Exploring A Bone Conduction Solution for Better Hearing

Six Tips to Consider

Congratulations on making an appointment with a hearing care professional (HCP)! This is an important step in your bone conduction hearing journey. If you’re a bit anxious or concerned about the appointment, check out these six tips to help you feel more prepared and confident. (And remember, you’ve already done the hard part.)

Tip #1: Think about what you need and want

Besides overall improved hearing, what do you want to get out of this appointment and from a Ponto bone anchored hearing system (BAHS)?  Do you have trouble hearing conversations? Do you struggle hearing in noise? Do you need hearing help at work, school, or on a smartphone? Consider writing down a list of situations in which you seem to struggle with your hearing the most. Understanding your personal needs and hearing goals will help your HCP fit a Ponto BAHS and select an accessory that works best for you.

Tip #2:  Download the Ponto Care App

The Ponto Care™ app is a mobile self-help tool that provides guidance while you are trying out a bone anchored sound processor. It allows you to get the most out of your trial and make an informed decision whether bone conduction hearing is right for you. It does that by guiding you through different listening situations in your daily life and letting you rate and comment on them. Once you have done the ratings, you can easily share them with your hearing care professional and discuss them at your next visit, whether that takes place in person or remotely.

The Ponto Care app is compatible with both iPhone® and Android™ and can be downloaded for free from the App® Store or Google Play™. The app does not require any login. For more information about the Ponto Care App and Oticon Medical visit Oticon Medical Ponto Care app.

Tip #3: Connect with other Ponto Users

Hearing what others have to say about their experience and their advice 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 today 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.

Tip #4: Bring your medical records

Make a list of your medications and gather your medical records. Your HCP may allow you to fill out intake forms in advance – check their website or call the office to find out. Otherwise, ensure you bring this information to your appointment. Certain medications can cause hearing loss, and your HCP should see your full medical picture. If you have changed medications since your last appointment, let your HCP know. The medical records you will want to bring include previous hearing tests, other hearing devices worn, prior ear surgeries, and/or imaging scans of your ear.

Tip #5: Performance testing and questionnaires

It’s important to evaluate how you do with a Ponto hearing device during your trial and before any decisions are made. We encourage you to ask your HCP to evaluate your performance in noise with the Ponto sound processor Additionally, they may ask you to complete a questionnaire about your subjective feedback regarding the overall sound quality of the device. This information will help your HCP identify areas that are important for further discussion.

Tip #6: Bring a buddy

Take a trusted family member or friend along with you to your appointment. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember everything while the hearing care professional is testing your hearing and providing information. Having a friend on hand to take notes or ask follow-up questions on your behalf can be invaluable. They can also pick up on details you might miss, and help you weigh the pros and cons of various hearing solutions.

Again, congratulations on beginning your journey toward good 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.

Ponto Care™ app compatibility

System and software requirements: Apple® devices: iOS 11 or later. Android™ devices: Android OS 8.0 or later.

To download the Ponto Care™ app, go to the App Store® or Google Play™ and search for Oticon Medical or “Ponto Care”.

Data privacy

When you use the Ponto Care™ app, you have the option of emailing a document with your name, ratings, comments and app usage period (report) to your clinical personnel.

If you choose to send a report, we will temporarily store the report and the clinical personnel contact details for the sole purpose of sending the report. We will not keep any of your personal data or the clinic personnel contact details.

For further details, please see our privacy policy

 

Masked Communication for the Hard of Hearing

Better hearing during the pandemic

Imagine this scenario: You are in the grocery store paying for your groceries. The grocery store employee behind the counter is wearing a face mask and working behind a plastic shield. The person asks you a question.

You have absolutely no idea what they said.

The lip reading cues you once used to help you understand a message? Gone.

The facial expressions that once helped you when you were in a bind? Disappeared.

Do you:

  • Nod and attempt a smile under your own mask?
  • Shrug in embarrassment?
  • Ask them to repeat?
  • Answer a completely different question than the one you were asked?

If you’ve been living on this planet for the last two years, you have probably lived through some version of this experience at one point or another. Face masks have become an essential part of keeping ourselves and others safe and healthy during the Covid-19 pandemic. For people also living with hearing loss, the introduction of face masks, shields, and protective glass have formed another barrier to communication, making it more difficult than ever to understand a conversation

 Strategies we can all use to communicate better in the “mask era”

While we wait for the world to get back to normal, let’s learn about some communication strategies that we can all implement to make masked communication easier during the pandemic.

Ask your audiologist to design a Mask Mode program for you.

Researchers have done studies that have helped us understand how a mask impedes speech understanding and ways that audiologists can alleviate that situation. We know that certain face masks can reduce high frequency sounds by as much as 5-15 dB. Fortunately, advances in bone anchored hearing aid technology have made this problem easier than ever to solve. An audiologist can go into the software and create a specialized “Mask Mode” program for their patients that emphasizes the high frequency sounds that masking tends to reduce, adding emphasis to certain speech cues that are important for clarity and understanding. A Ponto™ patient can even name the program in the Connectline™ app or the Oticon ON™ app “Mask Program” and go to that program setting with a quick press of  the button when in need of a clarity boost.

