Lindsey was born with single-sided deafness due to microtia and atresia. Little did she know that answering an ad to record testimonials for Oticon Medical would lead to discovering an effective treatment for her own unilateral hearing loss: the Ponto™ 5 SuperPower bone anchored hearing processor! In this testimonial video — which Lindsey directed herself! — she shares how the unexpected discovery of the Ponto device is supporting her education and career aspirations.
I never knew any different when it came to what I could hear versus what my peers and family could hear. My biggest problem has always been with the direction of sound. I usually have to watch people talk to fully understand what they are saying. When I talk with people, I make sure they are on my left side so I can hear them. Otherwise, the sound gets mixed in with other noise.
When I was 15, I tried my first implant. Although it increased the volume of sounds, I couldn’t tell which direction sound was coming from in very standard locations and situations. It actually made it more overwhelming trying to understand what everyone was saying because it made everything louder without any distinction. I would get headaches after wearing it for a few hours because it was magnetic.
I am currently in college for film production, and I plan to focus on screenwriting and directing. That being said, I do love videography and cinematography, and getting to begin videography work in a corporate setting has been an amazing opportunity.
I was asked if I wanted to apply for a videography position for Oticon Medical to make testimonials for the Ponto 5 SuperPower. I didn’t tell them I had microtia and atresia until I traveled for the first testimonial. Now I know so many people who also have microtia and atresia or children with microtia and atresia, and I had an amazing summer creating testimonials, improving my craft, and making wonderful connections.
One of the Oticon Medical audiologists offered to let me try the Ponto 5 SuperPower. I could hear distinct sounds coming from both sides, and the volume of things made sense regarding their position from me. It was surreal, yet so natural. It took me a few days to get used to it, but I was delighted with how natural yet powerful everything sounded.
Oticon Medical advocate and recent summer intern Sarah Sabal shares her experience before and after upgrading to Ponto™ 5 SuperPower bone conduction hearing devices.
Born with Microtia and Atresia, I grew up in a seemingly busy world that, to me, was quiet. It was like watching a silent movie of people living their everyday life. As a young child, I eventually developed my thoughts and emotions through my artwork—a form of visual communication.
Later, when I got adopted in 2007, I was aided at the age of 8 with my first hard-wired bone anchored hearing devices on a headband. At first, I was shocked to hear for the first time, but later on, I had discomfort from wearing my hard-wired headband for a prolonged time, with addition to constant feedback. In 2013, I started wearing Ponto devices, and I now wear the Ponto 5 SuperPower.
I received multiple scholarships before going to college. I was awarded two government scholarships in Critical Language Scholarship funded by the State Department, and Boren Awards by the National Security. In addition, I have received multiple awards in art contests and been on RIT’s Dean’s List for having a GPA higher than 3.40.
Going to college, I was so grateful that I could do well in classes and make new friends. Wearing my Ponto 5 SuperPower processors allow me to hear the surrounding environment through OpenSound Navigator™ (full 360-degree soundscape). Most of the time, I use my ConnectClip™ to stream music, videos, and Zoom calls through my laptop, and EduMic™ to hear my professors in classroom settings.
I recently worked with Oticon Medical as a summer Digital Marketing intern. The resources provided by my college (RIT) and Oticon Medical gave me the opportunity to achieve success. My motivation and career plan are to pursue Marketing with the ability to speak Chinese for future opportunities. I am currently studying abroad in Taiwan under my Boren Awards scholarship.
I hope my motivation and determination to succeed despite my deafness will encourage others that anything is possible when you have a positive mindset!
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.
NICU nurse Christina shares her experience recovering from acoustic neuroma and finding the right treatment for her resulting single-sided deafness.
After my first medical mission trip to Guatemala in 2020, I came back to the states with a global pandemic starting and a constellation of symptoms that seemed to be getting worse that my doctor could not explain. It would not be until January of 2021 that I would learn a small brain tumor was responsible for my debilitating symptoms.
I was terrified and worried for my family. I am a single mom of two small children. My kids depend on me, and I am the sole income for my household. My job as a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse requires full use of all my senses and this tumor was going to take my hearing, balance, and possibly more. I was worried about what my life would look like, not to mention the possibility of losing my life to the tumor itself.
In May of 2021, I flew from Atlanta, Georgia to California to have surgery with the specialists at University of California San Diego to remove the vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma) that was growing on my cranial nerve. My recovery was hard, and unfortunately, they were not able to save my hearing. I was now completely deaf in one ear. I was heartbroken. I couldn’t hear in loud places. I had a strange feeling that there was just a huge black hole next to my deaf side. The doctors call it a head shadow, but it was more like a black hole to me.
