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.

What You Need to Know: 10 FAQs on the Bone Conduction Procedure

Have you tried the Baha® 5 sound processor on a Baha Softband and decided to move on with a bone conduction implant? Has your child been scheduled for the implant procedure and you need to know how to prepare?

Jennifer Brown, Clinical Product Manager at Cochlear and audiologist, answers the ten most frequently asked questions about the bone conduction procedure.

Jennifer has more than six years of clinical experience in the United States with both pediatric and adult cochlear implant recipients, and she has worked for Cochlear in a variety of roles for the past four years.

(Picture: an audiologist fits a Baha Softband on a toddler’s head. A Baha 5 sound processor is attached to the Softband)

FAQ

1. How do I prepare for the implant procedure?

The good news is that no special preparations are needed before the procedure. The procedure is fast and minimally invasive. Your physician will give you all the details to plan for a successful procedure.

2. Will the procedure be painful?

The procedure is performed under anesthesia. The type of anaesthesia – local or general – is determined by a number of factors, like age, or pre-existing conditions. Ultimately, which anesthesia is right for you is determined by you and your surgeon. Post-operatively, you may experience swelling or skin sensitivity at the implant site. Should it be necessary, your doctor can prescribe pain reliever. Always discuss the procedure and any concerns you may have with your surgeon.

3. Will I be able to go home from the hospital the same day?

In the vast  majority of cases, patients go home the same day. While rare, sometimes in the case of small children or individuals with multiple involvements, the physician may take a precaution and keep the patient over night, but this seldom happens.

4. Can I shower after the procedure?

Usually, patients are allowed to shower the day after procedure. Avoid rubbing the area when drying as this may knock off the healing cap. Cover the cap area by holding a dry towel over it. Here’s what Dr. Pete Weber said in an earlier post.

“The site will still get wet. Since the incision is now very small for Baha Connect surgery, getting the site wet is usually not an issue. Full shower when cap and packing off. The best shampoos to use are the hypoallergenic ones, such as baby shampoos. I also let my Baha Attract patients shower the next day after removing the dressing. Again telling them to pat dry the area and not rub.”

5. If I choose an abutment or a magnet system, how long after surgery until I can wear the sound processor?

Different countries have different regulations.

  • If you choose the abutment system – Baha Connect: depending on where you live it can be anywhere from two weeks to three months before receiving the sound processor.
  • If you choose the magnet system – Baha Attract: depending on where you live it can be anywhere from two weeks to five weeks before receiving the sound processor.

Your doctor will examine the implant site before fitting the sound processor.

6. Are post-operative skin infections common and how are they treated?

As discussed in question 2, there could be swelling or sensitivity at the implant site after the procedure. Post-operative skin infections might occur, although the probability is low. Most skin-related issues happen in the abutment system, because it is skin protruding. In most cases, issues are mild, and can be resolved medically after consultation with your physician. Usually, the skin issues do not affect your ability to wear the sound processor. In the rare incident of persistent skin issues, it may be beneficial to transition to the magnet system.

7. How do I know if an abutment system or a magnet system is appropriate for me?

Both of the Cochlear Baha systems are indicated for individuals with hearing loss in one ear (single-sided deafness, or SSD), or for individuals with conductive/mixed hearing loss.  Whether to choose a Baha Connect or a Baha Attract depends upon a variety of factors, including the degree of hearing loss.

The magnetic system – Baha Attract – is a transcutaneous, or an under-the-skin implant system.  It is comprised of the internal fixture, with a magnet attached to it.  Individuals with the hearing losses noted above are candidates for this system, but it is important to remember that because the sound must pass through the skin, it may be necessary to use a more powerful sound processor, like the Baha 5 Power or the Baha 5 SuperPower.

The abutment system – Baha Connect – is a percutaneous, or through-the-skin implant system.  It too, uses the internal fixture but has an abutment attached to it.  It is appropriate for individuals with SSD or conductive/mixed hearing loss, but unlike the Baha Attract system, there is no skin attenuation of the sound.   This is a great option for individuals needing more power.