Talk to your audiologist about designing a Mask Mode program for you to improve your communication performance during the pandemic.

Check your mask.

Studies show that certain types of face masks make hearing more difficult. Research out of the University of Illinois shows that single-use surgical masks and KN95 respirator masks both dampened sound the least (approximately 5 dB) compared to cloth masks. The disposable mask or KN95 mask will allow more high frequency information through, thus improving speech clarity. You may consider selecting a disposable face mask if you will be communicating with someone who has a hearing loss.

Consider a clear mask.

A clear mask is a type of mask with a clear window in front of your mouth. These masks make hearing and understanding speech easier because they provide access to visual cues and allow access to lip reading. Several companies are currently making high quality clear masks that are available for purchase. Try a quick Google search and you will find many options for places to purchase this type of protective face mask.

Advocate for yourself.

If you are someone with a hearing loss, don’t be afraid to speak up. If you are speaking to someone wearing a face mask and you don’t catch the full message, try saying something like, “I’m sorry, can you rephrase that? I have a hearing loss and I’m having difficulty understanding what you’re saying.” The person you are conversing with will understand your situation and gain empathy. They will have a chance to shift their communication style to one that suits you better, whether by speaking more slowly and clearly, raising their vocal effort slightly, or reducing noise in the room to improve your chances  of understanding them successfully.

Additional communications strategies to try.

If you are having difficulty understanding someone, your first instinct might be to say, “What?” or “Huh?”. Repeated use of these words can make dialogue frustrating. Instead, try to ask your communication partner to rephrase their message. Here are a few examples:

  • “Can you add more detail for me?”
  • “I heard you say _______ but didn’t quite catch the rest. Can you tell me more about that?”
  • “Can you say that sentence in a different way?”
  • “I heard you say ________. Can you elaborate on that point a bit more?”

Using these ideas for gathering more information will help the conversation flow and give you more opportunities to understand the message.

Online resources for bone anchored hearing support

Connecting with other Ponto users online can help provide you with support as you face the many challenges that the pandemic brings to daily life.

Oticon Medical Ponto Users | Facebook

Our Ponto Users Facebook group is an excellent tool for communication and collaboration with other Ponto users. During this time of pandemic isolation, remember that Oticon Medical has an expansive network of bone anchored hearing system users who are ready to share resources and discussion.

Oticon Medical BAHS Users Support Group | Facebook

Our BAHS support group is another useful way to connect to other bone anchored device users to discuss tips, stories, and ways to get the most out of your device.

Patient helpline (oticonmedical.com)

If you have a clinical question but you aren’t able to make it in to see your audiologist, Oticon Medical’s patient support team is available to answer any question you might have. Use the link above to access a wealth of knowledge from our support team, or call (888) 277-8014 during the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

About the Author

Courtney Smith is the Clinical Trainer at Oticon Medical. She practiced audiology in both medical and private practice settings in Las Vegas, NV. She has experience working with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and bone anchored solutions for adults and pediatrics. She completed her training at the University of Iowa in 2003.

IFTTT: How Ponto Users Benefit from If This Then That

When you see the acronym IFTTT, don’t be alarmed or intimidated. It stands for If This Then That. It is a great way to connect your apps and notifications in one spot, which is why Oticon Medical has joined the revolution and incorporated it into our Ponto™ bone anchored hearing systems, starting with the Ponto 4 and now the Ponto 5 Mini. This expanding internet-based cloud service enables you to link together a range of products and solutions that otherwise have nothing to do with each other.

Currently, there are between 400 and 500 products and services that have a channel on IFTTT. It is free to the user while companies pay to be part of the ecosystem. “Applets” are the key to making the connections happen and have been created to provide little pieces of automated instructions that both user and company can create. Not to worry—the app is designed to walk you through connecting your devices to the Oticon ON™ app and allows you to customize your Ponto notifications to your liking.

Why are we talking about IFTTT?

The IFTTT protocol allows notifications to be sent to your Ponto 4 or Ponto 5 Mini processor. However, there are some requirements. The first one we already mentioned—you need to have a Ponto 4 or Ponto 5 Mini processor that directly connects to the Oticon ON app with an internet connection. This of course requires you to have a smartphone with the Oticon ON app, which can be found in the Apple App Store® or Google Play™ Store. When you are connected with an Apple iPhone® 5 or newer model, the notification will be sent directly to your Ponto processor. This is considered the Play text to speech process in the applets. If you would like to connect with your Android™ device, you would need a ConnectClip™ in order for the notifications to be sent to your Ponto processor.

How to get started?

Once you have those connections established to the ON app, you will need to set up an IFTTT account. This can easily be done by downloading the app and following the prompts. You can use an email account or your AppleID® account to start. Again, the best part is that it is free!

