Category Archives: Advocacy

Nancy Smith Oberman on upgrading to Ponto 4

Part 2 of 2

As we shared in Part 1 of Nancy Smith Oberman’s upgrade story, she had her concerns about moving to a bilateral Ponto 4 bone anchored hearing system from her Ponto 3 SuperPowers. The following post traces her journey from deciding to upgrade through her life with Ponto 4, which she originally shared via a series of Facebook posts.*

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Decision made – Nancy chooses Ponto 4

Steel Gray Ponto 4

I authorized my audiologist to order my right, steel-gray Ponto 4, and will order the left in January. I’m still absolutely amazed by how well the Ponto 4s work for me. I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to trial them in just about every situation I experience on a daily basis. I was not very positive they would work for me, but as I tell people all the time — louder does not equal good hearing.

I think the thing I’m most impressed with is the fact that I can hear behind me, at least when someone is speaking to me. I don’t necessarily have to face the speaker, which has been a blessing. I’m also quite surprised I don’t get feedback, because I’m pretty sure they are set at the ceiling. Sometimes I will turn them up a tad — my left cochlea is not as good as the right, which is why I’ve always boosted the Pontos with a traditional hearing aid, which gives me the needed extra amplification on the left.

I love that I can control my settings with my Apple® watch! With Ponto 4, I’m experiencing sound that seems even more natural and with less vibration, if that makes sense.

I’m just as happy as I can be… as are my staff!  I find that only I can hear what I’m listening to now and so am enjoying taking my phone calls via Bluetooth® anywhere. Who would have thought?

Follow-up after getting Ponto 4 confirms better hearing

Audiogram

Just left my audiologist’s office to pick up one new Ponto (second will be procured in January). As I’m getting ready this morning, he shoots me an email reminding me to bring my SuperPowers to the appointment. He wants to test me with both, to compare. Actually, I was looking forward to doing just that; cannot deny I’ve had a twinge or two over the last month, thinking I may very well have convinced myself the Ponto 4 was better because it was newer and had that direct connect Bluetooth.

We go into the sound booth and start with the Ponto 4s. After the tone thing, he does the speech recognition, where I have to repeat sentences that are spoken with increasing background noise and voices. I thought I did okay, so great! Next, we move to the SuperPowers. No change in program; exactly what I’d used for the last two-and-a-half years. What did I think? Yep, the SuperPowers were going to work better than the 4s, which were much quieter… sigh.

When we finished, my audiologist was grinning. “Well,” I asked, “was I wrong in thinking I heard better with the 4s… kinda bummed?”

“Nope,” he said. “You actually understood speech better with the 4s!” With 1-3 being normal speech recognition (1 being better than 3), I hit at 1.6 with the Ponto 4s. With the Ponto3 SuperPowers, I hit at 2.8. Yay, I was correct — I really do hear better with the 4s!

Advice to Ponto wearers considering an upgrade

My advice to others considering whether to upgrade to a Ponto 4 from their SuperPower device is that you have got to give a trial more than five minutes, or even five hours or an entire day! I sat in a noisy restaurant with friends the other day and didn’t miss any of the conversation even with all the clanking of dishes, crying children, other conversations, etc. While you might not experience a big “a-ha” moment of noticeable hearing improvement, don’t be discouraged. The changes are so subtle (which I think is awesome, actually) that it may take your brain a day or two to catch up to the marked improvement. This is as close to normal hearing as I can remember all those years ago, before the onset of my hearing loss.

I think Oticon Medical has hit this out of the park!

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*NOTE: Originally shared via a series of Facebook posts with permission.

Nancy Smith Oberman on upgrading to Ponto 4

Part 1 of 2

Nancy Smith Oberman had her concerns about upgrading to a bilateral Ponto™ 4 bone anchored hearing system from her Ponto 3 SuperPowers. After all, her SuperPower devices worked great, plus with her profound level of hearing loss, she was doubtful that a non-SP device could help her hear as well as she needed. The following traces her journey from curious but cautious to official Ponto 4 convert.*

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To upgrade or not to upgrade? That was my question

So, unfortunately, I have to add a hearing aid back into the mix. Not sure what’s going on — my hearing hasn’t changed much from my last audiogram even though it’s a little worse, but not enough (at least so my audiologist says) to make a big difference. I’m surmising my brain is getting older and I’m getting crankier, and just a little more tired of working so damn hard to hear people who refuse to speak up. Wonder how everything will work when Ponto 4 Super-Powers (when they  come out) are added. Gotta love technology!
I want to trial the Ponto 4 and am trying to get the Ponto 4 demo now. I’m kind of afraid that my hearing loss is too great for non-SuperPower devices, but my audiologist knows I’ll only be satisfied once I am certain one way or another.

First step: trialing Ponto 4

I’m scheduled to get bilateral Ponto 4s programmed for trial Wednesday. In the meantime, I love teaching people! I’m working with the company that set up our phone system to come up with a solution to resolve my difficulty with phone usage. I had quite the conversation explaining the bone anchored hearing system and the Bluetooth® direct connection capabilities of the new Ponto 4. The person I spoke to was fascinated, to say the least! I consider it a win-win: I’ve educated more people about hearing loss and the technology to aid those of us who have it, plus I resolved my phone issue.

