Tech features make Baha 5 series easy to love; now it’s time for an upgrade: guest blog

By Tom de Beer, Netherlands

Cochlear Baha System recipient Tom de Beer. Submitted photo.

Cochlear Baha System recipient Tom de Beer. Submitted photo.

Some people have said to me that with a disability, following your dreams is so much harder, if not impossible. But boy, did I prove those people wrong.

My name is Tom de Beer – I’m a 21-year-old IT student from the Netherlands, and I also blog about tech. I currently hold two diplomas from community college: one in IT Support Engineering, and one in Network Engineering. I am now continuing my studies in IT & Business at Fontys University of Applied Sciences. I am also the Editor-in-Chief at Dutch Tech Blog, where I write about Apple and other major tech companies like Microsoft, Intel, Synology and more. I have worked with different PR organisations to improve the quality of my content as well. I really enjoy what I’m doing in my life. But I won’t lie. It hasn’t been very easy to get where I am right now.

I would like to share with you how I’ve managed my hearing loss, going from near-deafness at birth to bone conduction treatment and the Baha 5 Power upgrade I will receive this summer.

I was born with severe to profound hearing loss on both sides. I did not get hearing aids as a baby because it took a few years before doctors found out what caused my hearing loss. From that point I was given the benefit of electronic devices that have helped me hear.

My first hearing devices were the so-called ‘Behind-the-Ear’ (BTE) hearing aids, which I got when I was two or three years old. And they did help me to communicate with people. But I often had issues with them, one of them being that the ear pieces got constantly ‘blocked’ by an excess of ear wax my ears were producing.

I knew I wanted a solution that was more discreet. Being able to wear hearing devices without them being 100% visible doesn’t make me feel as ‘paranoid’ anymore about what people might think of me. I know what you’re thinking: “You shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of your hearing loss!” And believe me, I’m definitely not ashamed of my hearing disability. In fact, I am proud to be sharing my story.

Fast-forward to 2012, I had my annual hearing test and my audiologist mentioned something called the Cochlear Baha System. I had no idea what he was talking about. He explained to me that what made it different is the process of bone conduction: how sound travels through the bones of my skull to my cochlea. It sounded very interesting. So I went looking for more information, and finally decided to ask my ear specialist for his thoughts about it. He said a Baha System could really help improve my hearing experience. After some consideration, I finally went for it and decided to get an implant and abutment for the Baha Connect System on my left side.

In 2013 I received my very first bone anchored sound processor, after having tested two of them. I wasn’t too happy with the first one. The sound did not feel natural to me and the device felt bulky and heavy. The second one, a Baha 3 (BP110) Power was a different story. I immediately started hearing sounds I wouldn’t have heard before – for example tapping on the desk with your fingertips. I also heard conversations in certain situations better wearing this device. As exaggerated as it may sound, the experience felt like a miracle.

Two years after my first surgery, I went under the knife again to get a second implant on my right side, because I felt like I was missing something. I got the Baha 4 Sound Processor. What I found cool about it was that it supported some accessories that allow for connecting with your mobile phone.

Bilateral recipient Tom de Beer wears his Baha 3 Power on his left side and his Baha 4 Sound Processor on his right side. Submitted photo.

Bilateral recipient Tom de Beer wears his Baha 3 Power on his left side and his Baha 4 Sound Processor on his right side. Submitted photo.

Late 2017, I realised that it had been 4 and a half years since I received my first Baha processor, and it was time for an upgrade. I read about the Baha 5 family of sound processors, and I learned that they had ‘Made for iPhone’ technology. Obviously, as a tech nerd and a big Apple fan I absolutely needed that one. So I contacted my audiologist to ask him about my options. He told me I couldn’t upgrade until July, but he proposed trying one out for a few weeks. And of course I wanted to do that!

As I am writing this, I am wearing the Baha 5 Power on my left side. It is a phenomenal device. Of course, the sound quality is great. In fact, voice quality has notably improved over its predecessor. For me, another major compelling reason to upgrade is that ‘Made for iPhone’ technology I just mentioned. Setting it up is very easy, and everything else is incredibly seamless. Audio is automatically streamed to my sound processor, and I can even use my phone as a microphone. Being able to see the battery percentage of the device is a nice touch as well. Using the Baha 5 Smart app I can even adjust the low and high tones. I appreciate that bit of customisability.

