Tag Archives: ponto

Exploring the Links Between Your Hearing and Your Health

Did you know? 

We exercise, drink water, and eat healthy to prevent any health issues down the road. Many of us have regular primary care appointments as preventative care. But what about your hearing health? How does hearing loss impact your overall health?

Nearly 27 million Americans ages 50 and older have hearing loss. Of those, only one in seven treat it. Those that do treat their hearing loss often wait an average of 10 years or more before meeting with a hearing healthcare processional. Unfortunately, this can have a lasting impact on your health.

A study from Johns Hopkins expert Frank Lin, M.D. Ph.D monitored nearly 700 adults for 12 years and found that people with moderate or severe hearing loss were at an increased risk for developing balance problems resulting in more frequent falls as well as a higher prevalence of memory loss. In addition to these findings, other research has confirmed that individuals with heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes are more likely to also experience hearing loss as compared to their age matched peers.

So, how does this impact your daily life?

If you are reading this post, you are likely very aware that hearing loss can have a significant impact on social interactions. You might find that you are asking others to repeat themselves. You may struggle to follow conversation with more than one person. Or you may find yourself thinking everyone else is mumbling. Whatever it is that you struggle with, the effects on social interactions can lead to self-isolation and ultimately depression and anxiety.

What can you do to prevent these effects?

One of the best ways to prevent these issues is to start with good hearing habits early in life. Just like we brush our teeth every day for good oral hygiene, we should protect our hearing when in loud environments. We should reduce exposure to medications that can cause hearing loss and we should have regular hearing exams with a hearing healthcare provider to monitor hearing over time. If hearing loss is detected, we should treat it quickly.

What if I already know I have hearing loss?

Now is a great time to start treating it! Do not hold back from choosing to do something about it. Schedule an appointment with your hearing healthcare provider and share a comprehensive medical history with them. Work with them to determine the best solution for you. If you do not yet have a provider, please use our Find a clinic tool. Or you can reach out to our team at 888.277.8014 (M-F 8am-8pm ET), and we would be glad to help find the right provider for you.

Any form of hearing loss can be challenging for the person experiencing it and for loved ones trying to communicate with them. It is our hope to help you hear your best because sound matters!

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 aural rehabilitation and its impact on patient outcomes.

Citations

Hopkinsmedicine.org. 2022. The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss. [online] Available at: <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-hidden-risks-of-hearing-loss> [Accessed 29 April 2022].

You Hear with Your Brain

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.

Resources

  • 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

Enjoying Music with Ponto

“Where words fail, music speaks.” —  Hans Christian Anderson

 Think of a favorite memory that involves music.

Perhaps it was when you attended an outdoor concert on a beautiful summer day with family and friends. Or that moment when you blasted your favorite song on the car radio with the windows down. What is it about hearing a certain song that can transport you back to a happy day in your life? Undoubtedly, music touches our hearts and minds in a way that few things can.

If you are someone with a hearing loss, music may sound different to you than it used to. Certain notes might sound flat. The lyrics of a song might be more difficult to identify. You might long to hear certain instruments in the orchestra again. Losing a connection to music is another hidden challenge presented by hearing loss presents.

In today’s world, hearing device users are fortunate to have access to technology that can make listening to music more enjoyable. If you use a Ponto™ device, let’s look at a few ways that your hearing care professional can optimize your processor to help make music sound better to you.

Ask your audiologist to make you a music program

Music is very different than speech. Music contains volume and pitch changes that don’t occur in conversational speech. A challenge for bone anchored hearing aid users is that, while their devices are designed to emphasize speech, those same pitch and volume enhancements needed to understand speech can interfere with music enjoyment.

A music program is designed to allow the hearing device to accept a wider range of frequencies and lessen noise reduction. In the Ponto 5 Mini, your clinician has access to a preset music program with settings that are guided by the latest research into listening to music through hearing devices. You can access your music program using the Oticon ON™ app paired to your smartphone by selecting it when listening to music. If you are a Ponto 3 SuperPower patient, your audiologist can create a music program that can be accessed with your Oticon Medical Streamer. If you haven’t tested a music program yet, ask your audiologist to create one for you at your next visit and listen to the difference.

Use your wireless accessories to stream music directly to your Ponto family device

Ponto hearing device users are fortunate to have access to a wealth of accessories that can help them enjoy music. Let’s talk about how you might use these wireless accessories. 

