Choosing Ponto was a huge relief for his parents, who have had to make some important decisions over the past few years about how to manage his hearing loss. “We had no idea that Oscar was deaf in one ear until that moment in the doctor’s office when he was five,” explains Oscar’s mother, Camilla.
No signs of hearing loss
In spite of having attended a number of check-ups following the meningitis, the family had not been told that hearing loss could be a potential problem, and no one had noticed any behavioural changes in Oscar that might indicate hearing difficulties.
“At the check-up, I was in shock! I’d really not seen this coming. We were told very abruptly that he had no useful hearing in his right ear. Then, we were given a brochure about infants with profound hearing loss. But nobody told us what we could actually do about it,” Camilla continues.
Although the diagnosis of single-sided deafness (SSD) came out of the blue for Oscar and his parents, there was hope in the form of a bone anchored hearing solution. This solution uses the body’s natural ability to send sound vibrations into the inner ear through bone conduction. It is able to pick up sound on the deaf side and transfer it to the good ear, thereby making it much easier to understand speech on the deaf side.
Getting through the medical maze
There was little information available from the hospital, so Camilla did her own research online. She also contacted the family’s GP, who referred Oscar to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. At the appointment, the specialist recommended that the family contact a paediatric audiologist. This was when they were first introduced to bone anchored hearing systems.
“I began researching bone anchored solutions online and found some patient websites, but I really needed more information about children who are deaf in one ear. I knew that being deaf in one ear has an impact on the psychological and social aspects of a child’s development, and I wanted to get all the information available so I could make the best decision for my son,” Camilla says.
The soft band gave an idea of the end result.
Deciding to use a bone anchored sound processor involves having minor surgery to place a small titanium implant in the bone behind the ear. Once this has healed, the sound processor is attached to an abutment and can send sound waves through the bone directly into the inner ear. But before having surgery, the sound processor can be tried out by wearing it on a test band, soft band or headband. This gives the user an idea of how beneficial it can be in various everyday situations and lets the family decide whether the solution is right for their child.
“When I first started in school I wore the soft band. It was a bit annoying, but it really helped me hear better—both in class and during breaks,” Oscar says.
Camilla also confirms that they saw an instant change in Oscar with the sound processor on the soft band. As soon as he turned it on, his face lit up.
Not a decision made lightly
After a period of wearing the soft band and experiencing the difference it made to his hearing, Oscar and his parents spoke to the ENT specialist at the hospital about moving from the soft band to an implant.
“As parents, we needed to talk about the pros and cons of getting an implant, but in the end, we felt that a bone anchored implant would provide Oscar with the best long-term solution,” Camilla explains.
Sharing concerns, finding support
Like most parents whose children are to undergo surgery, Oscar’s mother was nervous and had a lot of questions. The doctors and medical staff at the hospital were able to answer most of them, but Camilla also found another source of information that was invaluable in her search for answers.
“I found some great network groups. They helped me understand the solution and gave me the opportunity to speak to others in the same situation. It really helped me see the implant from the child’s point of view.”
Going through surgery
Once they had made the main decision of opting for an implant, the next decision was up to the surgeon. The surgery can be carried out in either one or two stages. In two-stage surgery, the implant is embedded during the first stage, while the second stage attaches the abutment. Two-stage surgery is often used for children like Oscar and other patients with soft, poor or thin bone quality.
In May 2012, Oscar had the first surgery, and four months later the abutment was attached. Although the family was nervous, the procedure was simple and everything went according to plan.
“I had to get up really early in the morning, and my mother took me to the hospital. It was a strange feeling knowing that I was going to have surgery. I had some medicine and fell asleep. But when I woke up again I felt fine,” Oscar explains.
Daily life with Ponto
The healing period after the surgery went well, and Oscar was fitted with his sound processor as planned. “It made a big difference and I had to get used to it. Getting a Ponto has changed everything. It’s much easier to follow my classes and to play with my friends,” says Oscar.
Camilla has also noticed that Oscar has more energy at the end of the day, because it is no longer as difficult for him to keep up with everything going on around him all day.
Easy to keep clean
Abutment hygiene has quickly become a part of Oscar’s daily routine. Camilla and Oscar quickly learned how to keep the area clean using a cotton bud, and Oscar has learned to change the batteries by himself.
“In the beginning, we helped Oscar clean the abutment site and change the batteries, but now we only supervise him as he does it. The audiologist was also very helpful. One useful tip we got was to have a fixed day every week for changing the battery,” Camilla advises.
Cool for school
With his new implant and sound processor, Camilla has seen how Oscar finds it much easier to learn and interact with his classmates. The performance of the bone anchored sound processor is a considerable improvement on the soft band solution. Plus, it’s also more comfortable and discreet, so Oscar often forgets that he is wearing it.
He is also able to give his processor a personal touch, as it comes with a variety of stickers. Not only does he love decorating it, but the other children at school think this is cool.
Seeing the great benefits that the Ponto system has given Oscar, his parents now know that giving their son a bone anchored hearing solution was definitely the right decision.