Tag Archives: Oticon Medical

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!

Oticon Medical Insurance Support Helped Katie Upgrade to Ponto 4

When Katie Maslar ran into difficulty with getting insurance coverage, Oticon Medical’s  Reimbursement Support Team helped her file the appropriate paperwork and get her upgraded device. In her own words, Katie shares her experience going through the insurance process and how she’s hearing better with her new Ponto 4.

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I had started hearing really good things about the Ponto 4 on social media, and I hadn’t upgraded in a few years, so I decided to look into an upgrade. I initially saw my audiologist and ENT to fill out the appropriate paperwork to submit to my insurance. After not hearing anything for a couple months, I reached out to Oticon Medical. Unfortunately, my doctor’s office never submitted the paperwork.

In the interim, my previous Ponto Plus Power got broken, so my need for a new processor was even greater. After going back and forth with my insurance for a few months, the Oticon Medical staff and I were able to sort it out. I cannot say enough good things about how easy Oticon Medical made the process for me. Once we determined that I would be able to get the new device, the upgrade process was very simple and quick! I had the new Ponto 4 in a matter of days.

I’m very happy with the new features in Ponto 4. I honestly don’t mind not having onboard controls at all, since I really never need to manually tell the Ponto 4 what to do. I love that it’s smaller and more discreet. I was a little nervous, because I have an Android™ phone and wasn’t sure how easily they would work together, but I don’t find the need for the ConnectClip™ to really stop me from anything. It is much simpler to set and work, especially compared to using a streamer with my previous device.

It’s also really nice to be able to control the volume and check the battery level from my phone and not need the ConnectClip to do so. I am only deaf on my right side and have normal hearing in my left ear, but when listening to music and YouTube, I prefer to listen through my Ponto. The ease of connecting the ConnectClip with my tablet, and the sound quality it gives me, is great. I really do love it!

I can hear people in noisy environments easier now. The Ponto 4 makes a huge difference.

The biggest thing the Ponto 4 does for me is give me confidence. I’m no longer constantly straining to hear people and worried that if they speak, I will accidentally ignore them. I can hear people on my deaf side without even really thinking about it! I’m more confident and spend less time worrying about who’s speaking and whether I’ll hear them. I’m happy when I can pay attention to all the details and sound quality the Ponto 4 gives me, because that’s when I realize just how fantastic it is.

I liken the difference to this: My old processor was like writing with the blunt tip of a pencil, and the Ponto 4 is like writing with the tip of a sharp pencil.

Why You Should Consider Implantation if You Use a Softband – Part 2

A difference you can hear

While studies and statistics provide clear indications that MIPS implantation improves hearing results, it always helps to hear from actual wearers who went through the procedure. We appreciate adult wearer Jody Bennett and parent of a wearer Dayla Hurley for allowing us to share their personal experiences in their own words.

Jody Bennett on switching from Ponto BAHS softband to implant

Having experienced very few surgical procedures in my life, I was at first a bit nervous and anxious, to say the least, about having the MIPS done. I had nothing to worry about! It was an easy procedure and a wonderful outcome!

I lost my hearing on my right side nine years prior due to SSHL (sudden sensorineural hearing loss). I had no idea a bone anchored hearing system (BAHS) even existed. I had tried CROS hearing aids, a ‘regular’ hearing aid, and was so frustrated I could not hear what was going on in my right side easily. After searching around on the internet and finding a Facebook group with people who had the same or similar problems, I found the Oticon Medical system and knew right away that’s what could help me.

I was immediately told by an ENT I was a good candidate for the Oticon Medical Ponto and put on the surgical list for surgery in two weeks. I was nervous but so excited I would be able to “hear” again!

The procedure was so positive. I had the surgery to implant the abutment as outpatient surgery. Everyone involved was pleasant and so helpful. I was in and out in just a few hours. No pain, just a tiny bit of a headache, which was probably due to the anesthesia. I took it easy the rest of the day and went back to work the next day. To date, I’ve not had any problems at all with the surgery site.

I think the most difficult part of the whole thing was finding the right pillow to accommodate sleeping on the side my abutment is on, which is the side I prefer the most. I found the perfect pillow and hey, no problem!

