Monthly Archives: July 2013

Robb Boss: Let Go to Overcome

Written by Robb Boss

“Cholesteatoma” – just hearing the condition name without an explanation could make any adult scared for the future. Then, finding out it causes hearing loss adds a whole new layer of fear. But, I was 14 years old. And, even though Cholesteatoma did cause my hearing to deteriorate, I adapted.

At the young age of 14, I learned to stay on a certain side of people so I could hear with my good ear and that just became the norm with me – a natural way that I coped.

Over the past ten years, my hearing in my right ear drastically decreased. It began to affect my personal and professional life. I’m the father of six kids, five of them girls with gentle, soft voices. Conversations and all types of communication were becoming very difficult and exhausting. Not to mention, we all know how important it is for young ladies to be “heard.”

All relationships are built on clear communication. More and more, I didn’t always hear what was being said. I would assume things and fill in the gaps to compensate for what I didn’t actually hear. It got to the point where there was a lot of miscommunication on my part. I would think I heard the whole story and I didn’t.

I discussed my issues with my Otolaryngologist in 2008 and he encouraged me to think about a bone anchored solution. There was something about the permanent nature of that option that made me hesitate. I wasn’t concerned about the surgery, which I knew would be minor. I suppose it was about accepting the fact that I was no longer able to adapt or overcome my hearing loss as I had in the past. Only a handful people knew about my hearing issues. It was very humbling to realize that I might need help that would be so permanent and so visible. I still wasn’t ready to take that step.

Instead, my doctor tried to manipulate the bones in my ear to see if that would improve my situation. It didn’t, and I became increasingly frustrated and exhausted trying to hear people. It was especially difficult communicating with my oldest daughter. She has a tone of voice that I couldn’t hear at all. After asking her for the third time to repeat, she would say, “Never mind.” I realized it was frustrating for me, but even more so for my wife and kids.

My Turning Point

My turning point came while attending a sales conference. My wife and children had come along and were outside at the pool. I went out during one of the breaks and my wife was chatting with a woman who I didn’t know. I walked up and joined the conversation. The woman was actually someone who was with my company but in another division. I thought the conversation was going well. At one point, I couldn’t hear exactly what she said and guessed that she was asking me about my job.

After we had talked for a few minutes, she looked at me and said, half humorously but with a clear message, “Are you in sales? If so, you need to take listening 101.” I was surprised and a little shaken. I had never told anyone at work about my hearing loss. Only my family and close friends knew. I had always managed to overcome and adapt. After that conversation, I began to reconsider the possibility that I might benefit from a bone anchored hearing solution.

My doctor had used bone anchored hearing solutions for his patients for years and was very confident that they could make a positive difference for me. His office was actually converting to the new Ponto System at the time. I considered acting on his recommendations. He had many positive things to say about the Ponto System as “the next generation” of bone anchored solutions. I realized I was a patient that could choose to go with the newest technology.

I did some research online and I liked what I saw. I talked to my audiologist, who was really excited about Ponto Pro’s new technology and Oticon Medical’s experience with hearing instruments and track record of innovation. It was exciting to be one of the first to experience the new innovation in that practice.

In November of 2009, the surgical procedure went well and the recovery was easy. I was ready to experience all of the good things I had heard about Ponto. I have to say that the fitting was pretty amazing. It is almost hard to describe what it was like being able to hear so much more clearly than with the trial band. I could even hear the background noise that most people probably hear all the time, but I hadn’t been able to before. It was truly an incredible sensation.

It was raining on the day I was fitted with Ponto Pro. When I drove home, I could actually hear the ping of the raindrops on my windshield. It was amazing!

A week later I attended a sales meeting in a large boardroom. The door out to the lobby was right behind me. I could hear what was going on in meeting and what was going on behind me in the hotel lobby. It’s really amazing.

Now, I catch myself sitting in a certain spot so I can hear the whole table and then I remember that I don’t have to anymore. Before I had to position myself carefully, and even then I would be staining to hear, old habits are difficult to break. With the directional microphones in my Ponto, I am hearing even more clearly at meetings and larger, noisy gatherings. It is also easier to hear when I’m driving the car and the kids have the radio going and my wife is speaking to me. Now we can talk easily and the experience is more enjoyable for all of us.

I have gone back to my audiologist to fine tune the sound processor to my individual preferences. I like that you can customized the processor for my individual hearing loss and that, if my hearing changes in the future, my Ponto can be readjusted.

It probably took a couple of weeks to really get used to the uniqueness of hearing all of the different sounds. Now I put my Ponto on in the morning and I don’t pay attention to it all day. I’ve actually gotten into the shower by mistake and then remembered I had it on. Wearing my Ponto has become so natural. It almost becomes part of you – and now I know that’s a good thing.