Challenges of finding the right single-sided deafness treatment
Once I had physically recovered from surgery, my doctor back home wanted me to get a hearing device to use, and get used to, before returning to my work as a nurse. I initially got a loaner BiCROS hearing aid to try out from the hospital. Slowly, the black hole disappeared, but I was still concerned. Having to don so much gear to protect us and our patients from the Covid-19 virus, I worried my hearing aids would get in the way. I have to take masks on and off and put on sterile attire to enter surgical suites and found I would often get my hearing aids caught in my hair or in the straps of masks. I also had to remove one to be able to use my stethoscope. I knew there had to be something better.
My work in the NICU involves caring for the most vulnerable of all patients. Some weigh only 600g! A mistake can be devastating. I need to be able to hear the orders from providers, the heartbeat and lung sounds of my patients, and communicate with parents efficiently.
One of the first things we do when we get to work is receive a report from another nurse, which can be very stressful because of all the normal noises around us and the sound of everyone else giving reports at the same time. I also attend high-risk deliveries and codes, which are highly stressful and do not allow for any mistakes to be made. Communication needs to be clear and precise. Meanwhile, I still had difficulty hearing at work with my BiCROS—the amount of noise from alarms, vents, oxygen tanks, etc. would get scrambled into what I was trying to hear.
I had heard about bone anchored devices but was hesitant to go into surgery again, so I worked with the BiCROS system for three months. After doing some research, I decided the bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) would be a better choice for me and had heard many good things about the new Oticon Medical Ponto™ device, the Ponto 5 Mini. It was the newest device available, and its small size led me to believe it would work better for my needs. I also really liked the idea of putting it on in the morning and just not having to think about it for the rest of the day.
I scheduled my abutment placement. I did have concerns about my sensitive skin and having a reaction, but the Oticon Medical representatives were wonderful and answered all my questions and concerns. The placement itself was super easy, and I recovered really quickly. I even ran my first half-marathon two weeks after the placement of my abutment!
A new world of sound with Ponto 5 Mini
Getting my processor was amazing. I could hear so much more and clearer, but sound was strange at first—it was tinny, and difficult to sort out sounds. I thought maybe I had made a mistake and I got really down. Sometimes I would just turn my device off, but I had read somewhere that you need to constantly wear your device so that your brain can integrate the new sounds. So I used the theory of practice makes perfect and just continued to provide opportunities for my brain to sort out the sounds I was hearing.
I like the fact that with Bluetooth® compatibility, I can just connect to my devices and not have to juggle with a hearing aid and earbuds. They also are making stethoscopes that can connect directly via Bluetooth to my Ponto. I actually am able to listen better to my patients than my hearing counterparts at times.
I have to put surgical caps on to enter surgical suites, and the small size helps make this process a lot easier. I use the OpenSound Navigator™ feature a lot in the loud NICU especially when I am working the night shift. When I get tired, it is harder to sort out sounds, and this really helps during those times.
My hair nicely covers the processor so no one can see it. It’s not that I necessarily want to hide it, I just don’t want to give anyone any reason to question my abilities. On the other hand, if I want to share, I am able to, and sometimes showing a patient that you have a disability like they do and showing it as a super-power or special ability gives them an opportunity to see themselves in a different light.
I was really surprised how little I have to worry about feedback thanks to the OpenSound Optimizer.™ I was told that it would be a big issue, especially while wearing hats, but as long as the hat or surgical cap is loose-fitting, I really don’t have any problems.
It took almost two months, but I remember one day actually forgetting that I had my Ponto 5 Mini on and that I was deaf on one side. Something had clicked. Earlier, I had told the organizer of the medical mission trips that I would not be able to go this year because I was not sure I could help anyone due to my hearing loss. After that day though, I called him up and said, “Sign me up, I’m ready.” I have now completed my second medical mission trip to Guatemala personally helping hundreds of patients—none of whom had a clue that I once struggled with hearing.
I am the cool bionic mom to my kids! They are 10 and 12 and like to talk to their mom at the same time especially when they are excited about something. My Ponto 5 Mini helps me sort out their voices and hear what they are saying even when they talk over each other.
I want someone deciding whether to get a Ponto bone anchored hearing system to know that it takes time to adjust to your device. It’s not a magic button. Like anything, it takes practice and patience. The brain is amazing, and we are fortunate to have this technology. Just don’t give up!
This video was taken eight months post-craniotomy and two months post-BAHS implantation. My 10-year-old wanted to rock climb for his birthday, so of course I had to show them all up. I don’t wear the safety connection device, mostly because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. In the beginning of the video you can see where the rope hit the Ponto and it fell (not sure how high that is) a long, long way down. You can hear my kid’s Dad saying, “Something fell off” and my mom saying, “It’s her processor.”