I had to wait three months before the processor was fitted to the abutment (my ENT and audiologist’s rules). I actually was able to get a softband and wear my Ponto during that time, which was great (although hearing via the softband and hearing via the abutment is such a difference!).

I have had my Ponto 4 since August 2019 attached to the abutment and I love it! I can hear what’s going on from my right side now. I can hear people whisper (when it’s a quiet setting). I can watch TV with my Oticon TV streamer, and it is amazing! I can answer phone calls using the processor! I can listen to music and watch movies on my iPad with it!

I tell anyone and everyone who is interested in my experience. And my friends and family say that I have perked back up to my ‘old’ self! I am more confident and feel less stressed. It’s amazing what having your hearing back can do for you!

Mom Dayla Hurley upgraded her son from softband to BAHS implant

We adopted Brody almost six years ago. Now that his journey to hearing is complete, I want to share our experience. Brody’s steps to MIPS and bilateral Ponto 4s were not conventional and he even had some complications. But with all that said, we would not change one thing! We are so grateful! Having the abutments has been the best thing for him. They healed so easily without extra fuss.

Our son has not been a standard situation and had a few detours along the way. After an eight-month process, he finally snapped on two Ponto 4s yesterday. He is so giddy! You could see the improvement in his audiograms over wearing the device on a softband. For us, there is no doubt that getting the implant  was the way to go. His speech has become so clear since having the implant  12 weeks ago. He started asking about noises in the car, the dryer running, and lyrics to songs he never heard before.

Just today Brody said as soon as he snapped on his Ponto 4s, “Hey, Mom, did you know that every morning the birds are singing?” I said, “Yes, Brody, did you just hear that?” He said, “Yep, I just found out that they sing every morning. I heard them yesterday and today and since I’ve had my new Pontos.”  So sweet. And innocent. He did not know everything he was missing.  We listen to music daily and Brody is often singing. We could always recognize the song he was singing by the tune, but the words were never understandable.  Since having his Ponto 4s, he is asking about the lyrics in songs on the radio saying, “Ha! I never heard that before.”  And, he is singing the correct words! We are thrilled.

Click through the link to find out everything you need to know about upgrading your Ponto device!

 

 

 

Why You Should Consider Implantation if You Use a Softband – Part 1

We are pleased to be able to offer options for people with hearing loss to benefit from our Ponto™ processors at all ages and with differing health conditions. Our processor can be worn on a hard headband, attached to a hat, or on a softband – the latter of which is particular popular with our juvenile wearers. However, the Ponto was developed as part of a complete bone anchored hearing system, meaning wearers will experience peak performance when it is attached via an abutment directly to their skull. And while children under five aren’t candidates for the implant surgery due to their developing skulls, we encourage all adults and parents of kids over five whose physical conditions don’t preclude the surgery to seriously consider implantation. Here’s why.

The MIPS procedure

The surgical method Oticon Medical uses is called MIPS (minimally invasive Ponto surgery). This procedure involves having a small titanium implant carefully inserted into the bone behind your ear. The operation can be performed under local anesthetic, and in most cases, it takes no more than a day or two to recover. Many older children and most adults can undergo MIPS successfully, unless they have a condition that affects skin or bone thickness. A consultation with a surgeon can help you determine whether you or your child is a qualified candidate.

It’s typical for people to have concerns about surgery of any kind, including the comparatively minor MIPS procedure. For example, you might have concerns about your post-surgical appearance. The good news is that MIPS was designed to create the smallest incision possible. The surgeon makes a circular incision that matches the abutment exactly using instruments specifically designed for the procedure. This leaves the skin around the incision intact, with no skin tissue or hair follicles removed from around the abutment – hence no bald spots. MIPS also removes the need for suturing, which eliminates scarring and fosters quicker healing.

Another concern might be the surgery itself – especially the use of general anesthesia, which always carries some level of risk. MIPS only takes about 15 minutes and is normally carried out under local anesthetic. And as for recovery, since the process preserves soft tissue the blood supply, micro-circulation, and nerves are left as intact as possible, thereby shortening the healing period. Most patients can return to work or school within a couple of days.