Do you have a story to share? Let us know by filling out this form, we’d love to give you a platform to share your experience with the world.

Ear Community Hosts Microtia & Atresia Summer Family Picnics

Each summer the Ear Community hosts picnics around the world that help bring Microtia and Atresia families together. The picnics offer a platform for the community to come together and share experiences. Medical professionals– Microtia and Atresia repair surgeons, ENTs, audiologists and therapists– also join to share information on the options for living with hearing loss. Families are even able to test the latest hearing products at the event. 

As a sponsor and active participant in the picnics, we can’t think of a better way to spend a summer day. This summer, picnics took place in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Barcelona and London. The next two picnics will take place in Denver, Colorado on July 27 and in Los Angeles, California on August 10.

Many of the picnics host almost 200 people. This year, our friend Justin Bays hosted the Ohio picnic.

“The picnics are a great way for all Microtia/Atresia families to come together locally and share experiences and learn from one another,” Justin shared. “It was a pleasure hosting and I am looking forward to keeping touch with all who attended.”

Justin Bays

“Our 1st annual Ohio Picnic was held near Columbus, Ohio (Central Ohio) and we had many surrounding states represented at our picnic. It was wonderful that so many came from all around to share in the fun and meet someone else just like them. I felt the picnic was a huge success.”

“Ear Community and myself strive to help promote awareness and education and help make a difference in the world each and every day,” said Melissa Tumblin, Founder of Ear Community. “We work to help many learn more about Microtia and Atresia and to also help people realize that they are not alone through our support and our picnics.”

Have you been to an Ear Community picnic? We would love to hear about it! Tell us about your experience in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Aaron’s Story, Part II: The Journey to Getting a Ponto

Last time we spoke with Aaron Morris he was at the beginning of his journey in getting his Ponto Pro– it was just a few days before his surgery. Now, over a month later, Aaron is counting down the days until he receives his device.

With the surgery out of the way and his doctor’s confirmation that everything is progressing well, he’ll soon get to snap on his Ponto Pro. Here’s how Aaron’s experience has been since the last time we spoke.

Before setting out to get a Ponto, Aaron had been through a few surgeries due to complications and a car accident. So, it’s not surprising that this time around was quick and relatively painless. “The surgery only took about an hour. And, as expected, my previous surgeries were more in-depth. No matter how many times you’ve done something, you’re a little nervous when someone plans on placing an object in your head,” Aaron admitted. “But this, it was simple and I felt back to normal the same day.”

Aaron MorrisWhile the surgery was quick and easy, Aaron did have a bump in the road a couple of weeks after his surgery. Living in Dallas, it was common that sweat would get near and in the wound site. Aaron and his doctor, Brandon Isaacson M.D. at the University-Tx Southwestern (whom Aaron has been working with since 2006), did some trouble-shooting, and they decided it would be best if Aaron wear a sweat band while outside to keep the site as dry as possible.

There have been some other things to get used to as well. While out and about, Aaron has noticed that he’s gotten some strange looks. “People ask what the abutment is– without the device attached it does resemble something that you might see in a movie.” But, those same strange looks have enabled Aaron to share his experience and the technology of bone anchored devices with others who had no idea such devices existed. “It’s crazy, about 7 out of 10 people who ask me about it have never heard of a bone anchored hearing system,” Aaron said. Recently, he had a conversation with a man in the grocery store. The man asked about Aaron’s abutment and mentioned that his hearing aid had never been optimal for overcoming his middle ear issues. “He had an outdated hearing aid. After our talk, he and his wife were going to the doctor to ask about him trying a Ponto. He didn’t even know it was an option.”

Aaron is excited to continue to introduce people to what will soon be his new way of hearing. With the date he’ll receive his device set by his doctor, he’s even making plans for the day that he’ll finally be able to fully hear again. “Honestly, my plan is to go see a movie with the best surround sound in the world. There’s a great new theater in Dallas, and I’ve never experienced sound like that before.”

Our last question for Aaron before he gets his device– is he nervous? “I’m not nervous, but I know I’ll hear strange things that I haven’t before. We live downtown, and my wife always mentions the sounds outside, especially on the weekends… Now, when she says ‘did you hear that’ the answer will finally be ‘yes’.”

Ask Aaron any questions you may have in the comments section below, or on Facebook and Twitter. Aaron will also be sharing his journey through his Twitter and Instagram accounts. We’ll be interviewing Aaron again, for the third installment of the series on his journey, after he receives his Ponto Pro in less than a month!