Bone Anchored vs. Air Conduction Hearing Aids

Which hearing treatment is right for me?

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

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

What are air conduction hearing aids?

Oticon Hearing Aid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are bone conduction hearing aids?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you’re ready to treat your hearing loss

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

Craniofacial Conditions and their Effects on Hearing

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

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

Microtia (with or without Atresia)

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

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

Treacher Collins Syndrome

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

Craniofacial Microsomia

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

Apert Syndrome

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

Velocardiofacial Syndrome

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

Treatment for conductive hearing losses due to syndromes

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

The Challenges of Single-Sided Deafness

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

What causes a loss of hearing in one ear?

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

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

How single-sided hearing loss interferes with life

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

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

Treatment options for SSD

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

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

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

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

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

Good Vibrations Day is Here!

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

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

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

A nod to the godfather of bone anchored hearing

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ponto 4 Wearer Shannon Shares the Joy of Discovering New Sounds

New wearer Shannon Dakin recently shared her excitement about living life with Ponto 4 in a Facebook Group. The following is her experience with our most advanced bone anchored hearing system to date, in her own words.

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Basically, due to ear infections as a child, I’ve always had hearing loss. Through surgeries (about 13), I was able to hear, but I don’t think I had perfect hearing. About 20 years ago, I had another round of infections that took away my hearing. All the surgeries failed, and they were unable to do any more due to too much scar tissue.

Since then, I’ve lived life with no hearing in my right ear and some hearing loss in my left. I was unable to use conventional hearing aids as they would plug my ear canal and cause infections. In that 20 years, I could never get the bone anchored system due to the cost, and none of the medical insurance plans I had would ever cover it, until I started working where I am now.

With my Ponto 4, I’ve gone from 20 years with limited hearing to hearing everything. It has been overwhelming and fascinating at the same time. I don’t know how I accomplished so much with my limited hearing! I don’t have anything to compare the Ponto 4 with, but the sound is great, and I’ve adapted well to using it. This has been a life-changer for me and I’m very thankful!

I noticed yesterday that cardinals are the loudest birds. It amazes me that they are so noisy! We live in a very noisy world. The ice maker is my nemesis. I never knew it made so much sound all the time and when it dumps, I jump!

My husband and I are starting beekeeping this year. I was able to hear buzzing before the device, but I have a feeling this spring and summer are going to be filled with so much buzzing sound! He says I’m like a two-year-old sometimes, always saying, “What’s that?! What’s that?!”

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We appreciate Shannon allowing us to share her experience and are thrilled she is enjoying her new life filled with sounds—even if some are more enjoyable than others!

If you are considering whether to take the next step and getting a Ponto bone anchored hearing system, we can help:

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 info@oticonmedicalus.com.

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.

Miss Lucy Brown — Still Tumbling with Ponto 4!

Our favorite Ponto 4-wearing gymnast, Lucy Brown, is able to hear clearly despite the hustle and bustle surrounding her. Check out her moves in this short video, provided courtesy of her proud mom, Georgene Brown:

Hearing in noise is one of the most difficult challenges people with hearing loss face. Whether its other people’s conversations, background music, or other ambient noise, the strain to hear what you actually want to listen to all day can be frustrating and exhausting. As a competitive gymnast, Lucy cannot afford to let either get in her way. Fortunately, thanks to her Ponto 4 bone anchored hearing system, she is able to focus on her coach’s important directions and executing her challenging gymnastic routines.

Go, Lucy Brown, indeed!

Managing Through Quarantine with Ponto

Annika enjoys hearing her TV shows… and Mom doesn’t have to!

Like so many other families in the United States, Shannon Sappington and her daughter, Annika, are dealing with the challenges posed by quarantine as best they can. Although many people with hearing loss like Annika face additional struggles, her Ponto bone anchored hearing device is actually helping both mother and daughter through this difficult time. They were kind enough to shoot this homemade video demonstrating how Annika’s Ponto and streaming accessories are making it easier to stay inside and in close quarters.