In some instances, it may be possible or necessary to transition from one system to another.  For instance, if a recipient chooses the Baha Attract system, and notices a change in his/her hearing, it is possible to remove the magnet and attach an abutment to eliminate dampening of the sound through the skin and to offer more direct bone conduction. Conversely, if a recipient needs to transition to a completely under-the-skin system because of lifestyle or soft tissue concerns, the abutment can be removed and the magnet can be attached.  In both instances, the recipient can likely continue to use the same sound processor.  Cochlear is the only manufacturer that allows for this flexibility based on the patient’s needs.

8. Why do I have to wait so long before I get fitted with a sound processor?

Bone bonds well to titanium, which is what the internal fixture is comprised of. To allow for osseointegration, it is recommended that appropriate healing time be allotted. In an abutment system, the surrounding skin also needs time to adhere to the abutment, to minimize skin issues. In a magnet system, it is important to wait the allotted time to give a chance for the swelling to reduce so that the patient can wear the weakest external magnet possible and still have adequate retention.

9. Will my child need a new implant as she or he grows?

No, an implant is designed for life. There are no pediatric-specific implants, abutments, or magnets. In the event that the child’s hearing changes, non-surgical options – such as a more powerful sound processor – should be tried first. Only in the event of a transition would a procedure be required, but keep in mind the same internal implant is used.

10. Will the Baha® System affect my child’s choices in sports or other activities?

A bone conduction implant is designed to allow your child a world of sound in every activity. While hearing loss is the most important factor to consider when choosing an abutment or a magnet system, lifestyle plays an important role. Some sports may be more conducive to having an under-the-skin magnet system.  It is important to choose a manufacturer that offers your child choices in hearing solutions – whether an abutment, or a magnet.

Remember, communication is key. Always discuss your options and thoughts with your audiologist and surgeon. Your hearing professional will be able to provide timely, accurate, and documented information.

Checklist for parents of a child with a Baha system

baha-attract-children

Baha Attract user Alex with mom Chrissy

If your child recently has, or is about to have, Baha surgery, there are some things to think about – especially directly afterwards. You will find answers to most of your questions in the support section on www.cochlear.com or the Support App.

Here’s a short checklist on how you can support your child at home in the best way!

After surgery 

DO maintain good daily hygiene to avoid redness or soreness
DON’T let dirt get into the abutment – use the press-on abutment cover whenever your child is not wearing the Baha sound processor
DO wash your child’s hair carefully and use an alcohol-free abutment cleaning wipe to keep the skin clean
DON’T rub the implant area dry, but gently pat it instead

washing-hair-after-surgery

Cleaning the abutment area

DO clean the outside of the abutment daily using mild soap and plenty of warm water
DON’T leave any hair wrapped around the abutment
DO clean the inside of the abutment weekly, using the abutment cleaning wipe
DON’T ignore soreness or inflammation – contact your health care professional if your child is sore or if the abutment should feel loose

Caring for the Baha sound processor

DO clean the sound processor regularly with a sound processor cleaning wipe, and clean the snap with the small sound processor brush
DON’T leave the battery inside the Baha sound processor after use, as this drains battery life

isabella-attract-magnet

Baha Attract user Isabella with mom and younger brother

Baha Sound Processor Magnet

DO keep the magnet away from magnetic cards (e.g. credit cards, bus cards, etc.) as the magnetic strip may be affected
DON’T place any other magnets (e.g. fridge magnets) over the implant
DO keep the magnet clean by using a soft wipe
DON’T use running water

Washing the Baha Softband

DO hand wash your child’s softband in 40°C (104°F)
DON’T tumble-dry

Watch: Melissa, mother of Isabella, shares their surgery experience in the video below:

Is there a better sound processor than the BP100?

QuestionHello, hope you are doing great. I am currently using the Baha BP100 and I am wondering if there is a new processor that increases/improves clarity and sound.

