Monthly Archives: March 2019

Determination and perseverance lead to better hearing for Elizabeth Collins

Elizabeth Collins

After a slow progression of hearing loss in her right ear, Elizabeth Collins became permanently deaf on her right side from a mastoidectomy surgery at the age of 14. She has lived with single-sided deafness (SSD) for most of her life, struggling to hear in school and at work.

“I had a fear of not wanting to raise my hand in school because I didn’t want to make a mistake. Growing up with single-sided deafness and not having the access or advocacy that we have now meant dealing with a lot of stigmas around being hearing impaired. I had to overcome a lot of insecurity, adversity, and bullying as I grew up,” Elizabeth explained.

The first hearing aids she used were BiCROS hearing aids, but the solution wasn’t enough for her hearing loss. It wasn’t until Elizabeth was 38 years old, when she decided to go back to college, that she began researching new hearing loss solutions for SSD. While completing her associates degree at Tidewater Community college she noticed a picture of someone wearing something behind their ear — a bone-anchored hearing system (BAHS). Audiologists hadn’t presented BAHS as an option, so Elizabeth did her own research, and found BAHS could be the right solution.

Obstacles and persistence

Elizabeth encountered her first obstacle while trying to get approval for BAHS surgery —insurance. After her insurer rejected the surgery multiple times,  she reached out to a BAHS advocate who educated her on insurance codes. After two years of fighting, she was finally approved and moved forward with her abutment surgery in 2012.

A year later, Elizabeth encountered another issue when she tried to upgrade her device because she was struggling with the type of BAHS she was using. The device wasn’t helping her in school and customer service was not supportive of her needs. She researched other brands of BAHS and found the Facebook group BAHA World Hearing where she first learned about Oticon Medical’s Ponto bone-anchored hearing system. Elizabeth was given a Ponto loaner to try. She shared her reaction for the first time in a heart-tugging video (see below).

Elizabeth Collins tries a Ponto bone-anchored hearing system for the first time

Elizabeth made the decision to switch to a Ponto BAHS and got ready for her next battle — a revision operation to have an Oticon Medical abutment implanted. Two years after she graduated college and began her career as a Contract Specialist at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and despite confronting more insurance rejections for her re-implantation surgery, Elizabeth finally received her Oticon Medical abutment in October 2018.

Life with her Ponto 3 SuperPower

Elizabeth Collins with her Ponto 3 SuperPower

Since receiving her new abutment and Ponto 3 SuperPower, Elizabeth has been experiencing a new world of hearing. When in meetings for work she can hear sounds more clearly and doesn’t miss what her co-workers are saying, whereas before she would struggle to make sense of conversations. Last year she graduated magna cum laude from Strayer University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and is now pursuing a Master’s Degree.

“Now I get to discuss and elaborate on topics. I do presentations and trainings where before, never in my life would I have wanted to go up in front of people and present. I’m excelling at my job and advancing to leadership roles. The most important difference I’ve noticed is that my speech has improved, my family has started to respect me, and I feel more confident,” she said.

In the end Elizabeth feels the switch was worth it. “Oticon Medical has captured my heart and I’m not going back. When people see my Ponto and ask me what I’m wearing, I let them know that this is my ear.”

To learn more about the Ponto 3 SuperPower and connect with our team, click below:

Learn More

 

 

Ear Community goes to Washington with Ponto SuperPowers

Advocacy Day 2019

On February 26, Ear Community was invited to be a part of the 2019 Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill.  This annual event invites advocates on behalf of dental, oral, and craniofacial research to speak directly with federal policymakers about how insurance coverage and research funding would improve the lives of those living with these conditions.

Organizer Melissa Tumblin founded Ear Community and has a daughter, Ally, with Microtia and Atresia who wears a bone-anchored hearing system (BAHS). Melissa was able to arrange the meetings with House and Senate representatives because she sits on the Patient Advocacy Council for the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).

Melissa and Ally were accompanied by eight other Ear Community families, including one medical doctor, to Washington, D.C. representing the states of Washington, Colorado, Tennessee, Maryland, and Virginia.

Lobbying on behalf of families living with hearing loss and related conditions

On Monday, February 25, Melissa met with directors from the National Institute of Health representing the NIDCR, American Association for Dental Research (AADR), and International Association for Dental Research (IADR) to discuss collaborative efforts regarding children and adults affected by craniofacial challenges due to Microtia and Atresia and Goldenhar Syndrome.

