then the internal magnet, there are more layers/potential barriers for sound to travel. The connect on the other hand “connects” directly to the bone. However, for me this doesn’t matter so much. I still have some hearing in both ears (I’m hearing impaired, not deaf), so the degree of hearing difference between the attract and the connect for me would be minimal enough that I probably wouldn’t notice. No points
Judging by this pro/con list, it looks like I’d be better off with the Attract. (Did I just make a decision?! Huzzah!) But this is a very personal journey! Your pro/con list could be completely different depending on your priorities, extracurricular activities, degree of hearing loss, etc. And it’s important to note the downsides of any hearing aid – constant battery replacement, the feedback (usually when it gets too close to something like a pillow when in bed), potentially losing it if it falls off (although there’s a safety line or more fashionable alternatives to this problem). There are a lot of things to consider when making this decision — I only hope that my list can help in some way.
What did I miss? Please leave a comment if there are additional factors that should be included in a pro/con list about the BAHA Attract vs. Connect.
** Disclaimer!! I’m just a girl with access to google – not a doctor or professional in the hearing-aid business. If you have questions about how the attract and the connect differ, ask your ENT or surf on over to the cochlear website to request more information.