What do you do once you have established the account?

An applet can be chosen on the app or created for an If This…Then That connection. This will allow you to receive notification from different internet-enabled devices. For instance, if you have a video doorbell, the process will work as follows:

  • Someone rings the internet-connected doorbell
  • A message to IFTTT is triggered via the internet
  • IFTTT sends a message to your Oticon ON app on the smartphone
  • The ON App triggers the voice message picked by the Ponto 4 or 5 Mini (in this case, “someone is at the front door”)

To set this up, you would begin by creating the “If This,” which would be your video doorbell. You may choose a trigger, such as motion or a new ring of the doorbell detected. Once selected, you would then select a “Then That,” which in this case would probably be the Oticon ON app’s Play text to speech (note: works with the direct streaming to iPhone, but Android users can also take advantage of this feature when using the ConnectClip.). Once finished, the notification would go directly to your Ponto 4 or 5 Mini processor.

Another great way to utilize this technology would be when the Oticon ON app detects your battery is low. This is especially helpful for parents of young wearers, because the app could have a preset instruction to ping the IFTTT network when your child has a low battery. The IFTTT network could then look at the created instruction or applet and automatically send you, a teacher, or a babysitter a text message wherever you or they might be.

What can IFTTT connect?

There are hundreds of app and smart devices for which you can create IFTTT applets—the possibilities are endless. For instance, having an internet-connected sound processor means being able to turn on a kitchen appliance when turning on your device (coffee, anyone?) in the morning or your house lights based on GPS information.

How will my information be used?

This process runs through your Oticon ON app; therefore, all the data is yours. IFTTT does not store or use your information. You will be asked to log into your internet-enabled device when creating the applets in IFTTT. However, there is no storage of data, because it is simply a messaging device connecting the system together.

For more privacy information, please refer to the Oticon ON app privacy policy (Oticon.com), Privacy policy – IFTTT, and Oticon Medical privacy-policy.

Now you are ready to connect your Ponto 4 or 5 Mini to any internet-enabled device with IFTTT and the Oticon ON app!

About the author

Nicole Maxam, AuD, CCC-A serves as an Auditory Technical Specialist at Oticon Medical. She has been an audiologist for over 16 years with experience in implantable technologies.

Enjoying Life with the New Ponto 5 Mini

Sandi Arcus is a Dispensing Audiologist in Nevada. Born with single-sided deafness (SSD), she has always had a passion for helping others who are hard of hearing. She started her career in Pennsylvania as an audiologist in a busy ENT office, then in private practice. She currently works at an audiology clinic in Henderson, NV. Sandi holds a Master of Science degree in Audiology from Bloomsburg University, is a Fellow with the American Academy of Audiology, and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competency from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

As both an expert in hearing health and someone with first-hand experience in hearing loss, Sandi kindly offered to share her opinion about her new PontoTM 5 Mini bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) from Oticon Medical.

Sandi Arcus Tests Out Ponto 5 Mini

I decided to upgrade from my previous Ponto processor, because I’m always curious about new technology and fascinated by small instruments making big improvements in sound quality. I’ve been particularly impressed by the following Ponto 5 Mini features:

  • With the OpenSound Navigator™, I can hear speech better in a noisy restaurant, car, and wind. There is a noted improvement from the previous model.
  • I never had too much of a feedback issue, but now with the OpenSound Optimizer™, it’s even less. Now that I think about it, I haven’t heard any feedback!
  • The RemoteCare option is a great tool for follow-up care. Very convenient.

While the previous model already did a great job of making it easier to hear and understand speech in noisy environments,  I’ve noted that with Ponto 5 Mini, it takes less effort to hear speech in difficult listening situations, which means less frustration.

The Ponto 5 Mini definitely supports my busy life!!  It’s small yet powerful!!! I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, and people around me notice that as well. It makes me feel that I am doing the very best that I can do to hear the very best that I can hear! I feel more confident going into difficult listening situations.  I’m less concerned and anxious that I will miss something.

If someone is considering whether to get their first Ponto 5 Mini or upgrading from their current BAHS, I want to tell you that you don’t know what you are missing until you try it. It’s the little sounds that I thought I was hearing “well enough”—it became more apparent that I had not been hearing them “well enough” after all. It enhances the sounds around me enough to sound closer to “normal” and greatly reduces my listening effort. Give Ponto 5 Mini a try!

The Holidays are for Hearing

Families are gathering. Holidays plans are made. You are heading out on a road trip to see the grandkids. The house is bustling with the sounds of the holidays. Children are laughing, and the dinner conversations are lively. It’s time to join with your family around a festive holiday table to celebrate the season and the start of a new year.

For people with hearing loss, these joyous moments can also bring a host of challenges. A noisy dinner conversation can leave a person with hearing loss feeling tired from the effort they have to spend to understand the message. The dinner table is noisy and voices sound muffled from a distance. Important conversations are missed. These challenges can cause isolation and exhaustion for someone with hearing loss.

