Steffen upgraded from the Ponto™ 3 SuperPower to the new Ponto 5 SuperPower to treat his single-sided deafness recently. The following are his thoughts, which he kindly gave us permission to share.
I am still very happy with my Ponto SuperPower 5. It continues to remain superior to my old Ponto 3 SP. Notably, the ambient background sound is much more naturally quiet. The Ponto 3 SP had more background noises that made it obvious that I was wearing a hearing device. For the Ponto 5SP, I often have to double-check that it’s even on if it’s quiet in the room or outside. Happily, I’m just confirming that it’s just really quiet in the room or outside vs. a dead battery, etc. On an especially windy day outside, I might switch to “Comfort” mode, but usually it’s not really required.
I’m deaf in my right ear. In a busy, noisy setting, I tend to cock my left ear in the direction of the noise I’m trying to hear but seem to be hearing just fine when walking with someone on my right side. There’s always room for technology improvement in my mind. I’d even be interested in a hearing system that makes me hear better than someone with two good ears!
I really like utilizing my iPhone® with the Ponto 5 SP for work meetings and phone calls. I do not tend to use the accessory (Oticon ConnectClip™), which is designed to do something similar on my Android™ phone. When I’m using the iPhone, I can’t even tell if the sound is external or internal!
Cosmetically, I do like that the Ponto 5 SuperPower processor is smaller than the Ponto 3 SP. Not that big of a deal for me, but in the future, I would be interested in a Ponto that is even smaller and less noticeable out in public. If there is a way to develop one that is flush with my head and does not stick out as much, that would be nice as well. Bottom line is that I’m a very happy customer already but am open to even further improvements.
During the month of July, we have been traveling around to film a series of new user stories with wearers of the Ponto 5 SuperPower. Our subjects have provided us with wonderful insights into their experiences so far, and we are excited to share a preview of their opinions in this blog post.
On choosing to get the Ponto 5 SuperPower
“I’ve heard about many people with Ponto 5 SuperPower devices and wanted to try them. I heard that it was terrific regarding the sound quality, power, and no feedback.” – Camilla G.
“Coming from the 3SP and then to the four, I was always looking for a little more sound from the P4. The P5SP now has all that and then some!” – Jay W.
“Sounded very similar to P5 Mini because of the programming that fits me comfortably and it’s already excellent as the P5 Mini.” – Sarah S.*
“We were very excited to hear OM was coming out with a Ponto 5 SuperPower! (My daughter’s) hearing loss is severe enough that the extra headroom of the SuperPower allows for access to as much sound as possible, and, equally, as little feedback. – Katelyn H.
“I have been using the Ponto 5 Superpower since it became available, and it is so great!” – Anonymous user
First impressions of the Ponto 5 SP
“At my office, I made some hot coffee; I noticed that buzzing noise in my right ear Ponto and realized that it was the steam from my coffee. Maybe my office was very quiet that day or I didn’t know hot coffee had a sound.” – Camilla G.
“A very vibrant and robust sound quality.” – Jay W.
“I like the SuperPower for its longer battery life, especially when streaming wirelessly.” – Sarah S.
“The first thing I noticed when (my daughter) put on the P5SPs was that she was more aware of background noises and high frequency sounds, like birds, bugs, water, the pool filter, and background noise like other people’s conversations going on around her.” – Katelyn H.
“Hearing this naturally makes a really big difference day to day and there is a depth to the sound that I have not experienced with any previous bone conduction device (I have used).” – Anonymous user
Improvements noticed wearing the Ponto 5 SuperPower
“I can communicate in a social situation, such as a restaurant, a meeting, and various appointments. Before, I struggled with understanding what people were saying in social situations. Now I can engage more without listening fatigue.” – Camilla G.
“I can be in the living room watching tv and hear subtle noises from the laundry room which is around three corners and down the hall. That wasn’t possible with my older devices.” – Jay W.
“Wearing my Ponto 5 SuperPower allows me to hear the surrounding environment through OpenSound Navigator™ (full 360-degree soundscape).” – Sarah S.
“At school, (my daughter) is more confident in group settings. She’s better focused in class and isn’t constantly interrupting or distracted, trying to keep track of what’s being said behind her.” – Katelyn S.
“The amazing streaming volume, which to me sounds louder and not distorted, and I would say that this is certainly a step forward compared to any of my previous devices.” – Anonymous user
Five things wearers love about Ponto 5 SuperPower
“Music, music, music… I think I made that clear!” – Camilla G.
“I find that in some situations it actually is almost too loud. I find myself turning it down instead of wishing it had more power, which is awesome.” – Jay W.
“I like that I have the choice to control the volume either through my phone or onboard features.” – Sarah S.