The next day, the Ear Community families met with the following representatives and staff members on Capitol Hill:

  • Staff members for Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) office
  • Legislative staff members for Congressman Joe Neguse’s (D-CO), Senator Cory Gardner’s (R-CO), and Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) offices.
  • Legislative staff members for Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and office staff for Congressman John Sarbanes’ (D-MD) and Senator Ben Cardin’s (D-MD).
  • Legislative staff and the press secretary for Congressman Denny Heck’s (D-WA) office and an Appropriations representative for the NIH staff for Senator Patty Murray’s (D-WA) office.
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and legislative staff members for Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Congressman Ben Cline (R-VA). Sen. Kaine was celebrating his birthday and signed a little girl with Microtia and Atresia named Mazie’s cast. Both Sen. Kaine and Rep. Spanberger tweeted about the Ear Community visit.

Sen. Mark Werner and Ear Community FamiliesRep. Spanberger with members of Ear Community

Melissa also scheduled phone meetings with Congressman David McKinley (R-WV) and Congressman Michael Thompson (D-CA), as they both serve as co-chairs of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus. Rep. McKinley is a cochlear implant user, and his grandson wears a bone-anchored hearing aid.

Each family left behind a detailed packet of information with the story of the Ear Community organization, an explanation about the need to wear bone-anchored hearing systems, and a sample of anaudiogram along with other helpful facts and figures. Each family explained to legislators and their staff that a bone-anchored device is their only option, because they don’t have the same hearing challenges that qualify others to wear cochlear implants or benefit from traditional hearing aids. Therefore, wearers need lawmakers to work toward mandating bone-conduction hearing device coverage by insurers nationwide. Otherwise, insurance companies are effectively discriminating against thousands of children and adults with hearing loss by not covering these medical devices.

A Stranger Things star gives back

Gaten Matarazzo poses with Ear Community kids for Advocacy Day 2019.

The Ear Community families also received an exciting treat: thanks to the NIDCR and AADR, they were given the opportunity to meet actor Gaten Matarazzo from the hit TV show Stranger Things! He was part of the Advocacy Day non-profit organization lobbying to bring awareness to Cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD), a rare genetic mutation affecting the growth and development of teeth and bones.

Melissa expressed her appreciation to Oticon Medical for lending her two Ponto 3 SuperPower BAHS on soft bands. During her visits, representatives tried on the Pontos and listened to her talk during their meetings, so they could experience for themselves what it’s like to hear through bone-anchored devices.

#

Ear Community hosts a series of picnics where Microtia and Atresia families can learn more about Oticon Medical’s Ponto 3 SuperPower. Please click through this link for the 2019 picnic schedule.

Ready to try your first Ponto BAHS or upgrade to our latest Ponto 3 model? Click below to get in touch with an audiologist in your area who can help you choose the best option for your hearing needs.

Help Finding A Local Audiologist

SuperNOVA receives super hearing from her Ponto 3 SuperPowers

Nova Cox

Pfeiffer Syndrome is a craniofacial disorder that affects one in every 100,000 people and impacts the way bones grow. Nine-year-old Nova Cox was born with Pfeiffer Syndrome, and in her case her head, neck, and arms have been affected resulting in hearing loss in both ears.

Because hearing loss is common with Pfeiffer Syndrome, her parents Elizabeth (Liz) and Jason connected with other families, utilized Facebook groups for bone conduction wearers, researched online, and consulted their audiologist before Nova was fit with a bone-anchored hearing system (BAHS) on a softband.  

That’s a new sound

After wearing a bone-anchored hearing device on a softband for 7.5 years, Nova began advocating for abutment surgery. After doing research with her family, they consulted an audiologist and were able to try on different types of BAHS before her surgery.

“Nova made the decision to have the implant surgery and was able to ask her questions and be a part of the decision-making process. When she learned more about it she advocated for it and we moved forward when she was ready. When she tried on the Ponto, she didn’t want to take it off,” Liz explained.

Nova chose the Ponto bone-anchored hearing system because she experienced less feedback and better sound quality after trying different devices. She had bilateral abutment surgery and was fit with two Ponto 3 SuperPowers. On the day her Pontos were programmed it was raining and her mom recalls she asked, “Does the rain always sound like this?”. Nova’s parents knew they had made the right decision and for the first few weeks of having her Pontos on abutments they liked to play a game called That’s a new sound, where Nova shared new sounds she was experiencing.

Life with Ponto

It’s been a year since Nova’s bilateral abutment surgery. Today, she is a fierce and mighty force of nature advocating for herself, her health, and her life as an active kid.