Why choose bone anchored surgery over softband?

Affixing the Ponto processor to a softband provides young children with early access to speech and sounds so they can explore and interact with the hearing world with greater ease. It also gives them a great foundation for speech development. It is a suitable solution for children with conductive or mixed hearing loss, or single-sided deafness. It can also be used by adults with these conditions who cannot benefit from conventional hearing aids or who have temporary ear problems, such as blockages or infections.

Because the adjustable softband is simply worn around the head, some wearers prefer it to having to go through any form of surgery. And it certainly works — when you attach the Ponto sound processor, it sends sound waves through the bone to the inner ear, giving the wearer access to our renowned, high quality Ponto sound. Wearing a Ponto on a softband is a valuable method of hearing rehabilitation for children too young for implantation and for adults receiving a preoperative assessment.

However, studies confirm that implantation of a bone anchored hearing device – also known as a percutaneous solution – provides the ultimate hearing improvement over wearing a processor on a softband. Hearing sensitivity through the skin with a softband, as compared to a skin-penetrating abutment, provides between eight and 20 decibels (dB) reduction in the frequency range from one to four kHz. In plain English, wearers hear better when their processor is worn on an abutment than when it is worn on a softband.

One concern is that when vibrations have to pass through the skin without an abutment, the static pressure between the softband and the skin must be high to provide the best transmission possible. The ideal requirement often causes discomfort and can result in problems in the skin and subcutaneous tissues between the processor and the bone, especially if used long-term. It can also trigger tension headaches.

Other challenges include attenuation and feedback. Attenuation refers to a reduction in sound amplification, which can affect speech understanding. Feedback, or the return of a portion of an outbound signal to the same device creating a distorted effect, occurs when sound radiates from the processor back to the microphone.

Other complaints about softbands include cosmetic appeal, and slippage that causes the processor to move out of its ideal placement. If these and the aforementioned discomforts persist, the user is less likely to wear their processor all day long, reducing the efficacy of the device. After all, you can only fully benefit from the better hearing provided by the processor if it is worn steadily – and this is particularly important for children who are still acquiring language.

In our next post on this subject, we’ll share two user experiences about upgrading from wearing processors on softbands to having MIPS and hearing with an implant.

Jay Wietecha is a Proud Ponto Advocate

Jay hopes his journey to better hearing will inspire others

Jay Wietecha lost the hearing in his right ear at the end of July 2018 due to a 1.8cm acoustic neuroma that was surgically removed. Despite his surgeons’ best efforts to leave the hearing nerve intact, it still went out and he was left with single-sided deafness (SSD). He spoke to a treatment coordinator post-op who also happened to have SSD following removal of an acoustic neuroma, and was a Ponto user. She advised him that it was Jay’s best option and worth looking into. In October of 2018, Jay went through the minimally invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS) and had his first Ponto activated in November. In the following clip, he shares words of encouragement about the MIPS experience.

He was also better able to engage in conversations at busy restaurants and while driving in a car and enjoying background music. Without the Ponto, these situations were more challenging and less pleasurable. 

“I can comfortably say that the Ponto has made coping and living with SSD much easier and I enjoy a higher quality of life when using it,” Jay said.

Jay found he got the best results at home watching TV with background noise elsewhere in the house, and at work where he practices dentistry in noisy operatories with music playing in the background. He found he was better able to engage with patients and staff and didn’t have to work as hard to hear. He also became more aware of what was going on around him. Here’s what Jay wants you to know about the ease of holding conversations with a Ponto bone anchored hearing system.

Jay also played the drums for the first time since losing his hearing because he’d wanted to wait until he had the Ponto processor to see if it would sound the same as it has since he started playing a little over 30 years ago. The result? “It sounded perfect! I actually thought I might have to stop playing altogether when I lost my hearing, so of course I was filled with emotion over how great things sounded and I can continue playing,” said Jay.

Jay was excited to have the opportunity to try out Ponto 4 when he attended Oticon Medical’s annual New Advocates Meeting earlier this year. He was impressed by the smaller size and all its features.

Overall, Jay feels that wearing a Ponto increased the quality of his life and helped him move beyond the tragedy of losing half of his hearing. “There have actually been times when I feel as normal as I did before I lost my hearing,” he said.