“(My daughter) loves hearing the birds and crickets. She found a baby bird nest the other day by listening to their cries and going to see what it was.” – Katelyn H.
“I now have the power and processing that makes sounds feel incredibly natural. I can tell that there is a calmness and relaxation in my body and mind when I am wearing the Ponto 5 Superpower.” – Anonymous user
Sounds are everywhere and often louds sounds are signs of a good time. But how do we participate in the fun while also protecting our hearing now and for the future?
Beyond Independence Day, July is a month filled with fireworks displays. It is important for us to think about not only the loud booms we hear from fireworks, but noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a broader epidemic.
Variables in noise-induced hearing loss
NIHL can be caused by long-term exposure to loud sounds, or in some cases, short, loud blasts. This type of hearing loss can be transient or persistent. The hearing loss may present itself immediately or it may take many years to show up on a hearing test. And while it often happens to both ears, it could affect just one ear. While NIHL can present itself in many different forms and may be the result of many different types of exposures, it is almost always preventable.
What kinds of sounds can damage our hearing?
Sound is measured in units called decibels. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, sounds softer than 70 dBA are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, sounds that are at or above 85 dBA can.
An intense one-time exposure to a loud sound, such an explosion or a jet engine, can cause a sudden change in hearing. Whereas slow exposure to loud sounds over time, such as a loud work environment, loud music, and loud recreational activities, may also cause hearing loss.
Noises are more likely to cause damage if they are 85 dBA for a few hours, 100 dBA for 14 minutes or longer, or 110 dBA for 2 minutes. This is a startling realization when we consider some examples of sounds that may be louder than we think!
Movie theater: 74-104 dBA
Motorcycles and dirt bikes: 80-110 dBA
Music through headphones at maximum volume, sporting events, and concerts: 94-110 dBA
Sirens: 110-129 dBA
Fireworks show: 140-160 dBA
According to Noisy Planet, if the noise causes you to yell to be able to hear yourself, the noise hurts your ears, or your ears are ringing during or after the noise exposure, chances are it is too loud.
Why do loud sounds cause hearing loss?
You may be aware that there are three parts to the ear: the outer (the part we can see plus the ear canal), the middle (where the three smallest bones in our body are), and the inner (where thousands of tiny hair cells live). Those little hair cells, the stereocilia, are responsible for stimulating the hearing nerve, which then tells our brains what we hear. This video from the National Institutes of Health further explains how the ear works.
When we expose the stereocilia to noise, they eventually die off. When those hair cells die off, there is nothing left to stimulate the nerve anymore. Interestingly, in the case of noise exposure, this often impacts your hearing at 4000 Hz on a hearing test first before you notice a change in the rest of your hearing.
How can we protect our hearing from loud sounds?
First and foremost, turn them down. If you cannot control the volume, remove yourself from the environment. If you must be around the sound, wear hearing protective earplugs or earmuffs. It is also helpful to have regular hearing tests to ensure that you are aware of your hearing health status. Finally, make others aware of how loud sounds are. Sure, we all like a good time, but if you are attending a loud concert, bring extra earplugs for your friends.
We at Oticon Medical encourage you to have a good time celebrating throughout the summer, but please remember to protect your hearing during this year’s fireworks shows, at concerts, and other loud events!
About the author
Alicia Wooten, Au.D. CCC-A is a Senior Auditory Technical Specialist at Oticon Medical. She specializes in implantable hearing devices and has a strong passion for supporting individuals with hearing loss.
We recently spoke to a long-time Ponto™ wearer with single-sided deafness (SSD) who tried out our new Ponto 5 SuperPower. They kindly gave us permission to share their reaction, because they want to encourage others with similar hearing conditions to treat their hearing loss effectively.
Hey there! I have had single-sided deafness for more than 20 years. I’ve struggled to hear voices on my “deaf” side and either had to ask for repetition or ask the person to move to my “good” side. Also, hearing in noisy environments is very difficult and drains me of my energy. It was a big decision to get implanted with a bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) and I inevitably waited longer than I should have to get the surgery. Overall, it was a simple procedure.
I have been wearing Ponto since the second-generation Ponto Plus was available. I have tried other products with mixed results due to poor sound quality and reliability. Next, I transitioned to a Ponto 3 SuperPower, and was really impressed with the improvement in sound quality with a more powerful device.
When Ponto 4 came out, new sound processing and Bluetooth® technologies were available with direct streaming to the device. While Ponto 4 was not a power device, these improvements were enough for me to upgrade and the sound quality from the Oticon OpenSound Navigator™ seemed to make up for the lack of overall power. There were some issues however, as the sound felt slightly flat and the streaming was a little too soft, especially when there was any sort of background noise.