Thank God there were pads underneath! I got down and clipped my processor back on and it works fine. Also, I’m an old lady so don’t judge my climbing skills (hey, I went higher than all the 10-year-olds!)
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.
Nancy Smith Oberman had her concerns about upgrading to a bilateral Ponto™ 4 bone anchored hearing system from her Ponto 3 SuperPowers. After all, her SuperPower devices worked great, plus with her profound level of hearing loss, she was doubtful that a non-SP device could help her hear as well as she needed. The following traces her journey from curious but cautious to official Ponto 4 convert.*
To upgrade or not to upgrade? That was my question
So, unfortunately, I have to add a hearing aid back into the mix. Not sure what’s going on — my hearing hasn’t changed much from my last audiogram even though it’s a little worse, but not enough (at least so my audiologist says) to make a big difference. I’m surmising my brain is getting older and I’m getting crankier, and just a little more tired of working so damn hard to hear people who refuse to speak up. Wonder how everything will work when Ponto 4 Super-Powers (when they come out) are added. Gotta love technology!
I want to trial the Ponto 4 and am trying to get the Ponto 4 demo now. I’m kind of afraid that my hearing loss is too great for non-SuperPower devices, but my audiologist knows I’ll only be satisfied once I am certain one way or another.
First step: trialing Ponto 4
I’m scheduled to get bilateral Ponto 4s programmed for trial Wednesday. In the meantime, I love teaching people! I’m working with the company that set up our phone system to come up with a solution to resolve my difficulty with phone usage. I had quite the conversation explaining the bone anchored hearing system and the Bluetooth® direct connection capabilities of the new Ponto 4. The person I spoke to was fascinated, to say the least! I consider it a win-win: I’ve educated more people about hearing loss and the technology to aid those of us who have it, plus I resolved my phone issue.
My Ponto 4 trial experience
I picked up two Ponto 4s Wednesday for trial. First off, I am amazed at how well they pick up speech, even for someone who has as great a loss as mine (I’m programmed to the ceiling with my Ponto 3 SuperPower devices). There is definitely a noticeable difference between the two sound platforms, with the (Oticon Opn™) open platform seriously a marked improvement.
Surprisingly, since these are programmed to the ceiling, I’ve had no feedback to speak of. Besides clearer, crisper speech, I hear as well as I do with the SuperPower, which I currently wear along with a regular hearing aid. I’ve played a little with wearing them without my hearing aid, and found that I still have the clear speech, but can’t hear much of anything else (e.g., background noise), which gives me a feeling that my ears are stopped up. Didn’t go a long time, since I was at work teaching, and was a tad nervous I would struggle hearing my students. But the few conversations I had with my coworkers outside the classroom were normal. I didn’t struggle to hear them even with students milling about or being loud while on the mats.
Hopefully, I’ll be braver next week and teach the whole day with just the bilateral Ponto 4 and without my hearing aid. Got to give them enough time to really test their performance.
Pleasantly surprised by Ponto 4
The Ponto 4s are so small and lightweight that it feels as if they aren’t even attached. I do miss the ability to mute from the processor itself but using the Oticon ON™ app is no different than using the app with my hearing aid. The direct Bluetooth is absolutely wonderful, except I can only use it in private. As with the streamer, everyone else around me can hear sounds traveling through the processors. At least my coworkers are used to me being in my office with my door closed.
I will be trialing the Ponto 4s for at least a month, so I can test them in all aspects of my life and hearing situations. So far, even though there was no initial “ah-ha” moment like I experienced with the Ponto 3 SuperPower, I am certainly impressed! I sure thought they wouldn’t work for me. I teach adults hands-on activities as well as in classrooms, and it’s quite busy and loud. Surprisingly, Ponto 4 seems to have a marked ability to mute that noise when I’m engaged in conversation.
Will Nancy decide to take the plunge and upgrade to Ponto 4? Find out in our next post!
Find a clinic
Click the button if you want to learn more about our Ponto bone anchored hearing systems or arrange a trial.
*NOTE: Originally shared via a series of Facebook posts with permission.
So often, parents tell us that they wish they would have had a place to learn more about their child’s hearing loss. With learning more, there are also questions: When is the right time to search for a solution? What goes into your child getting a bone anchored hearing system (BAHS)? With an endless number of considerations along the way, it can be a complex journey.
In this live online event, you’ll hear from Melissa Tumblin and Ann Pipes. Melissa and Ann, who both dedicate their time to helping others seeking hearing solutions and bettering the hearing industry, are both mothers to children who use BAHS.