“I am proud of how willingly Annika let me record her connecting to her streamer and the TV!” said Shannon. “That is a godsend Oticon Medical invention…. letting her watch her favorite shows and saving my sanity by not have to keep listening to the same shows again and again!”

Are you a Ponto wearer who needs a TV adapter, audio streamer, or other accessory to make life during quarantine more bearable? Visit our Oticon Medical website to see what is available!

 

Ally’s Act Introduced in the Senate

We are excited to share good news about the progress of Ally’s Act provided courtesy of Melissa Tumblin. Melissa is a longtime Oticon Medical Ambassador and the founder and executive director of Ear Community, a nonprofit organization that helps children and adults born with Microtia and Aural Atresia. Melissa’s daughter, Ally Tumblin (for whom the Act is named) has Microtia and Atresia and wears a Ponto bone anchored hearing device.

Insurance coverage for bone anchored hearing devices and more

Ally’s Act (H.R. 5485) is a bipartisan national level bill that would ensure private insurance companies provide coverage for osseointegrated hearing devices (OIDs), including bone anchored hearing systems and cochlear implants. The Act, if it becomes law, will help ensure that private insurance providers cover these costs, including the hearing devices and their accessories, surgery and medical exams.

Currently, only about half of the states in the U.S. currently have legislation in place to cover hearing aids, and OIDs are not always included. Ally’s Act, as a federal bill, would require that children and adults needing bone anchored hearing devices or cochlear implants received coverage in every state through private insurers listed under the Affordable Health Care Act.

Ally’s Act has been endorsed by numerous high-profile hearing industry institutions, including the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the American Academy of Audiology, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and most recently the Hearing Industries Association.

Ally’s Act introduced into Congress

Ally Tumblin wrote to Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) in May of 2019 for Better Hearing and Speech Month and asked him to help her advocate to hear better. He responded to Ally in September of that year and acted soon after. Along with the co-chairs of the Congressional Hearing Health Caucus, Congressmen David McKinley (R-WV) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), Ally’s Act was introduced to the House Committee for Energy and Commerce with bipartisan support in December of 2019.

Companion bill mandating hearing device insurance coverage introduced to Senate

In promising news, the companion bill to Ally’s Act was introduced to the Senate on September 8, 2020. This bipartisan bill (S. 4532) was introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.VA).

In response, Rep. Neguse issued the following public statement, “I am proud that Senator Warren and Senator Capito introduced the Senate companion to Ally’s Act. This bipartisan and bicameral legislation is critical for people like Ally Tumblin, who require osseointegrated-integrated hearing devices (OIDs), including bone anchored hearing aids and cochlear implants.

“It is a testament to Ally, her family and her advocates that this is now a nationally recognized need that will benefit so many Americans. We look forward to Ally’s Act passing both Chambers of Congress and ultimately being signed into law,” Rep. Neguse concluded.

Senator Warren issued the following statement regarding her support for Ally’s Act: “Far too many Americans are left behind due to hearing loss and cannot access the devices they need because their insurance will not cover it, leaving many adults and children in the US without a solution to restore their hearing. Our bipartisan bill is a simple fix that increases access to these specialized hearing devices and gives Americans across the country a chance to be a part of every conversation.”

Senator Capito agreed, adding, “Many of us take for granted the gift of hearing and how often we rely on our senses to effectively communicate with one another. It is important that we take the necessary steps to improve our health insurance systems and ensure these critical devices are readily available for those who need them. OIDs are even more crucial for individuals born with hearing deficiencies, as the first five years of life are important for speech and language development. I’m proud to introduce Ally’s Act, which will help establish better access to these critical hearing devices for those that need them.”

How you can support Ally’s Act becoming law

As Ally’s Act continues to advance through both the House and Senate, you can help by writing to your local congressional representatives and senators.

“Ask them to support H.R. 5485 and S. 4532 and tell them why this bill is important to you or your child or a loved one who requires the use of a bone anchored hearing aid or cochlear implant,” Melissa Tumblin advises.

For more information and to learn more about how you can help support Ally’s Act, please visit:  https://earcommunity.org/about/allys-act-h-r-5485/.

Ready to take the next step in your hearing journey? Click here to find a clinic near you!