I have been using the Ponto 5 Superpower since it became available, and it is so great! I now have the power and processing that makes sounds feel incredibly natural. I can tell that there is a calmness and relaxation in my body and mind when I am wearing the Ponto 5 Superpower. Hearing this naturally makes a really big difference day to day and there is a depth to the sound that I have not experienced with any previous bone conduction device.
Combine this with the amazing streaming volume, which to me sounds louder and not distorted, and I would say that this is certainly a step forward compared to any of my previous devices. I would encourage anyone wearing a BAHS to try the Ponto 5 Superpower and experience these things for themselves. It was well worth my time and effort to go through this process.
Sarah Sabal is a longtime Oticon Medical hearing advocate and currently a summer intern with Oticon Medical. In this blog, she shares her experiences growing up with hearing loss and how she has benefited from wearing bilateral Ponto devices, particularly when it comes to her education.
Hello everyone! My name is Sarah Sabal, and I am a college student attending Rochester Institute of Technology, double-majoring in Marketing and Chinese Language and Culture (Mandarin) with a minor in International Business. I will be graduating in the spring of 2024.
Having been born deaf due to microtia and atresia and after spending the first seven years of my life in an orphanage in China, I am no stranger to adversity. I learned early on how to overcome challenges and never let my disability define me. Instead, it serves as a reminder that I need to work extra hard turning every challenge into an opportunity to succeed. I am a longtime Oticon Medical Ponto™ user and an advocate who wears a Ponto 5 Mini, which has changed my life. It has helped me to experience the full soundscape, while learning Chinese, and communicate more easily with my co-workers, teachers, and friends, and better advocate for myself and other people with hearing loss.
Motivated despite challenges from an early age
Back in the orphanage in China, I had no family, education, or hope. When a family in the United States chose to adopt me, I knew my life was about to change and that I would have to work extra hard to make up for the lost time.
As an adoptee from China, I always wanted to learn the Chinese language. When I came to America at seven, I was deaf and could speak only a small amount of the Sichuan dialect. My greatest personal challenge has been overcoming my deafness and proving that I can achieve my goals through hard work, determination, and never making excuses.
After I had minimally invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS) and got my first Ponto bone conduction hearing devices, I remember hearing the birds for the very first time. New to hearing and speaking, I worked tirelessly to ensure I was always prepared for class. I focused on becoming proficient in English. Over the years, I also taught myself Mandarin so that I could communicate with the exchange students my family hosted from China. I became regularly active in my high school and served as an advocate for the Deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) community. I also participated in various extracurricular activities. I achieved a 4.2 GPA, was a member of the National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society, played the oboe in my high school band, and ran varsity track and cross-country.
My interest in the Chinese language prompted me to pursue an undergraduate degree at RIT. This distinctive degree program pairs a proficiency in the Chinese language and culture with a technical or professional discipline, such as engineering, business, and health sciences. I take every opportunity both in and outside the classroom to immerse myself in language, culture, and traditions.
I was awarded the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) in 2021 through the Department of State, where I studied Mandarin this past summer at the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the program was taught virtually but allowed me the opportunity to travel to South Korea independently for an immersive experience and to learn about another culture. I was selected as a 2021 Boren Scholar to study Mandarin in Taiwan this upcoming fall 2022 for a semester. I have been accepted into National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) to advance my Chinese proficiency and study Business in Chinese.
Since getting my Ponto 5 Mini, I have had the opportunity to study abroad in a different environment constantly using Chinese, which is a difficult language to learn. It is a very tonal language that involves hearing different pitches and attention to detailed minor sound changes.
Using Ponto 5 Mini in a classroom environment
My college class schedule gives me the flexibility to study, work part-time, socialize, and rest in my free time. My class range in size from 14 to 200 students. Learning in a large setting with many students and one professor can make it challenging to hear because it is often noisy. During lecture sessions, I take advantage of RIT’s services through the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) program, allowing me to have captioning, note-taking, and extended test time. In addition, I use Oticon Medical’s advanced wireless technology, EduMic™, which allows me to hear my professor’s voice directly through my Ponto 5 Mini.
After classes, I usually go to a study room on campus to do my work online. When I have Zoom meetings or video lectures, I use the ConnectClip™ that automatically syncs through Bluetooth® to my laptop. I love using my ConnectClip because it provides a clear, crisp sound that goes directly into my Ponto without an interim accessory and does not have to disturb anyone else in a quiet study room. I am grateful for Oticon Medical and RIT’s services for helping Deaf or hard of hearing students, which have allowed me to reach my full potential and succeed in all my classes.
Social life made easier with Ponto
During my free time, I often get together with my friends, which is the best part of my college life experience. We usually go out for dinner and go on adventures creating quality memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. When I am with my friends, in clubs, or attending any social events, struggling to communicate, or straining to hear what they say in a loud, crowded environment has not been an issue. My Ponto 5 Mini has a built-in setting that automatically reduces or softens background noise to help me listen to the person talking directly to me. The OpenSound Navigator™ feature creates a 360 degrees soundscape, allowing me to hear sounds coming from all around me.
