Managing hearing loss
Kevin Hotaling is a second-year student of sociology and religious studies at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts. Kevin has a congenital sensorineural hearing loss that left him with minimal hearing on his left side since birth. Due to the difficulty of hearing out of his left ear, Kevin constantly gravitated towards people's left sides in order to hear them clearly, but he would still miss words, phrases and sometimes even whole sentences. He also experienced difficulties in social environments.
“I’d say my loss is at its worst when I’m in a large, crowded space, like a school cafeteria or an auditorium.” As a university student who loves to socialise, this posed a difficult barrier.
For many years, Kevin used behind-the-ear hearing aids. Although they provided some benefits, he experienced problems with ear infections and did not want a device that would remain in the ear and collect bacteria. He also experienced problems with sound quality. “They worked as well as they could have, but the sound quality always felt very mechanical. It was almost like I was listening to a radio station with just the slightest bit of static in the background.”
Exploring his options
After trying out several hearing devices, Kevin learned about bone anchored hearing systems through one of his mother's co-workers, a primary school teacher. As a teacher, you are highly dependent on your hearing, so she understood what Kevin was going through. “She told me about the bone anchored implant, and she said that her results were nothing short of stellar.”
The results she experienced were encouraging, but Kevin was still hesitant about the surgical procedure. “Although surgery was nothing new to me, the idea of someone drilling into my skull was very unsettling. In addition to that, I hadn’t heard of any people my age who had ever gotten the procedure done. I had only ever heard of adults and small children getting these kinds of devices.”
Instead of jumping right in, Kevin wanted to experience the benefits of the Oticon Medical Ponto Plus first. His audiologist let him take a Ponto on a headband home for the weekend. He wore it to a family party to get a feel for how it would work in a crowded environment. “I was given the opportunity to test the device using a headband. I immediately noticed a massive difference in my hearing quality. I was going back and forth – until I tried the test band. If there’s one available, try it, because that will convince you.”
Surgery and activation
After demoing the Ponto, Kevin was ready to be fitted with the bone anchored hearing system. Although he was concerned about the surgery, he was surprised at the ease of the procedure and how quickly he was ready to resume his regular activities. “The surgery isn't that bad. I had more problems getting my tonsils out. I recovered way faster than I thought I would. I was in the hospital in the morning, at home by the afternoon and eating at a restaurant that evening.”
Kevin received his Ponto Plus on 13 October 2014, and the results left him speechless. “I didn't have words. I knew it was going to be similar to the test band, but it was so much better. Unless you have the loss, it’s tough to describe. With previous aids, I had always thought ‘That was pretty cool,’ but with this one I can hear everything.”
Kevin has been involved in musical theatre since his second year of high school, and he now performs with his chapel choir. “I do theatre because it allows me to meet and interact with people on an entirely different level. When you act with someone, you play off of each other's strengths and try to bolster their weaknesses. My closest friends are the ones I’ve met on stage.”
Singing in a choir surrounded by others while concentrating on your own performance can be difficult, but Kevin has relied on his Ponto Plus to help. “I am now able to really focus on my own voice while keeping pace with the students around me. The choir is travelling to Ireland in January, and I couldn't be more excited!”
Kevin recently shared his talent at the school’s Mr. Stonehill competition, and he took first place!
Kevin now hears clearly without experiencing difficulty from the device itself. He doesn’t have to worry about hearing aids contributing to ear infections, and the procedure was minimally invasive.
The change in Kevin’s hearing has made a significant difference. As Kevin put it, “I feel like I can finally hear for the first time in my life.
“I could go on for hours about how much I love my Ponto system. There isn’t a thing I dislike about it. The sound quality is stunning. Everything sounds different in the most positive way. I no longer have to make sure that the person speaking to me is on my ‘good side,’ because now, I don’t have a bad side!”