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.