But how is my daily experience? Let me start by saying that the obvious struggles are there. There are lots of moments where I have no idea what somebody is saying, and I don’t dare to ask them to repeat something. Especially if it has to be more than a few times. Luckily, in most situations people show respect for my disability and try to make me feel as comfortable as needed.

My parents, family and close friends have always supported me in a way that one might dream of. And not just when it comes to my hearing loss, but also in my ambitions to become whatever I want to become. That is also where I have proved many people wrong: that in spite of my hearing loss I still got where I wanted to be. And I haven’t even finished yet!


Tom de Beer, 21, is a tech student and blogger from the Netherlands. You can find Dutch Tech Blog at dutch-tech.nl.

Want to share your story, hearing tips or Baha advice with The Baha Blog? Let us know! Find us on Twitter at @TheBahaBlog, on Facebook at our page The Baha Blog or via email at bahablog@cochlear.com.

In the News: Congratulations to 2018 Anders Tjellström, Graeme Clark scholarship winners

Eight students were awarded the 2018 Graeme Clark and Anders Tjellström scholarships.

Last week, Cochlear Limted announced the winners of the 2018 Anders Tjellström and Graeme Clark scholarships. Congratulations to the winners!

The three 2018 Anders Tjellström Scholarship winners are:

  • Monica Pasqualino (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) from Oceanside, New York
  • Elise Schiller (Trinity College) from St. Louis, Missouri
  • Carol Rynar (Canisius College) from Buffalo, New York

“Just as my Baha System opened a new world for me, I have become inspired to help others confidently navigate their life without anxiety, and to work to minimise the barriers that prevent them from engaging fully with their world because of hearing loss,” said Rynar, a Baha System recipient and an Anders Tjellström Scholarship winner. “This scholarship will help me extend this miracle of sound from me to the students I serve as a teacher.”

The five 2018 Graeme Clark Scholarships winners are:

  • Elaine Wright (Princeton University) from Tucson, Arizona
  • Tania Karas (Oxford University) from Palos Park, Illinois
  • Keenan Murphy (Manhattan College) from Bronx, New York
  • Hunter Orthmann (University of Iowa) from Iowa City, Iowa
  • Natalia Adriance (Notre Dame) from Napa, California

About the Scholarships
The scholarships, named after two pioneers of the hearing implant industry, recognize Cochlear™ Nucleus® Implant and Baha® System recipients in the United States and Canada who uphold the Cochlear ideals of leadership and humanity, and demonstrate high academic achievement. The Anders Tjellström Scholarship is named after Anders Tjellström, the research physician in the department of otolaryngology at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden who collaborated with Per-Ingvar Brånemark, a pioneer in his field, to treat the first patient with a Baha device. The Graeme Clark Scholarship is named after Professor Graeme Clark, the inventor and pioneer of the multichannel cochlear implant.

Read more about the scholarships and apply here.

Read more about the 2018 winners here.

Baha SoundArc launches in U.S., Canada

Ziggy_reading_PPT

Cochlear’s Baha SoundArc, which had its first commercial launch in September 2017, is now available in the United States and Canada.

The SoundArc is the world’s first non-surgical, behind-the-head bone conduction hearing device, specially designed for children who are not ready for a bone conduction implant and adults who want to trial bone conduction in everyday situations.soundarc_topshot_all_colours3_PPT

“We are happy to be adding to our broad portfolio of hearing options for children with the introduction of the Baha SoundArc,” said Tony Manna, President, Cochlear Americas. “Because each child’s hearing need is unique and may change over time, we are proud to be providing innovative and technologically advanced hearing solutions to fit a child’s lifestyle across the stages of their life.”

Read the full press release here.

SoundArc is intended for children and adults with conductive hearing loss, mixed hearing loss and single-sided sensorineural deafness (SSD).  Baha SoundArc is an effective non-surgical way to experience bone conduction hearing, and an important first step to hearing your best with a bone conduction implant.