Oticon Medical has focused on these challenging situations to present patients with device programming and accessory options that improve communication and quality of life. Our accessories, paired with good communication practices, can positively impact interactions with users of our product portfolio. Here are some communication strategies that we can all practice throughout the holidays that will help make communication easier and the season more enjoyable for people with hearing loss.

How to talk to someone with hearing loss

  • Face the person. Ensure that the person with hearing loss can see everyone’s face. The visual cues will help the person understand the words they didn’t catch.
  • Minimize background noise. Turn off the TV and reduce the volume of surrounding music or television to make communication easier.
  • Make sure the room is well-lit. A well-lit environment can make it easier for the person with hearing loss to see facial expressions, body language, and gestures from across a room.
  • Get their attention first. Get an individual’s attention by saying their name first or gently tapping their arm, and then convey your message to increase the chance that it will be heard and understood.
  • Speak slowly and clearly. Annunciate your words and take your time.
  • Rephrase, don’t repeat. If something isn’t heard the first time, try rephrasing it. Instead of repeating the same sentence louder, try saying it a different way.
  • Don’t speak from another room. Minimizing distance will maximize the chance that your message will be heard and understood.
  • Speak at a normal volume. Shouting during conservation can distort the signal for the person with hearing loss and so, rather than making it easier for a hard of hearing person to understand you, it often has the opposite effect.

Useful tools for communication success

Oticon Medical’s BrainHearing™ philosophy reminds us that we hear with our brains, not just our ears. Our Ponto™ devices are equipped with special noise reduction options that operate with this philosophy in mind. The Ponto family is compatible with a variety of accessories that have streaming capabilities to help people with hearing loss communicate successfully in difficult listening environments. Let’s look at a few scenarios where Ponto users can use these tools to make communication easier in challenging situations during the holidays.

Road trips

A Ponto 5 Mini user and his wife have loaded up the RV for a holiday road trip to see their grandkids. For these two people, a conversation in the car is challenging because of road noise and the lack of visual cues as they face the road. The Ponto user can use the ConnectClip to give themselves a big advantage in this situation and allow for an enjoyable road trip full of conversation. The Ponto user’s wife can clip the ConnectClip that is paired to her husband’s Ponto 5 Mini to her lapel about 6 inches from her mouth. She presses and holds the multi-function button for a few seconds until the lights turn purple and green. This action sends her voice on a wireless journey direct to her husband’s Ponto 5 Mini, allowing for effortless conversation between the two, reducing background noise, and minimizing the effects of distance on their ability to communicate.

Watching a movie

Oticon Medical’s TV Adapter 3.0 is compatible with the entire Ponto product family. You can pair a TV Adapter to your Ponto 3 SuperPower using your Oticon Medical Streamer or to Ponto 4 or 5 Mini directly. This allows you to stream audio directly from your television to your device. You can use your streamer or the Oticon ON™ app to control the volume of the television while your family continues to listen at a level that’s comfortable for them.

Adjustments from afar

You are having difficulty hearing in noise on your holiday vacation, but it isn’t convenient for you to visit your audiologist for programming in person. What can you do? Ponto 5 Mini users can now use RemoteCare to arrange a quick telehealth appointment with their audiologist. During a scheduled RemoteCare visit, an audiologist can log into a private portal which allows them to make the adjustments that their patient needs. The program changes are uploaded to the patient’s device using Oticon’s RemoteCare app and the new settings can be used by the Ponto 5 Mini user right away. This groundbreaking technology opens a new frontier for Ponto patients.        

Family dinner

Oticon Medical has developed OpenSound Navigator™ as a method of noise reduction for those energetic conversations around your holiday dinner table. In this situation, you want to hear the conversation, regardless of its direction. OpenSound Navigator will seamlessly adjust to your environment and reduces the effort it takes to hear. Talk to your audiologist about creating a program in your Ponto 4 or 5 Mini device that utilizes OpenSound Navigator and hear the difference at the holiday dinner table this year. Additionally, you can hand a paired ConnectClip to a relative across the table and their voice can be streamed directly from up to 65 feet away.

Online resources

Oticon Medical is here to support you while you are on the go this holiday season. For product support, videos on how to pair accessories, or in-depth information about the different solutions available to you, visit Wireless Connectivity.

Should you need help from an Oticon Medical audiologist during the holiday season, please contact our Auditory Technical Services support team during the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM, Eastern time at 888-277-8014 or by email at [email protected]

            Oticon Medical wishes you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season!

About the Author

Courtney Smith, M.A., CCC-A, is the Clinical Trainer at Oticon Medical, having just joined the team in October of 2021. She practiced audiology in both medical and private practice settings in Las Vegas, NV. She has experience working with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and bone anchored solutions for adults and pediatrics. She completed her training at the University of Iowa in 2003.