She says she loves her Ponto BAHS and enjoys using the Oticon Medical Streamer in class and when she’s in the hospital so she can watch movies to pass the time. And like lots of kids her age she likes Legos, Star Wars and Pokemon and spends her free time playing music, soccer, Taekwondo, and watching movies with friends.

Nova hiking

Nova practicing Taekwondo

Empowered to tell her story

Inspired to share her story especially with young children, Nova created the video below as she was preparing to give a talk in Washington, DC advocating for high-quality accessible healthcare for children.

SuperNOVA: A Tiny Film

Advice to others

Nova and her family have learned a lot in just nine years. A few important pieces of advice that they want to share with other families is to try multiple hearing devices in order to find the right solution and make decisions when the time is right for you or your child. As for Nova, she has the best advice — “Judge Less, Love More”.

To learn more about the Ponto 3 SuperPower and be connected with our team click below:

Learn More

 

How important is it that Ponto helps wearers remember more?

A recent study has provided evidence that the Ponto(BAHS) sound processing allows wearers to learn faster[1], remember more[2], and use less listening effort[3]. In this post, we’re going to focus on the benefits of remembering more.

Evidence indicates Oticon Medical BAHS support memory

First, a review of the study and its results with regards to memory: Professor Thomas Lunner and Oticon Medical partnered to assess how the Ponto system might support memory function. 16 adults in their late fifties with conductive or mixed hearing loss were tested while wearing two Pontos: one optimally fitted on softband and one on abutment. The subjects were tested with one Ponto at the time, in random order. After listening to seven sentences, they were asked to recall as many last words of the sentences as possible The subjects could remember 46 percent of the last words with the Ponto fitted on softband. However, when they wore Ponto attached to their abutments, they remembered 52 percent of the words correct. This means wearers experienced a 13 percent relative improvement in ability to remember words with direct sound transmission versus skin transmission.

The impact of hearing loss on memory

A separate study[4] found that 56 percent of participants evaluated for memory and cognitive concerns, as well as potential brain disorders like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, had some form of hearing loss ranging from mild to severe, and about 36 percent of them had not received treatment for their hearing loss. Additional studies have concluded that untreated hearing loss is a significant risk factor in the development of memory and thinking disorders[5] [6]. However, it’s also a contributor that you can affect by treating your hearing difficulties – and the sooner, the better.

What it all means to you

Researchers have multiple theories as to why hearing affects memory, including that when fewer mental resources are needed to process incoming sound signals, more can be devoted to remembering. Also, when you can hear better, you’re likelier to continue actively engaging in social situations like going out to restaurants with friends or attending family gatherings. Regular social interaction stimulates your brain and supports emotional health, both of which are vital to preventing isolation and depression – both of which are known contributors to the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease[7].

Evidence strongly indicates that a Ponto system offers wearers more than the ability to hear better. When worn implanted on an abutment, these powerful BAHS can significantly improve your ability to remember.

Ready to try your first Ponto BAHS or upgrade to our latest Ponto 3 model? Click below to get in touch with an audiologist in your area who can help you choose the best option for your hearing needs.

Learn More

[1]  Pittman, A. L. (2019) Bone conduction amplification in children: Stimulation via a percutaneous abutment vs. a transcutaneous softband. Ear Hear.  

[2] Lunner, T., Rudner, M., Rosenbom, T., Ågren, J., and Ng, E.H.N. (2016) Using Speech Recall in Hearing Aid Fitting and Outcome Evaluation Under Ecological Test Conditions. Ear Hear 37 Suppl 1: 145S-154S.

[3] Bianchi, F., Wendt, D., Wassard, C., Maas, P., Lunner, T., Rosenbom, T., and Holmberg, M. (2019) Benefit of higher maximum force output on listening effort in bone-anchored hearing system users: a pupillometry study. Ear Hear.

[4] Kate Dupuis et al, Considering Age-Related Hearing Loss in Neuropsychological Practice: Findings from a Feasibility Study, Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement (2018). DOI: 10.1017/S0714980818000557.

[5] Lin, F.R., Metter, J.E., O’Brien, R., Resnick, S.M., Zonderman, A.B., & Ferrucci, L (2011). Hearing loss and incident dementia. Archives of Neurology, 68(2), 214-220.

[6] Lin, F.R., Yaffe, K., Xia, J., Xue, Q-L., Harris, T.B., Purchase-Helzner, E., Satterfield, S., Ayonayon, H.N., Ferrucci, L., & Simonsick, E.M. (2013). Hearing loss and cognitive decline in older adults. JAMA Internal Medicine, 173(4), 293-299.