The ConnectClip

The ConnectClip™ is a multi-function accessory that is compatible with our Ponto 4 and Ponto 5 Mini devices. The ConnectClip is easily paired to your Ponto and a smartphone. You can use it to stream music from your favorite Spotify™ or Apple® Music playlist directly to your device. The music volume can be adjusted right on the ConnectClip for a hands-free listening experience.

The EduMic

The EduMic™ is widely known as a wireless accessory with educational benefits for pediatric patients. It is a one-to-many device that is capable of so much, including accepting a streaming signal from an FM transmitter in educational settings. But did you know that you can also use EduMic in “jack mode” to listen to music? If you want to enjoy music from a laptop or a wireless speaker that has a jack cable plug-in, you can plug in your EduMic and stream the audio directly to a Ponto 4 or Ponto 5 Mini. The EduMic is shipped with the 3.5 mm jack cable required, so no need to shop for anything extra. As an added bonus, the EduMic is currently offered as one of the free accessory options for patients placing a new Ponto 5 Mini order.

The Oticon Medical Streamer

For our Ponto 3 SuperPower patients, you can use your connected Oticon Medical Streamer to link to a music system, either wirelessly using Bluetooth®, or a 3.5 mm jack cable if you prefer to plug in. Worn around the patient’s neck, the Oticon Medical Streamer also offers patients an entirely hands-free music listening experience in either mode.

Take note of assistive devices available to hearing device users

Many theaters and concert halls have a telecoil loop system that allows audio to be transmitted to a hearing device using the telecoil.  A loop system uses electromagnetic energy to transmit the audio from the venue to its patrons with hearing loss. Our Ponto 3 SuperPower patients can access their telecoil with the use of the Oticon Medical Streamer. The telecoil in the streamer picks up the electromagnetic energy that is transmitted from the loop system in the room, allowing the user to access the audio from the stage directly in their device. Simply pressing the “AUX” button on the lower right side of the streamer for two seconds will activate the telecoil feature.  If you are a Ponto 5 Mini patient using the EduMic, you can use its telecoil mode to stream the telecoil signal from a theater or music venue. The next time you are seeing a concert or a play in a live theater, be sure to ask whether it is “looped”.

Enjoy music with your Ponto bone anchored hearing system

Thanks to the advanced technology in Oticon Medical devices and wireless accessories, bone anchored hearing device users have more options than ever when it comes to music enjoyment. Be sure to visit your audiologist to learn more about how you can take advantage of the options available to you.

About the author

Courtney Smith, M.A., CCC/A, is the Clinical Trainer for Oticon Medical. She in in her 19th year of practicing audiology. She has practiced in private practice and university hospital settings in Las Vegas, NV. She completed her training at the University of Iowa in 2003.

Auditory Rehabilitation: The Importance of Developing your Listening Skills

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your quality of life. For some people it can impact social interactions, work environment, and even activities that you used to find to be relaxing and enjoyable. The purpose of this blog post is to help you to understand that you are not alone in this journey. Depending on the type and degree of hearing loss you experience, bone anchored hearing systems along with aural rehabilitation, may help you to reduce your listening effort.

Learning to listen

Did you know that we listen with our brains rather than our ears? If you are someone experiencing hearing loss, your brain may not be getting the auditory stimulation it needs to be able to understand and comprehend speech information. Therefore, the first step in learning to listen is to make sure your brain is getting access to the sound it needs. The best way to ensure this is to work with your hearing healthcare professional to determine the type and degree of hearing loss you have and how to best treat it.

Sometimes we need more

Of course, many different factors influence outcomes with your hearing devices. One of those factors could be that your brain needs to re-learn how to listen and understand. Just like your hip might need rehabilitation if you hurt it, your brain may need some listening rehabilitation to reduce listening fatigue and improve overall understanding. We call this aural rehabilitation. You may also hear it referred to as “AR”.

What is aural rehabilitation?

Aural rehabilitation allows individuals experiencing hearing loss to learn how to use their technology and other resources to improve speech understanding, listening effort, and overall communication. According to Arthur Boothroyd[1], there are four components of aural rehabilitation:

  1. Sensory management: Treatment of the hearing loss.
  2. Instruction: Learning how to use your devices to best serve you in many different listening environments.
  3. Perceptual training: Learning how to listen and process sound through targeted therapy either provided in-person or via virtual platform.
  4. Counseling: Understanding realistic expectations.

