The challenge of in-the-ear hearing aids

James was born with little hearing in both ears. As he was growing up, he used behind-the-ear hearing aids to help him hear. However, his microtia (abnormal development of the external ear) often meant he had trouble getting them to fit properly, and his parents would have to resort to tape or makeshift solutions to keep them in place. He remembers how his grandma knitted him a hat with a slot for his hearing aid. But even his grandma’s best efforts weren’t enough to keep the hearing aids in place.

When he became a teenager, he and his family began researching ear reconstruction and found out about bone anchored hearing solutions. For James, this was a good time to have the implant surgery, as the bone had increased in thickness and he had become interested in finding a more suitable solution.

“We read a lot of brochures from the hospital and found information online,” says his mother. Although the bone anchored hearing system sounded promising, she remained apprehensive. “As a parent, you’re always thinking about whether it’s the right thing to do and whether it will benefit him and work as expected.”

The soft band solution

At the age of 13, James decided to try out the bone anchored hearing solution on a soft band for six months.

“I took it to school and wore it at home and noticed a radical difference between the in-the-ear hearing aids and the bone anchored solution – even on the soft band,” he explains.
The success of the sound processor on a soft band led to James deciding to have the implants. Some of his main concerns included whether it would hurt and whether there would be any complications. His worries proved unnecessary, as there was so little pain afterward that he didn’t even need any of the painkillers the nurses offered him. In fact, he returned home again the same day, and the healing process had no complications.

Keeping up in class

When the sound processors were fitted, there was a significant change in James’s hearing from the soft band solution – James himself describes the difference in sound as being “cleaner and less intermittent.” At school, his teachers and friends also noticed the difference, and James remembers finally being able to keep up with what was going on in class. “With the sound processor, I asked a lot more questions in class because I could now hear what the teachers were saying,” he recalls.

Another major benefit of the Ponto sound processor was the ability to experience directional hearing. “Quite often if I wandered off in a shop and my parents called my name, I would hear them but didn’t know where to look. With the bone anchored solution, I can pinpoint the area the voices are coming from. It also makes it much easier when I drive in traffic, as I know where the sounds are coming from.”

Part of gaming

Like many teenagers, James loves gaming and can’t imagine life without digital communication.

This is where his Ponto Plus and the Oticon Medical Streamer have made the biggest difference. Using the streamer, he can connect his Ponto Plus sound processors to various electronic devices. For example, when he’s out walking the family dog, he uses the streamer to listen to music from his phone.
“I often play electronic games with a college friend on my PlayStation, and the streamer lets me use the sound processors as a headset. If my phone rings or I get a text, the PlayStation cuts out and I can take the call or answer the text. It works virtually perfectly.”

Hearing his teachers

At university, where James is training to be a car mechanic, his teachers use the ConnectLine microphone to transmit their voices directly into his sound processor. This has also provided extra benefits as James explains, “Once, I could hear the teacher even though I couldn’t see him. The workshop is a big room, and the teacher was around the corner in another part of the room. He gave me instructions and I could pass them on to my classmates, which saved him having to shout,” he says with a smile.

A big confidence boost

The bone anchored hearing surgery has not only given James better hearing in many more situations, but it has also had a big impact on his confidence. Today, he would recommend anyone in a similar situation to try Ponto on a soft band to see for themselves. “I’d always say it’s a great thing to have done, and I’d definitely recommend it,” he says.

“With the sound processor, I ask a lot more questions in class, because now I can hear the teachers.”

During the 18-year lifetime of teenager James Guppy, hearing aid technology has advanced much more than his parents could ever have hoped. Born with microtia, James spent his early childhood using in-the-ear hearing aids before deciding to have a bone anchored hearing system to overcome his hearing loss, followed by ear reconstruction surgery as well. Now with his Ponto Plus sound processor, he can enjoy the wide variety of sounds in his life – from listening to teachers at university to gaming with friends on his PlayStation.

Name: James Guppy
Indication: Conductive hearing loss (and bilateral microtia)