Traveling with Your Ponto Bone Anchored Hearing System

As the holiday season begins, so does the opportunity for travel.  If you are traveling this season, here are a few things to consider if you have a Ponto™ bone anchored hearing system (BAHS).

Airport and TSA security

It is important to advise the TSA agent prior to going through the security or x-ray process that you have an implantable device. At this time, you may consider handing or showing them your MRI Safety Security card. If you don’t have a card or can’t find it, you can download the MRI Safety Card from our website. Cards are available there in different languages, along with other helpful informational materials. We recommend printing or saving the card to your phone prior to travel.

As you prepare for your trip, another great resource to check out is Oticon Medical’s Tips and Tricks section of the website.  In this section you will find information and advice on everyday activities with your Ponto system.

Additional Ponto device and abutment safety considerations

The abutment is made from titanium and safe to go through the metal detector or x-ray machine. Since titanium is weakly magnetic, the security system’s alarm will most likely not go off. However, it is still a good idea and important to let the TSA agent know ahead of time about your Ponto and implant in the event that additional screening is necessary after your initial pass through the x-ray process.

As for your Ponto processor, since it does contain a magnet, this may set off an alarm. We always recommend that when exposed to medical-strength x-ray you remove your processor to prevent damage. However, TSA screenings have low dose x-ray exposure and are safe to move through. So, if you forget to take it off there is no harm, but you may set off the alarm as the Ponto processor contains metal.

If you choose to take off your Ponto processor, simply put it in a case with the battery door open and in a TSA container for the belt screening, as you do your other carry-on items. This is safe for the processor and will not cause damage.

Items to bring on a trip with your Ponto processor

When traveling with your Ponto, you want to make sure you have packed all your equipment and extra supplies. It is a good idea to bring extra batteries, your wireless accessories, and the appropriate cables for charging them. Consider charging your accessories the night or day before you leave to ensure you can use them while traveling.

It is also important to pack your Ponto Care Kit for cleaning the abutment. Daily care of the abutment site will help guarantee you can use your Ponto BAHS throughout your travels. Abutment cleaning is especially important if you are swimming. Remember, your Ponto processor is not waterproof! If you need a new dry aid kit or Ponto Care Kit, don’t worry; simply register with  Oticon Medical Friends to order from the Online Store and have supplies sent directly to your home.

You can also have Ponto-related information at your fingertips by downloading the Oticon Medical Ponto Care™ App to your smartphone, so you can travel with ease and peace of mind. Remember to also store your audiologist’s or clinic’s office information in your phone or have it written in your care kit in case you have questions. You can also contact Oticon Medical Auditory Technical Services for any questions regarding your Ponto sound processor.  We are available Monday – Friday, 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern Time.

Finally, if you are traveling somewhere very warm or cold, you should remember not to leave your Ponto sound processor, wireless accessories, or batteries out in extreme weather elements. For example, if you leave your Ponto sound processor on the car dashboard in extreme heat, it could damage the device. Also, if the batteries are left in extremely cold temperatures, they might freeze and have a shorter lifespan.

Oticon Medical wishes you and your loved ones a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!

Here’s a quick checklist of the items we discussed. Enjoy your travels, wherever they may take you!

  • MRI safety/security card
  • Extra batteries
  • Carrying case
  • Wireless accessories
  • Charging cables for accessories
  • Ponto Care Kit
  • Your audiologist’s office contact information
  • Oticon Medical Contact Information: 888-277-8014 or [email protected]
  • Download our Oticon Medical Ponto Care App

Helpful site to review prior to travel:

Disabilities and Medical Conditions | Transportation Security Administration (tsa.gov)

(Choose External Medical Devices and/or the Implants/internal medical devices for more advice.)

About the author

Nicole Maxam, AuD, CCC-A serves as an Auditory Technical Specialist at Oticon Medical. She has been an audiologist for over 16 years with experience in implantable technologies.

Bone Anchored vs. Air Conduction Hearing Aids

Which hearing treatment is right for me?

When you make the decision to address your hearing loss or seek treatment for your child, it always helps to know what options are available. These days you can find a wider variety of hearing loss treatments than ever before, which is great… except, how do you know which one would work best for you or your child?

When it comes to deciding between traditional hearing aids—removable, non-surgically implanted devices—and bone anchored hearing systems, we’d like to help you with your initial research. Please note that ultimately only a hearing care professional can diagnose your hearing loss and recommend which option would best suit you or your child. However, it is always better to go into your initial consultation understanding and feeling prepared to discuss the choices presented.

What are air conduction hearing aids?

Oticon Hearing Aid

Air conduction, or traditional hearing aids, are devices you can purchase from an audiology clinic, and once they have been delivered to the office and fitted to your hearing needs and preferences, worn right out the door. They may be fitted by an audiologist or a hearing instrument specialist in a private office, clinic, “big box” store, or hospital setting.