The goal of aural rehabilitation is to improve quality of life by teaching the listener (you) how to reduce listening effort.  By reducing listening effort, you can experience improved listening stamina and even improvements in understanding when listening in different environments.

What are some benefits to doing aural rehabilitation?

Let’s face it, we are all busy. We have errands to run, kids to pick up, grandkids to play with, and Netflix® to binge! So, why put in the effort? Aural rehabilitation has been proven to improve listening outcomes from a reduction in the perception of hearing difficulties to an improvement in quality-of-life. Aural rehab can really help you to get the most out of your hearing technology.

When is the best time to start aural rehabilitation?

While research indicates that aural rehabilitation provides the most benefit within the first three months post device fit (Dornhoffer et al, 2021)[2], some form of aural rehabilitation can be beneficial to all individuals with hearing loss at any point during their hearing healthcare journey. The best time to start is now!

There are many ways in which you can pursue the different forms of aural rehabilitation. In addition to in-person therapy sessions, AR includes the use of any assistive technologies or accessories, support from friends and family, as well as training tools to help you to feel more confident no matter the listening environment. Some of these training methods include in-person therapy sessions, online training materials provided by various manufacturers, and even different phone applications that can support your hearing and listening journey. The best way for you to have an experience tailored to your needs is to discuss these therapy options with your hearing healthcare professional, so that they can determine the best ways to ensure that you have the resources you need to be successful.

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 aural rehabilitation and its impact on patient outcomes.

[1] Boothroyd, A. (2007). Adult Aural Rehabilitation: What Is It and Does It Work? Trends in Amplification, 11(2), 63-71. https://doi.org/10.1177/1084713807301073

[2] Dornhoffer, J. R., Reddy, P., Ma, C., Schvartz-Leyzac, K. C., Dubno, J. R., & McRackan, T. R. (2021). Use of Auditory Training and Its Influence on Early Cochlear Implant Outcomes in Adults. Otology & Neurotology43(2), e165–e173. https://doi.org/10.1097/mao.0000000000003417

 

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.

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.

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

Wearers explain why you shouldn’t fear minimally invasive Ponto surgery

We frequently receive inquiries from people who know that they would benefit from a bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) but are holding off because they’re nervous about undergoing implantation surgery. While we can (and do) explain all the reasons our minimally invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS) is a low-risk, quick, and relatively painless procedure, nothing we can say will ever be quite as convincing as hearing from others who have experienced MIPS and its benefits firsthand or through their children. In this week’s post, we’re sharing feedback gathered from multiple Ponto BAHS wearers that we hope will alleviate any reticence that might be preventing you from moving forward in your journey to better hearing.

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“I had my abutment implanted 20 years ago with just local anesthetic and chatted with the assistant during the procedure; it was not painful.”— Beth P.

“It will be okay. My procedure was done 7 years ago, same day surgery, and all went well. I was given a large snap on protective disc/cover and that helped. By large, I mean it was about an inch in diameter. I used Neosporin cream, not greasy ointment, that had lidocaine in it. I would apply a small amount to the skin around the abutment and that helped with the tenderness. The surgery seems daunting, but it really is very safe. I had tenderness for a few days. My surgery was in December and then in February the device was added. I’m thankful every single day that I was able to have the surgery. It is life changing. I spent 50 years being so hard of hearing that once I got my Ponto, I sat and cried with joy.” — Lori H.

“I had my surgery with just a local anesthetic, was awake the whole time. It was fascinating as the doc explained it as she went along.” — Annette C.

“I had my MIPS in the morning, had brunch with my husband, and then napped that afternoon. Was more worried than was warranted!!! I had scheduled the next day off work, but it was not necessary! I teach figure skating. Best of luck! Happy hearing coming up!” — Karen L.

“If you’re talking about the Ponto abutment procedure, it was easy! I opted for no anesthesia or sedation. Just a local. It was painless. And not scary at all.” – Kathrin S.

“Had the procedure. No problems at all. Tiny discomfort the day of surgery. Got to start wearing the hearing aid after about 4-6 weeks. Went fabulously. No worries. You’ll do great! And you won’t regret it.” — Aaron B.

“Clear sound is in store for you… probably 4-8 weeks post-surgery. The abutment implant surgery was easy-peasy! There may be some mild tenderness or soreness. Use an antibiotic ointment! Keep area clean. If hat or cap wearing is part of your routine, take one with you so surgeon can place abutment below hat. Occasionally sleeping may be challenging if you are a side sleeper, changing pillows or pillow plumbing will help. These are minor inconveniences or adjustments for hearing capability! Bluetooth® streaming is wonderful for phone, TV, and other situations.” — Rita R.

