Guest blog: How the Baha System helped one mom take early action to treat her infant daughter’s hearing loss

Hearing loss can be challenging for a newborn trying to reach developmental milestones, but mom Ashton M. decided to treat her daughter’s hearing loss, due to microtia and atresia, right away. Hazel, who just turned one year old, wears her Baha 5 Sound Processor as she begins to grow up like any other baby.

 Ashton wrote to the Baha Blog to share Hazel’s story, and to provide a few tips for other parents who are considering treating their children’s hearing loss with bone conduction and the Baha System.

At one month old, Hazel has an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test performed to measure her hearing.

On June 6th, 2017 at 2:00 in the morning, we were truly blessed with a perfect little girl who we named Hazel. Her dad Mike and I were over the moon to finally see her after nine long months.

With all the excitement of the delivery, there were a lot moments that seemed like a blur to me. After they weighed and measured her I finally got to hold her in my arms. I was just overcome with happiness.

In that moment I will never forget when Mike asked me if I had looked at Hazel’s left ear. I immediately lifted the cap that newborns wear and began to examine her. The nurse in me started to run down a list of possible diagnoses in my head, and then the worried mother began to set in as well. I didn’t see an opening in her ear canal, and I noticed her ear was not fully formed. Those first few days of Hazel’s life were both exciting and scary for Mike and me.

We learned that Hazel was born with a congenital condition called microtia with atresia, affecting her left ear. Microtia means she has a small outer ear, and atresia means she has no external ear canal. We were then told she was not able to hear out of her affected ear, but she tested perfect with her right ear during a screening.

Hazel is fitted with her first Baha 5 Sound Processor at 6 months old.

The day we walked out of the hospital to take Hazel home, I could hear the birds chirping and all the noise around me – and it had never seemed so loud. I covered my left ear and tried to put myself in my brand new daughter’s shoes and I began to cry. I wondered and asked myself if she will ever hear like I do.

Then came many appointments with an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat clinician) and an audiologist. The moment we met our audiologist was the first time that I felt, “Hey, Hazel is going to be just fine!” Our audiologist performed another hearing test on both of Hazel’s ears called an Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). Hazel’s right ear showed normal hearing sensitivity and her left ear showed moderate to severe conductive hearing loss. Our audiologist began to tell us our options from that point and educated us on a bone conduction hearing device that will allow Hazel to experience bilateral hearing.

We gave the OK to start the process of getting her fitted for her Cochlear Baha 5 Sound Processor, a bone conduction hearing device. Then the day finally came! When she was about 6 months old, she received her sound processor, which she wears on a Baha Softband headband.

She was a little overwhelmed and frightened, hearing for the first time out of her microtia ear. Until then all she ever knew was being able to hear from one side, so it took a few days for her to get used to the change. It has been a challenge adapting to the milestones of growing up as she wears her Baha sound processor, but we could not be more thankful for the brilliant minds behind the development of this device.

Hazel wears her Baha 5 Sound Processor on a Softband, adorned with a small bow.

As an infant wearing a Baha sound processor, Hazel faces a few challenges that we have to navigate, and throughout this process we’ve found some useful tips for parents like us. Here are a few tips for parents of infants wearing a Baha device:

  • Rolling on the floor sometimes leads to feedback issues. When Hazel is on her back or when she wants to roll around, we rotate the Softband so that the sound processor is on her forehead, preventing feedback.
  • Since she was very young we have put headbands on her, which has helped her get used to wearing something on her head. This has definitely been useful as she adjusts to wearing the Softband for extended periods of time.
  • Gaining more self-awareness means she wants to play with her clothes, or even pull the Softband off whenever she gets a chance. Once we put the Baha 5 Sound Processor on her, we immediately do something to distract her. When it’s out of sight, out of mind, she gets better at wearing her processor for longer periods.
  • When she is not wearing her sound processor, we also use a glasses case to store the processor while it is attached to the Softband. The white storage box that comes with the Baha 5 Sound Processor is the best solution for storing the processor on its own, but the glasses case allows more room for both the sound processor and the Softband while they are attached. As an added bonus, Hazel’s hands aren’t yet strong enough to open the case on her own.
  • So that you can easily open the Baha 5 Sound Processor’s tamper-proof battery door, designed to prevent children like Hazel from accidentally removing the battery on her own, we recommend you also store the tamper-proof tool provided in the sound processor box, or a small hairpin, together in your storage case.
  • It is also a good idea to remove the battery and store your child’s sound processor overnight in Cochlear’s Dry Aid Kit or a drying box like The Breeze by Dry & Store. Infants are messy, and doing this helps to keep moisture out of the sound processor.
  • For more tips on living with the Baha System, click here.

We are so proud of our little Hazey and so excited to see what the future brings for her! As a family, we are excited to learn about these medical advances and be on this amazing journey with the Cochlear family.

I know now that she hears every little birdie tweet, and every outside noise there is!

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own views and not those of Cochlear.

Click here to learn more about treating hearing loss in children.

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