After purchase, the average wearer should expect periodic in-person follow-up visits with their hearing care provider for adjustments to settings and programs, although some professionals might offer remote follow-ups for minor tweaks, troubleshooting, and adjustments.

Hearing aids are available in behind-the-ear (BTE), receiver-in-canal (RIC), and in-the-ear (ITE) models of varying sizes, some of which are nearly invisible (for wearers who prefer a discreet solution) and other that are larger and more visible (for those who find them easier to handle and don’t care about others seeing their devices).

Some modern hearing aids come loaded with additional features, including therapeutic sounds meant to counteract the annoying “ringing in the ear” known as tinnitus, accessory-routed or direct audio streaming, and rechargeability. The downside is that the more bells-and-whistles that you use, the shorter your battery life, with most users finding they have to replace their batteries weekly or recharge nightly. The overall life expectancy of the hearing aid itself is an average of three to seven years.

Hearing aids are most often used to treat people with sensorineural hearing loss, which involves issues with the inner ear and/or neural pathways from the inner ear to your brain. Sensorineural hearing issues may be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Exposure to extremely loud noise
  • Presbycusis (i.e., age-related hearing loss)
  • A malformed or damaged inner ear
  • Use of ototoxic (literally “ear poisoning”) medication
  • Genetic/inherited conditions that affect hearing
  • Illnesses and disease (e.g., meningitis, diabetes)

Unfortunately most private and public health insurers do not cover the cost of hearing aids as of this writing. The average price for a hearing aid is around $1,000 for a very basic model up to $5,000-plus for a high-end option. Keep in mind that audiology professionals usually recommend wearers use two hearing aids to gain the full benefit of binaural (two ear) hearing, which is how the brain naturally takes in and processes sound. And while options such as CROS (Contralateral Routing of Signal) and BiCROS (Bilateral CROS) hearing aids can help people with single-sided deafness (SSD) hear sounds by routing them from the device worn on the non-hearing ear to the full or partially hearing ear, some wearers find them insufficient.

What are bone conduction hearing aids?

Bone conduction hearing devices are designed to treat conductive hearing loss, which occurs when sound cannot travel through the outer and/or middle ear (usually due to physical blockage or missing all or a portion of the ear). Examples include the following:

  • Microtia, (underdeveloped or missing outer ear) with or without atresia (missing or closed ear canal)
  • Damage due to otitis media (middle ear infection) or external otitis (ear canal infection)
  • Perforated or missing eardrum
  • Tumors affecting the eighth cranial nerve or blocking the outer or middle ear (the surgery to remove these tumors may also cause conductive hearing loss)
  • Missing or fused stapes (three tiny bones in the ear required for sound conduction)

They can also be an effective option for mixed hearing losses for those who experience a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing difficulties.

Bone anchored hearing systems are typically purchased from an otolaryngologist (aka, “ear-nose-throat” doctor, or ENT) at a clinic or hospital, or once you have had the implant surgery (alternately, if you are only wearing the device on a softband or headband), directly from the manufacturer. To receive maximum hearing assistance, they are meant to be surgically implanted. Bone anchored hearing systems consist of an implant, which is the portion implanted into your skull (typically behind your ear), an abutment, which is the transcutaneous portion fixed onto the implant, and the processor, which is programmable and gets snapped onto the abutment a few weeks following implantation.

Esthetically, the only difference between most bone anchored hearing devices is shape and size depending on the manufacturer. The majority are built for discretion, but wearers can choose to show off their bone anchored devices by adding colorful skins and stickers.

Once the processor is fit, wearers might require an occasional follow-up for adjustments, but normally fewer than the typical hearing aid wearer—and some may not require your physical presence but rather that you send in your processor for adjustment or repair by mail. As with regular hearing aids, a few hearing care professionals might offer a remote care option as well.

When it comes to extra features, bone anchored hearing processors continue to evolve. Some include audio streaming options via an intermediary streaming accessory, app, or directly into the processor. Rechargeability and tinnitus therapies may become available in the future based on demand and manufacturing capabilities. Bone anchored hearing devices are extremely effective for treating single-sided deafness (SSD) and don’t require use of a second device to improve hearing ability. In fact it is less common for bone anchored wearers to need two devices to enjoy significantly improved hearing than for traditional hearing aid wearers.

As for insurance coverage, the good news is that implantable hearing devices are categorized as medical devices, unlike traditional hearing aids, and as such are often covered all or in part by private and public insurance providers. So, while the retail price per device averages around $3,000-$6,000, you’re less likely to have to pay that much out-of-pocket.

When you’re ready to treat your hearing loss

We hope the information provided here will help you make the best possible decision for your specific hearing healthcare needs. If you are ready to speak to a hearing care professional in your area who includes bone anchored hearing systems among their treatment options, you can visit our handy Find a Clinic tool on our website.