Facing life’s challenges
In life, there will always be challenges trying to knock you down. Although I am doing very well at RIT with my Ponto 5 Mini processors, there have been some personal and technical challenges. A few ignorant people who don’t understand hearing loss have silently judged me for needing an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, talking slowly, or they assume that I might be stupid. To combat these personal challenges, I try not to let them affect me and continue to show everyone who I am and that I’m not afraid that I am different. Often, these ignorant people lack education and understanding that hearing loss does not affect an individual’s other capabilities, or they are just narrow-minded and unwilling to accept differences.
I have also had some technical challenges, such as needing more batteries or a check-up for my Ponto 5 processors to ensure they continue functioning normally. The most fortunate part of RIT is that they have a free, on-campus audiology center where I can make an appointment for any hearing-related issues. I am grateful to my school offers this, as most universities do not.
Becoming a hearing advocate for myself and others
Before coming to RIT, I used to be self-conscious because I didn’t want to stand out from my hearing peers. I used to wear my hair over my devices and not let others see that I was wearing my Ponto processors. That all changed when I realized coming into college, most people were very welcoming and accepting of diversity and part of an inclusive community. At RIT, we have approximately 12,000 students with hearing loss creating a unique, mixed community between hearing and Deaf/HoH students interacting together. I am not afraid to explain to other students what my processor are and how they help me hear. Most of my friends, classmates, professors, and other faculty staff find it very interesting and are amazed to learn how I hear through vibration with my Ponto 5 Mini yet can live the life I want as a college student. I am proud of my identity, where I come from, and how I got to RIT, accomplishing all my endeavors.
I have always overcome any adversity that blocked my path to success. When challenges arise, I self-advocate by communicating with others to help them understand my situation and ask for the help I need instead of struggling. It took me a long time to learn to advocate for myself because, growing up from elementary to early high school, my mother always fought for me to ensure I had the right resources. But now, as a college student, I stand my ground to ensure I don’t get taken advantage of due to my hearing loss. My mother is still my biggest supporter and is proud of me for overcoming my hardships though!
I am now excelling in college with a 3.58 GPA and currently participate in different clubs and sports activities. I was part of the RIT NCAA Division III Women’s varsity cross-country and track; I am a member of Asian Cultural Society and Society for Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE). During my college years, I have taken three part-time on-campus jobs as a Chinese note-taker for Deaf or HoH students, a virtual teacher’s assistant in Chinese cultural research, and a Chinese tutor. I believe everyone has a voice and that their values matter despite their hearing loss or other challenges, and that like me, everyone deserves an equal chance of success.
As the summer months arrive, so does the hot, humid weather. You may want to consider how this can affect the function of your Ponto™ processor.
Your processor is vulnerable to environmental changes like increased humidity in the air or condensation caused by moving between air-conditioned interiors and extreme heat outside. While the Ponto 5 family of processors have an IP rating of 57 when the battery is in the processor, it is still important to consider ways to minimize exposure or combat the effects of moisture.
Warning signs of moisture issues include the following:
Your processor’s sounds are distorted or staticky
Your processor works intermittently or cuts in and out
You see corrosion in the battery compartment or around the battery
You feel that your batteries are not lasting as long as they normally do
Can you help prevent moisture issues?
You can start by developing good processor cleaning and care habits. If the processor comes into contact with sweat, rain, or moisture, wipe it with a clean, dry cloth. The Ponto Care™ app, available for iPhone® and Android™ users, provides helpful information on the proper care and maintenance of your device. For example, avoid storing your processor in the bathroom where it could be affected by humidity from showers or baths.
How can I help reduce moisture that may be in my Ponto?
Drying systems are an easy and effective way to reduce moisture that may accumulate in your processor due to normal usage, rain, or living in areas with high humidity.
There are two main types of systems. The first is considered passive; this uses desiccant, much like the packs that you find in vitamin bottles. These are typically called, “jar dryers” and contain the desiccant beads that can be “recharged” by putting them in the oven or microwave. You simply put the processor in the jar without a battery and close the lid. Jar dryers are great for travel, camping or when you do not want to use electricity.
The second type is an active dehumidifier. This type also has a desiccant pack or puck but adds in a fan to circulate air. These “box dryer” systems can also have a UV-C light that acts as a germicide. Box dryers more aggressively reduce moisture from your Ponto processor. Again, you can put your processor in the dryer without a battery and turn the dryer on. The box dryer will typically run through a cycle that lasts between 6-8 hours. You can feel comfortable using these types of drying systems every night and as your storage case overnight.