Thank you in advance.
Alejandra

Answer: Hi Alejandra! There is indeed. The Baha 5 Sound Processor offers clear, crisp, high-quality sound – and is packed full of advanced hearing technologies.

Since the launch, the Baha 5 Sound Processor has proven very successful. The small size, sound quality and wireless audio streaming directly to and from a range of accessories and from your iPhone have all been very appreciated by people upgrading from the BP100. There are numerous testimonials available from Baha users, such as this one, on the benefits they have perceived with this new sound processor. You should definitely talk to your health care professional and ask if you can evaluate how it would work for you.

Best of luck!

//The Baha Blog team

baha-5-baha-4-comparisonThe Baha 5 compared to the Baha 4 Sound Processor which is the same size as the BP100

Going from the abutment to the magnetic Baha Attract System

Question: I got the abutment implanted in October of 2009, received my Baha BP100 Sound Processor in January of 2010. I had several issues with feedback and we couldn’t get it to quit. The feedback was sporadic and everyday. I have quit wearing the processor because of the pain from the feedback.

Here lately the area around the abutment is tender and sore to the touch. I also keep feeling like the skin is trying to grow around the edges, but it hurts to clean the skin off. My doctor said it doesn’t appear to be infected and has recommended that I upgrade to the Baha 5 Sound Processor. He also recommended I change from the abutment to the new Baha Attract System.

Has anyone changed from the abutment to the Baha Attract? Are there feedback issues like I had before?

Thanks for any help. I just don’t want to start fighting my insurance and getting another surgery for no gain. // John

Answer: Hi John, sorry to hear about your struggles.

Both the Baha Connect and Baha Attract Systems are well-proven and have helped thousands of people all over the world. The difference between the two is the way that the sound processor attaches to the implant.

In the Baha Connect System, that you are using, the sound processor snaps on to an abutment. In the Baha Attract System the sound processor is attached to a sound processor magnet. Another magnet is fixed to the implant under the skin and the sound processor is held in place on your head by the two magnets. So the Baha Attract System is practically invisible when the sound processors are not attached, since the implants are hidden beneath the skin.

In answer to your question, yes we know of several people who successfully have gone from the Baha Connect to the Baha Attract System. In the global consensus outcomes of 2014, a group of experienced Baha surgeons from USA and Europe all agreed that good outcomes may be achieved when transitioning patients from an abutment to a magnetic connection. It’s recommended that an evaluation of the hearing experience with the Baha sound processor on a Softband is done before switching systems, to give you an idea of what your hearing will be like.

Since the launch, the Baha 5 Sound Processor has proven very successful. The small size, sound quality and wireless audio streaming directly to and from a range of accessories and from your iPhone, have all been very appreciated by people upgrading from the BP100. You will definitely notice a big improvement in your hearing experience.

Your hearing healthcare specialist will recommend what hearing solution is best for you.

Best of luck!

//The Baha Blog team

Read more: “It’s so light, I even forget I have it on” – Baha 5 Attract user Jon

Video: How the Baha Connect System works

The Baha Connect System is a well-proven bone conduction hearing system. It features Cochlear’s unique minimally invasive DermaLock technology which helps preserves the hair and skin around the abutment, thus improving the aesthetics after surgery. Watch how it works in the video above.

baha-5-blond-sound-processorWatch how fitness instructor Carole’s Baha 5 Sound Processor stays on during her spinning class here.

Read more about the Baha Connect System

Can you feel the abutment while sleeping?

sleeping-on-Baha-side

QuestionDoes the Baha Connect System cause any discomfort in use? Can the abutment put pressure on my head in contact with mattress while I am sleeping? // Wesley

Answer: Hi Wesley,

Most people cannot “feel” the implant or abutment once the implant site and surrounding skin have healed after the surgery.. This usually resolves over time. You may hear some sounds as you rub the implant against a pillow or similar, but there is an abutment cover available to cover it if it bothers you.

Your hearing care professional will be able to provide more information about the expected healing time and possible side effects.

~ The Baha Blog team