In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 12, 2015

Hearing Both Sides of the Story

By In the Loop

Delilah Boberg shows of her Baja implant that restored hearing to hear left ear. April McKeeth assumed her daughter, Delilah Boberg, was acting like a typical 7-year-old when she seemed to ignore her calls. However, she soon learned that Delilah wasn’t answering because she was having difficulty hearing. As reported by WKBT-TV in La Crosse, Wisconsin, April “noticed the hearing trouble a few months ago when Delilah would keep turning her head to hear and would ask for things to be repeated.”

The hearing issue may have been around for longer than that. “Looking back, we think she has been suffering from hearing loss in her left ear for at least four years, but we really began to notice it last August,” April tells us. “We thought we had no options, as hearing tests showed that she had no hearing at all in her left ear, and we were told that hearing aids could not help her.” 

They consulted David Valencia, M.D., at Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, who suggested implanting a device called the Baha (bone anchoring hearing aid) behind Delilah’s ear. The system works by enhancing natural bone transmission as a pathway for sound to travel to the inner ear. The titanium implant is placed during a short outpatient surgical procedure, and over several months, the implant naturally integrates with the skull bone. According to the Wikipedia, “a skin-penetrating coupling” is attached to the implant and “a sound processor” sends the sound through the bone to the inner ear. As the manufacturer tells it, “While a lot of the sound we hear travels to our ears through the air (air conduction), we actually hear a great deal through vibrations in the bone (bone conduction).”

Dr. Valencia tells WKBT, “Even most medical providers don't realize it's an option for single-sided deafness or conductive hearing loss. So a lot of people are living with hearing loss that could be benefited by this technology,”

April tells us Delilah is slowly adjusting to the implant, which now allows her to hear through both ears. “She uses it for a couple of hours at a time as she gets used to it.” And how does Delilah feel about all of this? “She says she is really looking forward to not having to sit in the very front of her classroom. Her teachers make accommodations for her to help her hear what’s going on in class but she, like any 7-year-old, does not like to be singled out for anything,” says April.

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Tags: Cochlear Implant, Hearing Loss, Mayo Clinic Health System, Patient Stories

There is so much great work going on in our system. This makes me so proud of the audiology team in La Crosse… and how amazing for this little girl!

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