Use your bone anchored hearing system all summer long
Wherever your adventures take you this summer, make sure your Ponto processor keeps up with you by following some simple care and maintenance steps. With a little care and common sense, you can continue enjoying the sounds you love regardless of the season.
About the author
Nicole Maxam, AuD CCC-A is part of the Auditory Technical Services team at Oticon Medical. She has been an audiologist for over 17 years and has experience with providing patients with hearing aids and implantable solutions.
Oticon Medical’s Ponto™ 5 family of bone anchored hearing systems (BAHS) includes OpenSound Navigator™, which handles multiple, dynamic speech and noise sources for you to instantly capture and easily follow the listening environment. This groundbreaking technology and ultra-fast processing analyzes sounds, balances surrounding sounds and removes excessive background noise in a split second. But what does that mean for you, the Ponto wearer? Here are three important ways in which OpenSound Navigator helps you focus on what’s important.
1. Keeps you connected to your sound environment
Conventional sound processors aim to improve speech understanding by removing sound, such as by using directionality to just focus on the speakers in front of you. While this may improve speech understanding, it can also leave you feeling cut off. Ponto 5 Mini and SuperPower devices take a different approach. The pioneering OpenSound Navigator technology lets you hear sounds from all around you and stay connected with your sound environment. This makes it easy to follow what’s going on. Ponto 5 uses OpenSound Navigator technology to open up the full soundscape, so you can hear sounds from all directions. New research confirms that this open soundscape gives the brain what it needs to create a better listening experience.
OpenSound Navigator balances surrounding sounds, so the background sounds are available, but not disturbing. In this way, no sounds are eliminated but individual sound sources are rebalanced to support the user in separating sounds, making it easier for you to switch attention when needed.
2. Provides access to all sounds, which is important for your brain
Good hearing helps your brain to stay fit throughout your life—and helps avoid many other health problems. 1,2,3 In short, hearing health contributes to brain health. That is why we continue to develop BrainHearing™ technology for our Ponto devices. Traditional sound processors improve speech intelligibility by removing sound – using technologies, such as directionality and speech prioritization. Moreover, with traditional sound processors, whenever there is a risk of feedback, gain is reduced. New research now shows that the brain needs access to all sounds from the full soundscape to help it make sense of what it hears.4,5
Hear the difference
With the BrainHearing technologies in Ponto 5 processors, such as OpenSound Navigator and OpenSound Optimizer™, users have access to more sound than ever before. This has resulted in outstanding results in improving speech understanding and reducing listening effort.
Better speech understanding
The unique open sound experience of OpenSound Navigator in Ponto 5 gives users access to 360° sound from all around them, which has been shown to improve speech understanding by more than 20%.*6
Less listening effort
The open sound experience also significantly reduces the listening effort needed to make sense of sound. Pupillometry tests carried out on the OpenSound Navigator showed overall pupil dilation was reduced by 36%.*6
How can you measure listening effort? Pupillometry tests measure the listener’s pupil size as an
indicator of brain activity. In listening tests, pupil dilation reflects the effort needed to understand: the bigger the pupil, the greater the effort. 6
*Increased speech understanding with OpenSound Navigator ON measured as a percentage relative to the baseline with OpenSound Navigator OFF.
1. Recognizes the difference between “Noise” and “Sound”
Kevin Hotaling is a Ponto user* and had this to share regarding his real-life experience with OpenSound Navigator:
“When I first wore a Ponto device with OpenSound Navigator after having used an older model for years, it was a truly awakening experience. After events in public venues and family gatherings where lots of sound was present, I noticed the system I was wearing put in a type of effort that I didn’t believe possible at the time. My device seemed to actively recognize the difference between “Noise” and “Sound.” It also seemed to be prioritizing and amplifying sounds that were important, such as a person’s voice with whom I was speaking, and dampening noises that were not as important, like the movement of dishes in a restaurant or background chatter. After a while, I also noticed I was paying far less attention to the fact that I was wearing a bone-anchored hearing system—and that’s a good thing! I was spending far less energy on trying to hear. The best type of hearing is the type you don’t have to think about, and I finally have that with OpenSound Navigator!”
Connect with other Ponto users
Hearing what others have to say about their experience and getting advice from those who have been in your shoes is invaluable! One easy way to get started is inside the Ponto Care™ app under Information. There are video and written testimonials by Ponto users that you can easily access to check out what others have to say about their Ponto experience. We can also connect you with an Oticon Medical Ponto Advocate. Simply contact Oticon Medical online or call 888-277-8014.
Another way to connect is by following our Oticon Medical Facebook Page. Here you can chat with Ponto users, as well as read interesting posts and short articles.
Try the open sound experience for yourself. Ask for a trial of Ponto 5 Mini or Ponto 5 SuperPower and congratulations from our team on beginning your journey toward better hearing health!