Ready to try something new? Learn how to upgrade to a Ponto processor today!

Face Mask Alternatives for People without Ears

For many of us, the most challenging part of the CDC’s latest recommendation that everyone should wear a face mask* when going out during the Covid-19 epidemic is finding (or making) masks. However, for people with microtia or anotia, this is compounded by the difficulty of wearing a traditional mask with small or no external ear(s). Fortunately, there are ways around the challenge presented by traditional masks with loops for around the ears.

Making your own face masks for Covid-19 use

As mentioned above, one of the biggest challenges for everyone is figuring out how to follow the latest guidelines on covering your mouth and nose when having to go out for groceries or other necessities during the coronavirus outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have posted helpful DIY guidelines for making and using cloth face coverings on their website. These can be further adapted to fit people without ears using the suggestions below.

Add strings to face masks

If you are making your own face mask, instead of using traditional ear loops you can attach tie-able strings at the top and on the bottom corners. These can be comfortably tied around the head to fit without requiring ears or getting in the way of your bone anchored hearing device.

Attach buttons to a headband

If you happen to have a traditional medical mask — especially if you’re a healthcare worker — then altering a scarf, bandanna, or other adaptable headband to add buttons on either side of your head is a good workaround. You can then put the loops around the buttons in place of ears.

 

 

 

 

Use a paperclip

This is a clever and simple trick: take a paperclip, slide it around each ear loop on the mask to connect them in back, then put the mask on over your head and adjust comfortably.

 

 

 

 

Do you have any other DIY suggestions for making face masks wearable without ears? Please share in the comments!

We’d like to thank our friend Melissa Tumblin and Ear Community for allowing us to share these helpful tips and photo examples.

*Masks featured in this post are not N95-rated or surgical grade.

Michael Brown’s Advice: Don’t Hesitate – Get that Ponto Now

We’re please to share a brand-new user story from Canadian advocate Michael Brown. He advises others with hearing loss to overcome their hesitation to undergo minimally-invasive Ponto surgery (MIPS) based on his experience living with untreated hearing loss for 35 years.

“The Ponto 4 is a close to natural hearing that I’ve ever come across,”  In this segment, Michael shares his thoughts on the Ponto 4, which he upgraded to earlier this year.

Is MIPS right for you or your loved one? How about the Ponto 4? Start here to learn all about Ponto and the MIPS procedure.

To Our Valued Customers

A message from our Oticon Medical US president

At Oticon Medical we take the well-being of our community and colleagues seriously and are monitoring the developing coronavirus outbreak closely.

Currently, we have implemented procedures for continuing to operate our business so we may service our customers while also supporting the authorities’ work to contain the risk of infection.

Oticon Medical USA’s guidelines for activities in and around our company follow the guidance of our national health organizations, and in some cases, we are even more cautious. We will constantly update our policy to reflect any changes in guidance from authorities.

Our first priority is the health of you, your clients and patients, and our staff. We are doing our best to ensure our service to you is maintained as much as possible given the circumstances. We are taking all possible actions to ensure reliable production, insurance services, device repairs, and deliveries continue. And our local Oticon Medical personnel is instructed to familiarize themselves with and always follow the health guidelines of local hospitals and clinics.

We greatly appreciate your understanding and thank you for your loyalty to Oticon Medical. We also appreciate that this outbreak affects not only your cooperation with Oticon Medical but your daily life and that of your family, patients, and staff.  Please stay safe and know that our thoughts are with you during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

John Sparacio
President, Oticon Medical US

No Regrets: Kevin Chooses Ponto 4

Kevin Hotaling and his father Timothy spoke to us during an event earlier this year about Kevin’s experience using Ponto 4. In the first segment of this video, Kevin shares which Ponto 4 feature has been “a dream” of his for a long time.

Both Kevin and his father were impressed by Kevin’s ability to hear more clearly despite background noise with Ponto 4. “You could see, it was just making such a difference,” Timothy notes.

Superior quality, confidence boosting. That’s Ponto 4!

Are YOU ready to upgrade your hearing device? Click to learn how!