Craniofacial Conditions and their Effects on Hearing

Unlike regular hearing aid wearers whose hearing loss is usually the result of exposure to loud noises, ototoxic (literally “ear poisoning”) drugs, or presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) most bone anchored hearing aid wearers are missing parts of their ears. Some are born without the internal components, such as their cochlea or ear canal, or have parts that are damaged. Others only have small portions of their pinna (outer ear) or don’t have an ear at all.

We feel it is important to provide information and insight into these rare conditions and how they affect hearing. Raising awareness will hopefully help those affected feel less alone, encourage understanding and compassion from others, and broaden knowledge of bone anchored hearing as a possible alternative to the hearing loss associated with these conditions.

Microtia (with or without Atresia)

Microtia (literally “little ear”) is a condition that occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is when development of the ears should occur. The pinna (outer ear) is either underdeveloped, only partially present (e.g., just the earlobe), or nonexistent. This condition might only affect one ear or both and is often—but not always—accompanied by another condition, atresia. Typically, atresia refers to having an extremely narrow or missing ear canal.

While microtia, with or without atresia, may occur without any associated or underlying syndrome, it often appears as one of the multiple indications of the following conditions.

Treacher Collins Syndrome

This genetic disorder causes underdevelopment or malformation of various parts of the head, including eyes, cheekbones, jaws, mouth, and palate. People with Treacher Collins often experience hearing loss when the inner and/or outer parts of their ears are affected by microtia and/or atresia. They might also have conductive hearing loss due to issues with their middle ears that limit or prevent sound waves from traveling to the brain.

Craniofacial Microsomia

This is often used as an umbrella term to cover multiple conditions, including hemifacial microsomia, which is characterized by underdevelopment of one side of the head and face affecting the jaw, mouth, and ears and Goldenhar syndrome, which often affects the eyes, ears, and spine. These and similar conditions may be inherited but often simply occur spontaneously without any family history of the disorders. Again microtia, with or without atresia, is common with these conditions, as are issues with damaged or missing middle ear components.

Apert Syndrome

Often caused by a random and spontaneous genetic mutation, this syndrome results when the “seams” between the bones of the skull close prematurely during fetal development. Those affected usually have a pointed or extended skull and malformations of the face, hands, and feet. The condition is often associated with conductive hearing loss in both ears due to fused ossicles (the tiny bones in the middle ear). Chronic ear infections are also often common. Other syndromes related to Apert syndrome involving hearing loss include Crouzon and Saethre-Chotzen.

Velocardiofacial Syndrome

This disorder results when a child is born missing part of Chromosome 22. It is also known by other names (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Catch-22 syndrome). Usually there is no family history of Velocardiofacial syndrome, although it can be inherited from either parent. Multiple symptoms may occur (although usually not all at once), including otitis media (chronic middle ear infections). Additionally, conductive hearing loss from a variety of abnormalities in the middle and/or inner ear have been reported as prevalent among people with this syndrome.

Treatment for conductive hearing losses due to syndromes

Hearing loss associated with a craniofacial condition is often conductive in nature, meaning there is a physical cause like a missing or nonfunctional portion of the ear. Some may be surgically reparable, as in a case where an ear canal is present, but the opening is sealed. Others would be best addressed by a bone anchored hearing system like Ponto™, which bypasses the damaged or missing ear entirely to conduct sound via the skull.

The Challenges of Single-Sided Deafness

Many people think—incorrectly—that living with unilateral (single-sided or SSD) hearing loss wouldn’t be a big deal. After all, you have another ear through which you can hear, right? What they don’t consider is that being unable to hear much or at all through one ear not only impacts your ability to locate the direction from which sounds are coming, but also challenges your ability to keep up with conversations, especially in noisy environments. Fortunately, while there is no cure currently for the majority of single-sided deafness cases, there are effective treatments available that can make life with SSD easier.

What causes a loss of hearing in one ear?

There are multiple reasons why you might experience a loss of hearing in only one ear, including the following:

  • Microtia/Atresia. Microtia often affects only one ear, leaving you with either a small portion of your pinna (outer ear) or none at all. Microtia is often coupled with Atresia, which is an absence of a functional ear canal.
  • Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL). This can occur with no warning in as little as a day or two. The cause is usually unknown, but if you catch it quickly and seek emergency treatment, it can often be treated and completely cleared up. The spontaneous rate of recovery without treatment is about 60 percent. However, for those 40 percent who don’t receive treatment within the first 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, the loss can become complete and permanent.
  • Injury to the eardrum. Various physical injuries can cost you part or all of the hearing in one ear. Examples include damaging your eardrum while scuba diving or inserting a cotton swab too deeply. Also being close on one side to an extremely loud noise (e.g., a gun firing) could damage the irreplaceable stereocilia (hair cells) required to process sound.
  • Acoustic neuroma. This noncancerous tumor can develop on the vestibular nerve, which runs from your inner ear to your brain. Damage to branches of this nerve, either from the tumor itself or due to the surgery required to remove it, can permanently impede hearing.
  • Certain diseases sometimes affect only one ear, including measles, mumps, and meningitis, among others.