About the Author
Gail Leininger, Au.D., CCC-A is an audiologist who has worked with implantable technologies for over twenty years. She is an Auditory Technical Specialist for Oticon Medical.
* Financial Disclosure
Kevin Hotaling is an employee of Oticon Medical. He is a Ponto user of seven years, and has been a consumer advocate, speaker, and ambassador with Oticon Medical for just as long.
1 Amieva, H., et al. (2018). Death, depression, disability, and dementia associated with self-reported hearing problems: a 25-year study. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 73(10), 1383-1389
2 Lin, F. R., et al. (2011). Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of Neurology, 68(2), 214-220
3 Lin, F. R., et al. (2012). Hearing loss and falls among older adults in the United States. Archives of internal medicine, 172(4), 369-371
4 O'Sullivan, et al. (2019). Hierarchical Encoding of Attended Auditory Objects in Multi-talker Speech Perception. Neuron, 104(6), 1195-1209
5 Puvvada, K. C. et al. (2017). Cortical representations of speech in a multi-talker auditory scene. Journal of Neuroscience, 37(38), 9189-9196
6 Manuscript in preparation, Data on File - Clinical study BC102
Bianchi, F, Weile, J N et al. (2020). OpenSound Navigator™ for Ponto, Oticon Medical white paper 215170.
[Oticon Medical us website link https://www.oticonmedical.com/us/the-new/open-sound-navigator ]
Longtime Oticon Medical advocates Georgene and Lucy Brown befriended Liz and Emma Kate Greene, which led to Emma Kate getting a Ponto™ bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) to treat her single-sided deafness (SSD). Now Liz shares her family’s journey toward finding the right solution and the vital roles Georgene and Lucy played in making their decision.
Emma Kate has single-sided deafness due to conductive hearing loss. This is secondary to otosclerosis, which was first diagnosed in kindergarten, but we suspect occurred in 4K as we had quite a bit of difficulty that year following directions. Her teachers actually thought she was autistic because she had difficulty interacting at school, but we had no difficulty at home. We suspect this was because there was less background noise and because her dad and I both have strong (loud) voices.
She initially used a behind-the-ear regular hearing aid. She told us that this did not improve her hearing almost at all and we had a lot of difficulty getting her to wear the device. She also had difficulty being active as her device would frequently fall off and get lost.
Discovering bone conduction as a treatment option
We were first introduced to the idea of a bone anchored hearing device by our ENT when Emma Kate was 10 but he told us this wouldn’t be an option until she was older for implant. He did not offer the option of wearing a device on a softband. He also dealt exclusively with another manufacturer and therefore Ponto was not offered as an option. Once we were introduced to the idea of bone anchored devices, I did a lot of research into available devices along with the pros and cons of each, which lead us to a new ENT who was able to work with Oticon Medical devices.
As part of my research, I joined several social media groups geared towards bone anchored devices for both adults and children. In asking questions in these groups I was frequently referred to Georgene Brown, as our daughters are close in age and both active. She was incredibly friendly and informative when I reached out and has always been willing to spend time discussing her vast knowledge regarding bone anchored devices.
I think that all preteens, especially preteen girls, want to feel like they fit in. Any difference is upsetting, particularly when you feel that you’re the only one dealing with an issue. Emma Kate’s friendship with Lucy Brown has helped her feel that someone else understands the challenges that she has from being hearing impaired and also the fears that come with requiring surgery, how to fit in at school, etc. It has been incredibly beneficial to Emma Kate to be able to talk to someone who has lived through these experiences and is thriving despite hearing loss.
The next step: minimally invasive implantation surgery
Emma Kate’s abutment placement was incredibly smooth. We had a same-day procedure. She recovered from anesthesia without difficulty and was playing her guitar about two hours after we left the hospital. We had no difficulty with healing or infections. We were able to activate her Ponto about six weeks after her procedure. The most difficult part was not using her Ponto during that time at school.
Emma Kate says that since having her abutment implanted, she can hear better and that it is much more comfortable to wear her Ponto as opposed to when she was wearing the softband.* She also states that she was embarrassed for people to see the softband but feels that her Ponto is now much more discreet. She is able to be active without her Ponto moving but states that her softband would slip out of place sometimes when moving between classes at school.
The benefits of Ponto 5 Mini
Now, having the new Ponto 5 Mini makes Emma Kate’s life even easier. We first noticed an improvement when Emma Kate began wearing a Ponto on a softband However, the benefits have increased since her MIPS procedure. At home, she is able to engage more at dinner or in conversations.
