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From angry to advocate

It took three days for Jim Buter’s world to change forever. In February 2010, the 59-year-old sales executive developed an ear infection that left him dizzy and debilitated. A trip to the local hospital Emergency Room led to hospital admission and a three-day wait to meet with an ENT specialist. Jim never expected that in the short time he would wait for his appointment, he would develop irreversible deafness in his left ear. To Jim, the diagnosis was devastating. It took the kindness of a stranger, a skilled and caring physician and Jim’s own determination to find a solution to change an “angry and frustrated” man into a vocal advocate for bone anchored hearing solutions.  

 

Name: Jim Buter
Age: 59
Profession: Sales Executive
Indication: Single-sided deafness
Sound processor: First Ponto Pro, now upgraded to Ponto Pro Power

 

Challenges – every day

 
Jim and his wife Stephanie

“Interaction with people in person and on the phone was critical to my business. My hearing loss seriously impacted my ability to hear in meetings and interact with colleagues and customers as I had before,” explains Jim. “I could still manage professionally, but as a guy in his 50’s, the last thing I wanted was for this ‘handicap’ to cost me customers and potentially, my livelihood.”



Jim also faced challenges in his everyday life. Shortly after his diagnosis, while shopping in a warehouse store, Jim turned to find an angry store clerk. “He had been repeatedly asking me if I needed help and thought that I was purposefully ignoring him,” reports Jim. “I was embarrassed and had to explain that with my single-sided deafness, hearing him on my ‘bad side’ in a noisy store environment was almost impossible.”

At work, Jim arrived at meetings early to ensure he could sit with his “good side” closest to the discussion. “Even then I couldn’t always keep up with all of the conversations,” he admits. “I was determined to find a solution.”

A possible solution

Referrals to two specialists confirmed that Jim’s hearing loss in the left ear was irreversible. Undaunted, Jim sought help at one of the large regional ear clinics. Again, the diagnosis was irreversible deafness.

“But this time, they suggested a solution – a bone anchored hearing device,” says Jim. “They explained the process. I would need to undergo a surgical procedure to implant a tiny titanium abutment on my left side behind my ear. A sound processor would be snapped onto the abutment, pick-up the sounds on my deaf side and transmit the sound vibrations to the inner ear on the side where I can hear.”

Jim began to have hope. “My physician arranged for me to try a demonstration with different bone anchored processors using a soft band,” Jim says. “I liked having freedom of choice and I felt that the sound quality provided by the Ponto Pro processor was the best for me.” When the procedure was approved by his insurance carrier and a cancellation at the clinic created an unexpected opening, Jim made the decision to schedule his surgery right away.

Wrong information - right decision


Jim and his wife Stephanie

“Then I made a horrible mistake,” says Jim. “I began researching bone anchored hearing solutions and happened upon a website with old information that depicted a surgical procedure that looked quite invasive. I was alarmed at the prospect of shaving half of my head and ending up with a huge incision. I didn’t realize at the time that most surgeons now used a newer, less invasive procedure. I just knew I couldn’t meet with customers looking like that! I called my doctor and cancelled my surgery.”

When Jim explained his reluctance to go through with the procedure, his physician immediately understood his concern. “He suggested I drive back to meet with him in person,” says Jim. “When I arrived, he showed me a series of photos on his smart phone that showed successful procedures he had done using the newer style of surgery. It was much less invasive and involved removing only about a quarter-size bit of hair to accommodate a much smaller, very discreet incision.”

His physician then asked if Jim would like to meet a patient who had experienced the surgery. A young woman who had undergone the procedure two years before just happened to be at the office upgrading her bone anchored hearing processor.


Ponto Pro covered in Jim’s hair


“When she lifted up her hair and showed me her Ponto Pro processor, I was amazed,” says Jim. “Her hair was only a tiny bit longer than mine and until she lifted her hair, her Ponto Pro was entirely hidden. She then unsnapped it and showed me a tiny scar where the incision had been made and talked about how easily her bone anchored hearing device was hidden by her hair. She also told me that her bone anchored sound processor had easily become part of her daily routine. It was the first thing she put on each day and the last thing taken off each night.”

Jim’s physician explained that the new Ponto Pro is a fully automatic processor that is especially easy for patients to use. He also noted that his patients appreciate Ponto Pro for its improved sound quality as well as its sleek, ergonomic design and small size and the fact that it is available in colors that blend discreetly with hair color.

One more trial of bone anchored processors on a soft band was all Jim needed to convince himself that Ponto Pro was the choice for him. “I again realized that Ponto Pro provided superior sound quality. The improved sound quality and, the fact that the Ponto Pro looked better and hid easily in my hair made my decision an easy one,” says Jim.


Jim’s incision - one month after surgery

“I had only one question – how quickly can you get the surgery scheduled?”

Then Jim made a promise: “If it works as well for me as it does for her, I’ll become an advocate for bone anchored hearing solutions to anyone who will listen to me! One of my inspirations, Baseball Hall of Famer Ron Santo always said, 'It’s not life’s tough times or our handicaps that define us, it is how we transcend them that does'. In fact, I believed that meeting the young lady was no accident, but part of a bigger plan for my life.”

Enhanced speech understanding in a snap

Jim spent the months between surgery and “snap on” of his new Ponto Pro anxiously anticipating the positive changes he was about to experience.


Jim wearing Ponto Pro on his deaf side
When my Ponto Pro processor was finally ‘snapped on’ I couldn’t believe how much I could hear,” he notes.

Jim upgraded to the Ponto Pro Power when it was launched in 2011 as this new sound processor is more powerful. “I feel great about wearing my new Ponto Pro Power,” says Jim. “I have more volume and less feedback thanks to the new feedback management system and a much improved battery life. I am able to participate more in conversations in noisy situations, such as restaurants, and I don’t find myself saying ‘what?’ as often as before.”

Promises kept


Jim and his pal

Today, Jim is the first to acknowledge that it was a hard journey with a happy ending. He counsels many potential candidates for bone anchored solutions, freely sharing his own experiences and the insight he has gathered from other users of bone anchored hearing devices. He is an active participant on websites for people with hearing issues and a contributor to www.earcommunity.com. Jim also succeeded in convincing Wikipedia to change outdated information on bone anchored hearing surgery and solutions.

“I made good on my promise to become an advocate for bone anchored hearing solutions,” Jim says proudly. “I do whatever I can to counsel people with single-sided deafness to consider the surgery. I often encounter others who are quite angry at having lost their hearing. I encourage them to channel their energy toward a positive outcome and consider a bone anchored solution.”  

Jim advises people to carefully evaluate the features of sound processors they consider so that they can choose the one that works best for them. “I believe that patients deserve to make their own choices based upon criteria that is important to them,” he adds. “But if someone asks, I’ll tell them all of the reasons why I prefer the Ponto System.”

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Did you know that…

... every year there are approximately 200 new cases of single-sided deafness per million inhabitants, making this the largest-growing group of candidates for bone anchored hearing devices.