Guest blog: Dr Jolien Desmet’s journey of discovery of sensorineural single-sided deafness

Dr Jolien Desmet from UZA Hospital in Antwerp, Belgium, shares with us her experience as a clinical audiologist who was inspired by the interactions with her patients to go further. She was recently awarded a PhD which focused on bone conduction hearing.

“I am lucky to have a position where I can be both a clinical and research audiologist. Importantly, the Baha solution has been my research focus for the last four and a half years.

I am continually impressed and humbled by the degree of benefit provided by the Baha solution for people with conductive or mixed hearing loss, or single-sided sensorineural deafness (SSD). Especially when meeting patients with a large hearing loss, that are so enthusiastic about the life changing impact of the Baha solution!

One patient I remember well was a taxi driver, profoundly deaf on his right side. Being a taxi driver in Belgium, with the steering wheel on the left, he was a perfect SSD Baha candidate. After he got his Baha sound processor, he could hear the conversations and directions of his passengers on his right side much more clearly. He reported so much benefit from this!

The focus of my research is to go beyond the standard hearing tests and highlight the quality of life improvement shown by patients in their everyday life. I wish to highlight new ways in which we can more understand the improvements reported by patients with SSD.

Over the past four years, under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Paul Van de Heyning at the Antwerp University Hospital, I have personally investigated* the performance of hundreds of Baha candidates. I have also spoken to different researchers who are looking for an explanation for the reported benefit.

For SSD patients, you often need to look beyond the standard hearing tests, as it is the benefit in quality of life that is most crucial. We need to discuss and be open to what actual situation benefits a Baha solution provides for the candidate. What situations are they in where they need to hear from the other side? When are they in situations where their daily life is compromised by having access to sound from only one side? For example, work meetings or communicating in situations with lots of background noise. These are issues that we, as professionals, must take into account when seeing a SSD patient in the context of a Baha trial.

In addition to the SSD research, I am focusing on new technologies such as Baha Attract and also the wireless technologies … I believe that these may provide further improvements for patients with SSD. But maybe I should save that for a next blog post!”

~ Dr Jolien Desmet


* Desmet J, Bouzegta R, Hofkens A et al. Clinical need for a Baha trial in patients with single-sided sensorineural deafness. Analysis of a Baha database of 196 patients. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 2012;269:799-805.