At school, Emma Kate uses an EduMic™ to stream her teachers’ voices directly to her Ponto. Particularly in middle school where she has multiple teachers, some of whom are very soft-spoken or teach from the back of the room, this has been incredibly helpful. Again, this is particularly helpful during the pandemic, as many teachers are wearing masks. We have seen an improvement in her grades from consistent B’s and C’s to A’s and B’s.
She also has found significant improvement in everyday activities. She loves to play guitar and listen to music. Her Ponto has significantly improved her ability to follow music while playing her guitar and to watch TV or listen to music without the whole house hearing what she’s watching. She loves the ability to stream music directly to her Ponto, especially on road trips.
Emma Kate would say her greatest improvement is socially. She is much more confident engaging in conversations since she is not frequently having to ask her friends to repeat themselves. And this is particularly helpful in settings with background noise, such as restaurants, parties, and the cafeteria at school.
The Ponto 5 Mini’s small size, as well as the lack of feedback (due to the OpenSound Optimizer™ feature) when worn under her thick, long hair were both critical in our decision-making when comparing devices initially. She also uses the Bluetooth® capability almost daily. We have not yet used a remote appointment (via the RemoteCare™ feature) with our audiologist but have discussed that this is possible in the future.
What parents considering a BAHS for their child should know
I want someone considering getting a bone anchored hearing device to know that there are options. Frequently, only one popular brand’s products are presented but there are other companies, such as Oticon Medical, that have incredible products as well as unparalleled support. When I initially reached out to Oticon Medical to get information prior to deciding to pursue a Ponto, I was immediately connected with a local representative who was present at Emma Kate‘s activation appointment and has been invaluable throughout this process. She is constantly willing to help me adjust settings as well as obtain necessities, such as an extra case or support for school.
I would also want them to know that there may be insurance challenges. However, our ENT and Oticon Medical have been incredibly helpful in working through these.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I want them to know that they are not alone. There are multiple support groups available online through social media that can help connect to other parents as well as young adult and adult patients who are using bone anchored hearing devices in their everyday lives. These individuals are always more than willing and gracious to answer questions, provide experiences, and to just listen to the frustrations and fears that unavoidably come with having a child with hearing loss. We have found this community, particularly Georgene and her family, to be our biggest cheerleaders through this process. They have helped alleviate Emma Kate’s fears, as well as our concerns, while having our daughter go through a surgical procedure, healing, and ultimately making life-changing decisions. We are so thankful we found Oticon Medical because even in the short time that we have been using Emma Kate’s Ponto we have seen vast benefits.
Ready to try a Ponto bone anchored hearing system? Find a clinic near you!
* NOTE: Implantation is contraindicated for children below the age of 5 years.
Exploring the Close Relationship Between Hearing Health and Cognitive Health
What is cognition?
Cognition is the “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.” (Oxford 2022). It is how we process information, develop into who we are, learn what we learn and process our surrounding environment. Cognitive function is critical to participation in activities, social gatherings and for enjoying conversation with family and friends.
What does hearing have to do with cognition?
In recent years, there has been a steady increase in research outcomes that show a connection between untreated hearing loss and accelerated cognitive decline. One study completed by Croll et al in 2021, showed that individuals with hearing loss had lower cognitive function results than those of their peers with normal hearing. In several studies using functional imaging, there was evidence that when listening to different inputs the brain was stimulated less in individuals with hearing loss.
There are numerous theories as to how hearing loss plays a role in cognitive changes. Today we will examine two schools of thought.
The Common Cause Theory
The first theory to explore is the concept that age-related changes cause global declines. This widely researched theory suggests that neural degenerative diseases or even cardiovascular disease play a role in overall cognition. How does this theory expand to untreated hearing loss? This theory suggests that, like other health conditions, hearing loss has an impact on our overall health and cognitive abilities as we age.
The Cascade Theory
This is known as the “use it or lose it” theory (Chung, 2018). We know that hearing loss decreases auditory stimulation within the brain, and in turn this deprivation can cause cognitive decline. The idea is that auditory deprivation (i.e., hearing loss) can cause a ‘cascade’ of other issues like social isolation, depression, and the accelerated onset of dementia. Hearing loss also causes a person to have more cognitive load, meaning that individuals with hearing loss must work harder to process information. If we further explore the ‘cascade’ theory, there is hope that by treating your hearing loss sooner than later, you can slow the progression of cognitive decline.
What you can do to retain cognitive function as you age
Additional research is needed to understand more about how hearing loss impacts cognition. However, research suggests there are close ties between our hearing health and our overall health and wellness.
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that your hearing health and cognition stay in shape as you age:
Get your hearing tested annually and continue to monitor it regularly. Add your hearing to the list of health-related check-ups you schedule each year.
If you have a hearing loss, seek treatment from an audiologist. Early intervention and early use of hearing aids or assistive listening devices are proven to reduce the effects of hearing loss such as depression, isolation, and memory loss.