To try the SoundArc, find the clinic nearest you by using this tool.

 

 

Happy Holidays! Your guide to hearing better around the holiday dinner table

Adapted from a story originally posted on The Wire, a Cochlear Americas blog for recipients. Read it here.


Merry Christmas from Cochlear Bone Anchored Solutions.

Whether you celebrate a religious holiday, mark the passing of the seasons, or just meet with family and friends to bring some light to the dark season, wintertime is a time for friends, family and feasts. But the holiday season can be tricky for people with hearing loss who may struggle to hear when festivities bring a lot of people together in a small area. The chatter, cooking, clanking of dishes and other noise tend to make hearing difficult.

Here are eight simple things you can do to improve your hearing situation and get the most out of your holiday celebrations:

  1. Choose a seat carefully. Whether your holiday dinners have place cards and assigned seats or it’s a first-come-first-served situation, you have options. Arrive early and scope out the seating arrangements, then pick a spot where your best hearing side is facing the majority of the other participants. If your spot isn’t working and you need to switch with someone, just ask! They’ll more than likely be willing to trade if you explain that it would help you to hear the conversations taking place.
  2. Place your Mini Mic 2 or Mini Mic 2+ at the centre of the table. This will help to amplify everyone’s voices and allow you to focus on what everyone is saying. You can also clip it to an individual person’s shirt, if you’re having a hard time understanding a specific person. By streaming the audio directly from the person to your sound processor, you reduce the distance and background noise that can make it so difficult to understand what someone is saying. (To read about more CochlearTM True WirelessTM accessories, click here.)
  3. Move away from the group for one-on-one conversations. If you’re talking with one or two people before/after dinner, consider asking them to move to a quieter area to speak. Either step into a nearby room or walk out into the backyard. Not only will this reduce the noise from every other conversation, but it will also remove background noises such as the television and music.
  4. Adjust your programming. Use your remote control to discreetly change your processor’s volume or program. On the Baha® 5 processor, you can adjust your controls right from your iPhone or Android device with the Baha Smart App. It’s never been easier to raise or lower the volume, and that can mean a better hearing experience. Download the Smart App here.
  5. Pack extra batteries. The only thing worse than running out of mashed potatoes is running out of batteries when your processor needs them the most. Avoid unnecessary trips to the store by making sure to pack plenty of batteries, plus some extras in case you encounter unforeseen problems.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Most people will be more than happy to accommodate small requests that help you to hear them. For example, you could ask a soft-spoken family member, “Please make sure you face me when you are speaking.” Or, if the sounds from the television or background music are proving to be distracting, ask the host if they can mute them so you can focus on conversation. Simple steps like these can make a huge difference.
  7. Use the TV Streamer to watch holiday movies with the family. If everyone in the house is crowded around the television, it may be difficult to find a comfortable spot that allows you to hear your favorite Christmas movie. The good news is, the TV Streamer makes it easy to stream audio wirelessly from the TV to your processor. Plus it’s quick and easy to set up, so you can have it ready to go before the opening credits are done. You can choose to mix the sound of the TV with the sounds of your environment, or completely tune out environmental sounds when you want to focus on your favorite parts of the movie. Read more about the TV Streamer here.
  8. Take breaks. Large holiday gatherings can be exhausting for anyone, let alone someone with hearing loss. Don’t forget that it takes a lot of work for your brain to decipher all the added stimuli, and it’s a good thing to give yourself a chance to rest. Plus, it’s a vacation—so let yourself enjoy it! If you begin to feel tired, excuse yourself to take a walk or lay down in a quiet room. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of peace and quiet to refresh yourself.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the perfect holiday, but by following these hearing tips, you’ll set yourself up for success.

Following Shay’s hearing journey: from Softband to implant at age 11

Michelle and her daughter Shalynn, 11

Michelle and her daughter Shay, who wears a Softband.

By Michelle Robinson

When my daughter Shay was around one year old, I noticed that she was not reacting to loud noises like other children, so I decided to take her to have her hearing checked. Her family and I found out that she had moderate hearing loss in her right ear and that she had had it since birth. Although doctors did a hearing test when Shay was a newborn, we were not informed at the time that she failed it.