[7] Herbert, Joe M.B., Ph.D. (2016) Depression is a Risk for Alzheimer’s: We Need to Know Why. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hormones-and-the-brain/201604/depression-is-risk-alzheimer-s-we-need-know-why

Learning Faster: Why It Matters

In our previous blog post, we discussed BrainHearing™ — the term we at Oticon Medical use when referring to how the vital elements of hearing (processing and comprehension) occur in the brain. We also reviewed the evidence showing how our Ponto™ system supports sound processing that enables wearers to learn faster[1], remember more[2], and experience less listening effort[3]. In this post we’re going to delve deeper into how our bone-anchored hearing system (BAHS) helps wearers, especially children, learn faster and why that is important to their development.

The study and its results summed up

To review, Professor Andrea Pittman studied 17 preteen children, 16 of whom have conductive hearing loss and one with single-sided deafness (SSD) The children wore two Ponto Power at a time: one optimally fitted on a softband and one on an abutment. The children had to learn six new words and Dr. Pittman counted the number of repetitions it took to do so. The children performed the learning task twice (with different words), where only one sound processor was activated at a time in a randomized, single-blind manner (i.e., the subjects didn’t know which sound processor was active).

While the kids required approximately 166 trials to learn the words when wearing their Pontos affixed by softbands, they only needed 60 trials when wearing the devices attached to abutments — a 2.5 times increase in learning speed.

Faster learning supports better education and social development

When it comes to education and social development, language acquisition plays a significant role. To learn how to speak, read, and write on pace with their hearing peers, hard-of-hearing children need the best available assistance to improve their hearing ability as early in their lives as possible.

Babies and toddlers initially acquire language by hearing their parents speak. Their linguistic comprehension increases exponentially as they grow and interact more with other adults and peers especially once they start school. During the critical school age years, kids who cannot hear clearly often struggle to increase their vocabulary because it is hard to process and understand spoken language[4].

Consider this: even children with perfect hearing have difficulty paying attention in school. They often are expected to absorb lessons while straining to hear over background chatter, sitting far away from the teacher, and poor classroom acoustics. Now imagine trying to learn despite all this and having a significant hearing loss. It’s no surprise hard-of-hearing children[5] often return home from school feeling frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed.

Difficulty to learn at the same rate as others can also lead to youngsters falling behind or even in being held back a grade[6]. For kids who may already feel isolated by their hearing loss, this further separation from same-age peers can significantly impede their social development.

With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that many of these children develop a negative attitude toward school. Many doubt their own learning capabilities and struggle to fit in socially. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Helping kids with hearing loss succeed

By utilizing a Ponto as early in life as possible, your child can experience the regular stimulation of incoming sound needed to help the brain as much as possible. When worn implanted on an abutment, this powerful BAHS may help keep children learning at a rate closer to that of their natural hearing peers.

Are you ready to try a Ponto for the first time or upgrade to our latest Ponto 3 model? Click below to get in touch with an audiologist in your area who can help you choose the best option for you or your child’s hearing needs.

Learn More

[1] Pittman, A. L. (2019) Bone conduction amplification in children: Stimulation via a percutaneous abutment vs. a transcutaneous softband. Ear Hear.
[2] Lunner, T., Rudner, M., Rosenbom, T., Ågren, J., and Ng, E.H.N. (2016) Using Speech Recall in Hearing Aid Fitting and Outcome Evaluation Under Ecological Test Conditions. Ear Hear 37 Suppl 1: 145S-154S.
[3] Bianchi, F., Wendt, D., Wassard, C., Maas, P., Lunner, T., Rosenbom, T., and Holmberg, M. (2019) Benefit of higher maximum force output on listening effort in bone-anchored hearing system users: a pupillometry study. Ear Hear.
[4] Committee on the Evaluation of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Disability Program for Children with Speech Disorders and Language Disorders; Board on the Health of Select Populations; Board on Children, Youth, and Families; Institute of Medicine; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Rosenbaum S, Simon P, editors. Speech and Language Disorders in Children: Implications for the Social Security Administration’s Supplemental Security Income Program. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2016 Apr 6. 2, Childhood Speech and Language Disorders in the General U.S. Population. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK356270/
[5] Colquitt JL, Jones J, Harris P, et al. Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHAs) for People who are Bilaterally Deaf: A Systematic Review and Economic Evaluation. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2011 Jul. (Health Technology Assessment, No. 15.26.) 1, Aim and background. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK99649/
[6] Cooke, Gary, & Stammer, John. (1985). Grade retention and social promotion. CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, 61 (4), 302-308. EJ 315 804

Ponto helps wearers! Learn faster. Remember more. Reduce listening effort.