Use the latest technology to your advantage. Although hearing aids cannot reverse the effects of hearing loss and cognitive decline, research does show that patients who use hearing devices regularly to treat their hearing loss have a greater ability to retain their cognitive function throughout the aging process.
Talk to a hearing care professional about the many benefits of treating your hearing loss today. And if traditional hearing aids aren’t the right solution for you, we encourage you to explore a bone anchored hearing system instead.
About the Author
Author Nicole Maxam, AuD, has been an audiologist for almost 17 years and has worked with a variety of patients. Before joining the Auditory Technical Services team, she worked in the school settings and private ENT setting offering hearing aids and implantable options to her patients.
Campbell, Julia and Sharma, Anu. “Compensatory changes in cortical resource allocation in adults with hearing loss”, Front. Syst. Neurosci., 25 October 2013, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnsys.2013.00071
Crolling, Pauline, “Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in the General Population: a prosceptive cohort study”, J Neurol. 2021 Mar;268(3):860-871. doi: 10.1007/s00415-020-10208-8
“Cognition”. Lexico. Oxford University Press and Dictionary.com. Retrieved 3/25/2022
King, Chung. Theories on Hearing-Cognition Functions, The Hearing Journal Dec. 2018. V71.12 p10-12.
Naples, James, Hearing Loss may affect brain health, Harvard Health Blog, 31 Jan 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/hearing-loss-may-affect-brain-health-2020013118739
Tran, Yvonne, et al, “Co-occurring Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults: A Dual Group-Based Trajectory Modeling Approach”, Front Aging Neurosci. 2021 Dec 24;13:794787. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2021.794787. eCollection 2021
Audiologist Laura Rhee’s Insights on Fitting Children with Ponto Systems
We had the wonderful pleasure of talking with lead pediatric audiologist, Dr. Laura Rhee from Providence Speech and Hearing Center and CHOC of California, about her experience fitting Oticon Medical Ponto Systems.
Why do you choose to work with Oticon Medical’s Ponto family of bone conduction devices?
Dr. Rhee: “I recommend Oticon Medical bone conduction devices over other manufacturers because your devices tend to have far less feedback issues. I make very few adjustments during the fitting due to the lack of feedback. This gives my patients more access to sound without the annoyance of feedback or reduction in speech understanding.”
What do you like about the Oticon Medical Ponto fittings?
Dr. Rhee: “I really like how easy the Ponto devices are to fit. Typically, I don’t have to make many adjustments to programming. At my clinic, we pre-program sound processors to make fittings go smoothly. We counsel families about daily use, how to clean and handle the sound processor and accessories during a demonstration or consultation appointment. Pre-programming the sound processors frees up time for us to spend counseling the families, improving our clinical efficiency, and providing valuable information to the family without being rushed.”
What are some challenges you or your patients face with Oticon Medical Ponto fittings?
Dr. Rhee: “The hardest part of a new fitting is the softband. It’s important to have it (the softband) tight enough to get a good fitting but this can become uncomfortable or may need to be adjusted throughout the day. Very young children will often grab and pull the band off throughout the day requiring parents or caregivers to replace and reposition often I tell parents it’s important to maintain a consistent wearing schedule each day because it will help children adapt to the softband and provide consistent access to sound, which is crucial for developing language”.
What advice do you give parents that are just starting this journey with their child?
Dr. Rhee: “Use the processor all waking hours to stimulate auditory connections within the brain. If you don’t use the auditory nerve or pathway, your brain will reuse those neural connections for other senses. Keep your brain working using the processor consistently to help reduce listening fatigue and foster speech development.”
Final thoughts on reducing feedback in bone conduction hearing devices
One of the key takeaways from our discussion was the importance of reducing feedback (aka ‘whistling’ or ‘whining’ noise) that occurs when amplified sound is reflected from the head, reaches the microphone, and is re-amplified. If feedback is not eliminated by an anti-feedback system, it becomes audible to the user and others around them. With Oticon Medical’s OpenSound Optimizer™ (OSO), you aren’t compromising gain or volume due to feedback. This is especially important when working with pediatric patients, who are often in a car seat, highchair, or lying on their backs during playtime. And Oticon Medical’s OpenSound Optimizer does just that—prevents feedback and provides stable gain so that users can get the most out of their devices without compromising speech understanding.
Helpful links for parents of Ponto wearers
Here are some links that may be helpful for parents who are in the process of getting their child an Oticon Medical bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) or families of children that are new to wearing a Ponto BAHS processor.
Dr. Rhee obtained her audiology degree from San Diego State University and University of California San Diego and has been at Providence since 2014. She works with a wide variety of pediatric patients (zero to 21), including children with craniofacial disorders. She has treated children with atresia, Treacher Collins and other syndromes related to hearing loss.