A short time after learning of Shay’s hearing loss, we made an appointment with our local ear, nose and throat specialist. The specialist confirmed that she had moderate hearing loss and nerve damage to her right ear. She needed a hearing aid. Shay received her first among many hearing aids at the age of two. In the years that followed, she has had several hearing exams, but due to her young age we were uncertain about what she was truly hearing.

When Shay was nine and a half I took her in for a routine hearing check, where we found out that her hearing loss was much more severe than we had thought. We learned she couldn’t hear voices and typical speech patterns. It turns out a normal hearing aid was not working for her at all.

My heart sank with this news. Shay not being able to hear out of her right ear was a huge concern: she was struggling in school because she couldn’t hear the teacher; it was difficult for her to ride her bike or play outside because she couldn’t hear when a car was coming up behind her.

The doctor explained to us the process of bone conduction, and he said he believed Shay would be a perfect candidate for the Baha System. We made an appointment right away with the Michigan Ear Institute. Doctors there confirmed that she has severe mixed hearing loss (a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss) in her right ear, and that a normal hearing aid would not work for her. We discussed the Baha System and decided that it would be our best option.

After doing some investigating I learned about the Baha Softband, normally used for very young children. Shay has had the Softband for a little over a year now. It was like night and day: finally, she could hear! I’ve included a video of her hearing with the Softband for the first time with this blog. After a little more than a year and after seeing the difference it has made in her life, we knew it was time to replace the Softband. This December at the age of 11, Shay will have implant surgery to start her new life with the Baha Connect System. She is so excited to keep hearing better!

Michelle Robinson lives in Cheboygan, Michigan, U.S., and is the mother of 11-year-old Baha recipient Shalynn Robinson.

Join Cochlear in celebrating National Microtia Awareness Day!

This post was originally written for The Wire, a blog for Cochlear Americas recipients.


November 9th, National Microtia Awareness Day in the U.S., is dedicated to spreading knowledge and hope about microtia, a congenital birth defect which derives its name from the Latin term for “small ear.” Approximately one child in every 9,000 is born with microtia in which the appearance of one or both of the outer ears is affected with a smaller, or abnormally shaped, ear or sometimes, no ear at all. Microtia is often accompanied by atresia, which is the absence or closure of the external auditory ear canal and results in hearing loss in the affected ear.

National Microtia Awareness Day’s purpose is to educate the general public about this rare condition and provide support to families who may have a child affected by microtia. Depending on where families live, medical professionals may be very knowledgeable about the condition and can quickly educate and reassure parents. In other regions, the condition is rare enough that misinformation may lead to unnecessary concerns about their child’s future.

Creating awareness, acceptance and reducing the stigma associated with microtia and atresia, along with medical and technological advances has improved the lives of those living with these conditions. Ear reconstruction and prosthetics may be available options for children born with microtia. Hearing loss in the affected ear may be helped with bone conduction hearing devices, such as Cochlear’s Baha sound processor. Whatever path a parent chooses for their child’s individual needs, they will benefit by the resources and support that’s now more readily available through enhanced awareness.

National Microtia Awareness Day was established in 2016 by Melissa Tumblin, founder of Ear Community. As a parent of a child with microtia and atresia, Melissa founded Ear Community in 2010 to provide information, support and resources for all of those affected by these conditions. Since its inception, Ear Community has brought together over 6,500 people from around the world through its events and its online community to share experiences, knowledge and resources. Cochlear is proud to support the important work of the Ear Community and we invite you to learn more here.

Please help raise awareness and share your support on social media by using #MicrotiaAwarenessDay.

Read stories from children with microtia who have been helped to hear: Paige, Sixten, Eliana, Alana, and more here.

 

 

Happy Halloween from the Baha family!

A jack-o-lantern carved with a face shaped out of the Baha 5, Baha 5 Power and Baha 5 SuperPower.

Happy Halloween from the Baha family!

 

Download these Cochlear pumpkin carving stencils here, and check out 5 tips to enjoy Halloween from The Wire, a blog for Cochlear recipients in the Americas.

Happy Halloween!