By now you’re likely familiar with BrainHearing™, our guiding principal when it comes to developing our hearing systems. Simply put, it is an acknowledgement that the most vital hearing processes, including speech comprehension and understanding, occurs in the brain, not ears. Therefore, effective hearing systems need to make it as easy as possible for your brain to make sense of incoming sounds, not just pick up and amplify them. Our Ponto™ bone-anchored hearing systems (BAHS) support better sound processing that enables wearers to learn faster[1], remember more[2], and expend less listening effort[3] — and we have the evidence to prove it.

Learn faster with Ponto

Principal investigator Professor Andrea Pittman of Arizona State University studied 17 preteen children, 16 of whom had conductive hearing loss and one with single-sided deafness (SSD). She initially tested the children with the Ponto Power fitted on softbands. Prof. Pittman had the children listen to and learn six new made-up words and assessed the number of repetitions required before each child learned the words. Then she repeated the test, only this time with the Ponto Power affixed to the children’s abutments. The results were significant — it took the children approximately 166 trials to learn the words when sounds were transmitted through the skin via the softband yet only 60 trials when sounds were transmitted directly through the attached devices. That’s an impressive 2.5 times increase in learning speed!  

Ponto helps wearers remember more

Professor Thomas Lunner worked with Oticon Medical at the Ericksholm Research Center in Denmark to assess how Ponto aids in improving memory. Participants in the study included 16 adults in their late fifties with conductive or mixed hearing loss. Again, the subjects were first tested wearing their Pontos on softbands only. Their assigned task was to recall seven words after listening to sentences including each word individually. The results showed the subjects remembered the words at a rate of approximately 46 percent. However, when they wore their Pontos on their abutments and were tested again, that number rose to a significant 52 percent. This means wearers experienced a 13 percent relative improvement in ability to recall with direct sound transmission vs. skin transmission — likely because fewer mental resources were needed to process the signal, and so more can be devoted to memory.  

Reduce listening effort with Ponto 3 SuperPower

The principal investigator in this study was Oticon Medical, working out of our Global headquarters in Denmark. Participants consisted of 21 adults in their late 50s with conductive or mixed hearing loss. They were tested using three different processors with different maximum outputs: Ponto Pro, Ponto 3, and Ponto 3 SuperPower. Participants were tasked with listening to and repeating sentences heard through background noise, while an eye-tracking camera monitored their pupil dilation, an established measurement of listening effort wherein the pupil dilates in direct relation to the amount of listening effort expended. Our researchers compared the performance of the subjects using each device and noted a sizeable decrease in listening effort and retention with use of the Ponto 3 SuperPower as indicated by reduced pupil dilation as compared to the Ponto Pro and the regular Ponto 3. This supports the idea that higher power hearing systems allows wearers to comprehend speech with significantly less effort.  

What it all means to you

The evidence is in that direct sound transmission through a Ponto system with a higher maximum output offers far more than the ability to hear better. When worn implanted on an abutment, these powerful BAHS let you learn 2.5 times faster — especially important for school-age wearers. They improve ability to remember by 13 percent, which offers an advantage to older wearers who might have memory concerns in general. And they require wearers to expend less listening effort to keep up with conversations, reducing the fatigue associated with difficulty straining to hear and understand speech daily. Ready to try your first Ponto BAHS or upgrade to our latest Ponto 3 model? Click below to get in touch with an audiologist in your area who can help you choose the best option for your hearing needs.

Learn More

 

[1] Pittman, A. L. (2019) Bone conduction amplification in children: Stimulation via a percutaneous abutment vs. a transcutaneous softband. Ear Hear. 
[2] Lunner, T., Rudner, M., Rosenbom, T., Ågren, J., and Ng, E.H.N. (2016) Using Speech Recall in Hearing Aid Fitting and Outcome Evaluation Under Ecological Test Conditions. Ear Hear 37 Suppl 1: 145S-154S.
[3]  Bianchi, F., Wendt, D., Wassard, C., Maas, P., Lunner, T., Rosenbom, T., and Holmberg, M. (2019) Benefit of higher maximum force output on listening effort in bone-anchored hearing system users: a pupillometry study. Ear Hear.