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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, MIPS, and more. You can also always contact Oticon Medical directly at 888.277.8014 or at [email protected]

Ponto Surgery During the Pandemic

Since the onset of the novel coronavirus, people considering minimally invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS) have had to ask themselves: should I hold off treating my hearing loss? The answer is that your decision – and that of the audiology professional who would perform it – will be unique to your specific circumstances. However, should you decide to proceed, rest assured that hospitals and medical facilities around the United States have implemented the strictest precautions for keeping you safe.

The MIPS procedure is an elective surgery, so the main factor affecting whether yours will go ahead as planned will be the COVID-19 restrictions currently in place where your procedure would occur. While many states are experiencing a second wave as of this writing, not every town or city within those states has been equally affected nor is every state implementing the same level of restrictions on elective surgeries. So your first step is to check the current limitations governing the region in which you plan to have the MIPS procedure.

Assuming your location would permit your procedure to take place, your next step would be to discuss options like where your surgery will take place with your hearing health professional. Your surgeon will review your overall medical history and health risks along with your personal hearing issues, and then based on this information and your expressed comfort level recommend that you have the procedure as an inpatient or outpatient. The good news is that minimally invasive Ponto surgery can and has been performed successfully in either environment, as it is a quick procedure (compared to other surgeries) and usually doesn’t require a lengthy onsite recovery, especially if it is performed under local anesthetic.

COVID-19 safety precautions at clinics and hospitals

Medical institutions around the United States have learned much from the first go-round dealing with the coronavirus and instituting the strictest safety precautions to protect patients. If you are preparing for MIPS, here is a quick rundown of what you will likely experience as your clinic or hospital takes steps to protect you, other patients, and their staff.

  1. COVID-19 tests and screens. You will be screened and likely take a COVID-19 test (possibly more than once) during pre-surgical and day-of surgical visits. You will also have your temperature taken and answer questions about whether you have a cough, muscle aches, loss of taste or smell, or other common symptoms of the virus. You might be told to self-quarantine at home (typically 14 days) before your procedure to reduce your risk of exposure.
  2. Surgical team precautions. Anyone involved in your care before, during, and after MIPS will be going through regular, multiple tests and screenings to protect you. They will also be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) that includes medical-grade face masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves. Research has shown that PPE use reduces the risk of infecting patients significantly.
  3. Hospital precautions. Medical facilities around the country have been and continue to take extra precautions to thoroughly clean and sanitize, especially in areas where operations take place. If a hospital also treats COVID-19 patients, they restrict that care to separate areas. This normally includes dedicating staff to only care for those patients and even requiring those patients and their visitors (if any are allowed) to use separate entrances and waiting rooms.
  4. Clinic precautions. As for clinics dedicated to hearing healthcare, they are regularly screening any patients that come onsite for fever and other indications of coronavirus, as well as implementing enhanced cleaning and sanitization protocols, mandating patients and staff remain six feet apart whenever possible, requiring staff to take tests if they suspect exposure, and to quarantine if they have a positive test or have reason to suspect they were exposed to coronavirus. PPE has been distributed to clinics for use during surgical and other direct procedures. Many clinics have also taken advantage of telehealth advancements to reduce the number of in-person visitors to their clinics significantly.

The decision is yours – and your surgeon’s

Ultimately, every medical decision must be made on an individual basis. A procedure that is nearly 100 percent without risk for one patient might not be safe for another. Pre-existing conditions must be taken into consideration, along with age and overall health.

That said, should you and your hearing care professional determine MIPS would be safe for you to undergo now, we are confident you will be satisfied with the results. The procedure itself is simple and usually completed in under twenty minutes. Your surgeon will place a small titanium implant in the bone behind your ear. Many patients only require local anesthesia, and there is no need for stitches. Typically, post-operative recovery requires no more than a day or two off work or out of school. And the results speak for themselves – 98 percent of users report improved quality of life after minimally invasive Ponto surgery.[1]

If you are ready to learn more about MIPS and life with Ponto, we can help you find a clinic near you.

[1] Lagerkvist, H, et al., Ten years’ experience with the Ponto bone anchored hearing system – a systematic literature review. Clin Otolaryngol, 2020.