My Ponto 4 trial experience

I picked up two Ponto 4s Wednesday for trial. First off, I am amazed at how well they pick up speech, even for someone who has as great a loss as mine (I’m programmed to the ceiling with my Ponto 3 SuperPower devices). There is definitely a noticeable difference between the two sound platforms, with the (Oticon Opn™) open platform seriously a marked improvement.
Surprisingly, since these are programmed to the ceiling, I’ve had no feedback to speak of. Besides clearer, crisper speech, I hear as well as I do with the SuperPower, which I currently wear along with a regular hearing aid. I’ve played a little with wearing them without my hearing aid, and found that I still have the clear speech, but can’t hear much of anything else (e.g., background noise), which gives me a feeling that my ears are stopped up. Didn’t go a long time, since I was at work teaching, and was a tad nervous I would struggle hearing my students. But the few conversations I had with my coworkers outside the classroom were normal. I didn’t struggle to hear them even with students milling about or being loud while on the mats.
Hopefully, I’ll be braver next week and teach the whole day with just the bilateral Ponto 4 and without my hearing aid. Got to give them enough time to really test their performance.

Pleasantly surprised by Ponto 4

The Ponto 4s are so small and lightweight that it feels as if they aren’t even attached. I do miss the ability to mute from the processor itself but using the Oticon ON™ app is no different than using the app with my hearing aid. The direct Bluetooth is absolutely wonderful, except I can only use it in private. As with the streamer, everyone else around me can hear sounds traveling through the processors. At least my coworkers are used to me being in my office with my door closed.
I will be trialing the Ponto 4s for at least a month, so I can test them in all aspects of my life and hearing situations. So far, even though there was no initial “ah-ha” moment like I experienced with the Ponto 3 SuperPower, I am certainly impressed! I sure thought they wouldn’t work for me. I teach adults hands-on activities as well as in classrooms, and it’s quite busy and loud. Surprisingly, Ponto 4 seems to have a marked ability to mute that noise when I’m engaged in conversation.

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Will Nancy decide to take the plunge and upgrade to Ponto 4? Find out in our next post!

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Click the button if you want to learn more about our Ponto bone anchored hearing systems or arrange a trial.

*NOTE: Originally shared via a series of Facebook posts with permission.

Oticon Medical Hosts Annual New Advocates Meeting

Over the weekend of October 11-13, we hosted 40+ attendees — including Ponto wearers and their families — for our annual New Advocates Meeting, which was held at Oticon Medical’s headquarters in Somerset, NJ. A few long-time Ambassadors, including Angela and Sarah Zabel and Kevin Hotaling, also attended in order to share their experiences and provide coaching and inspiration.

Friday night inspiration

We kicked the weekend off with a welcome reception and dinner held at the Bridgewater Marriott where attendees were staying for the weekend. While serving dessert, we conducted a Share Your Story activity during which everyone took a few minutes to introduce themselves and talk about their experiences with hearing loss and journeys to better hearing with Ponto bone anchored hearing systems.

Friday night dinner and story sharing

A busy Saturday schedule

Bright and early Saturday morning, we kicked of a full day of educational panels on topics ranging from Ponto 4: Introduction and Design to New Advances in Bone Anchored Hearing Procedure, all conducted by various Oticon Medical staffers and audiology professionals. Hands-on workshops included how to use Canva to enhance social media posts and how to add visual effects and edit self-made videos. We also introduced Oticon Medical Friends, our exciting new community portal through which wearers will be able to stay in closer contact with our company and one another. Meanwhile, our child wearers and their siblings were kept entertained by Mad Science of West New Jersey and The Lizard Guy and his live animal exhibits.

Mad Science presentation

Saturday night, we took a fun trip together on the Sparkling NYC Skyline Dinner Cruise. Attendees and staff enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner and a couple of loops around New York City before reaching the main attraction — a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty. There was also plenty of time for dancing and fun on-board.

New York skyline by boat

Statue of Liberty

 

Sunday wrap-up

Sunday morning, we held a panel discussion on Technology and Access, which included a lively Q&A about insurance-related topics. Then Melissa Tumblin and her daughter Aly presented key Oticon Medical staff members with Ear Community Microtia and Atresia Awareness Awards in recognition of all they’ve done to improve the lives of people with these conditions. The weekend concluded with a farewell luncheon, and then everyone headed back home with the knowledge and motivation to be the best possible advocates on behalf of those with hearing challenges.

Aly & Melissa with Pres. John Sparacio

We would like to thank all of our attendees and Ambassadors for sharing their stories and further developing a supportive, tightly connected community!

Click to learn more about Ponto bone anchored hearing systems, including Ponto 4, our smallest and first processor with direct wireless streaming and all the benefits of Oticon’s proven Opn™ technology.

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.

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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 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.

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Click the button if you want to learn more about our Ponto bone anchored hearing systems or arrange a trial.