How single-sided hearing loss interferes with life

For the approximately 60,000 people who find themselves with single-sided hearing loss in the U.S. each year, the loss of bilateral hearing causes varying degrees of interference in their daily lives. Some find they can get along well enough hearing out of one ear, but the majority struggle with activities like:

  • Engaging in conversations. If you have SSD, you might find yourself having to strategically position your “good” ear toward others in order to keep up with conversations. And if you happen to be in a noisy environment like a crowded bar with a group of friends, the struggle to keep up with multiple conversations can quickly become exhausting.
  • Locating where a sound is coming from. This can be merely an inconvenience if, for example, someone is calling your name and it takes you several seconds to turn your head in the right direction to respond. However, it could pose a safety risk if you’re walking across the street, riding a bicycle, or driving a car and you cannot quickly determine from which direction a siren or similar warning is coming.
  • Gauging volume is challenging. The brain is constructed to process sound as perceived by two ears at the same time. When only one ear is functional, it tends to process the incoming sound at a lower volume, which makes adjusting the television or a stereo to a comfortable volume for yourself and anyone else in the room with binaural hearing problematic.
  • Balance issues. You might experience difficulty maintaining your balance, particularly if you have had SSD since birth. Studies¹ have found that those with unilateral hearing loss must depend more on their vision to maintain balance if their SSD also affects the vestibular portion of their inner ear.

Treatment options for SSD

Fortunately, effective treatments are available to improve the lives of people troubled by single-sided hearing loss. These include contralateral routing of signal (CROS) and bilateral contralateral routing of signal (BiCROS) hearing aids and bone anchored hearing system implants. When it comes to the former, you have to wear a hearing aid on both ears so that the aid on your deaf side can route sound to the aid on your hearing side wirelessly. If your hearing ear is at 100 percent, then you would choose a CROS option, which means the aid on your good ear would simply be a receiver. However, if you have some hearing loss in that ear as well, the BiCROS aid worn on the better ear can be programmed to provide additional amplification.

Many people with SSD would prefer not to have to wear two hearing aids or they find that CROS/BiCROS devices are not effective enough for their needs. That’s where a bone conduction device like the Ponto™ comes in. Those who opt for an implantable solution often comment that they can’t believe how much sound they were missing out on and how it takes far less effort to hear and keep up with speech, especially in noise. Even those who have only ever heard out of one ear frequently benefit from a bone anchored hearing solution for single-sided deafness.

If you are hard of hearing on one side or have outer or middle ear problems, Ponto may be the solution for you. Ponto uses the body’s natural ability to transfer sound through bone conduction, and it can provide the support you need to participate more easily in daily life with less listening effort.

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Are you ready to take the next step? We can help you find a clinic close to home where you can get all the answers you need regarding Ponto bone anchored hearing systems, minimally invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS), and more. You can also always contact Oticon Medical directly at 888.277.8014 or at [email protected]

¹Snapp HA, Ausili SA. Hearing with One Ear: Consequences and Treatments for Profound Unilateral Hearing Loss. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2020; 9(4):1010. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9041010

Good Vibrations Day is Here!

On Monday, May 3, we launched what will become an annually recurring awareness day, Good Vibrations Day, to celebrate and raise awareness about bone anchored hearing as a treatment.

Today, more than 250,000 people from all over the globe use some form of bone conduction hearing device. May 3 is meant to celebrate them and the treatment—regardless of brand—by providing them with a day to talk about their experiences living with bone anchored hearing devices.

“At Oticon Medical, we recognize the importance of sound for wellbeing, for development—even for general health. So, of course, we are passionate about providing as many people as possible with the best sound imaginable. That also means creating more awareness—not just about products—but about the treatment itself. We hear much too often that a person didn’t know that their hearing loss could be alleviated, and therefore went years and years unaided. This day, May 3, is our contribution to keeping the conversation of hearing alive.” –Oticon Medical CEO, Jes Olsen

A nod to the godfather of bone anchored hearing

The May 3 date was chosen deliberately because it is the birthday of Per-Ingvar Brånemark. Brånemark was a Swedish physician and research professor. He is known as father of osseointegration and the godfather of bone anchored hearing, because his discoveries enabled the development of today’s bone conduction hearing devices. Additionally, in the US and Canada, May is Better Hearing and Speech Month.

We are celebrating with different activities and events in countries all over the world, including informational posts, contests, and fun and games. It is our hope that other bone anchored brands will join us in making Good Vibrations Day a truly non-branded awareness day focused on the people and the treatment—not products.

Good Vibrations posts, stories, tweets, reels etc. can be shared by all using the #goodvibrations and the #boneanchoredhearing hashtags. You can find them posted here: Good Vibrations Facebook page.

We also welcome you to join and share YOUR stories of life with bone anchored hearing worldwide in the Good Vibrations Facebook Group.