A new sunrise hearing clearly for the first time
James figures he’s had trouble hearing since he was a child. But, it took until he was 76 years old for him to find a cure that would alleviate his pain and allow him to hear clearly. Thanks to the focused attention from Dr. Tina Huang and her team at UMPhysicians, James can now really enjoy the classical music he loves for the first time.
A lifelong struggle with pain and hearing loss
Looking back, James remembers persistent pain, ear infections and difficulties hearing early in his life, but he was not properly diagnosed or treated. He just thought that the muted sounds and voices he heard were normal. He describes discovering his first hearing aid in 1950: the family’s Philco radio. He would lean into the speaker for hours listening to popular programming like Walter Winchell, the Firestone Hour and Gabriel Heatter.
When he entered college he was fitted for an ear canal hearing aid. Unfortunately, the device aggravated the infections and his pain continued. Over the years, he saw many doctors with no real relief and even suffered a failed surgery on his right ear that left him deaf on that side.
Then, after 76 years of struggle, he woke to find he had lost hearing in his left ear as well, and he began again to search for help. With a referral to Tina Huang, MD, otolaryngologist at UMPhysicians, he finally found a cure.
The cure: direct bone conduction hearing
Dr. Huang immediately recognized the problem James was having with a conventional hearing aid causing recurrent ear infections and pain. She believed Jim could hear again with a bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA). The BAHA system uses a titanium implant, surgically placed in the patient’s skull bone, to conduct sound to the inner ear. A sound processor, placed above the ear, is fitted to the implant, which sends vibrations through the bone to stimulate the cochlea – the hearing part of the inner ear. The implant works without an ear canal device and bypasses the middle ear.
“Dr. Huang is an amazing doctor. She was very thorough and understood the problems with my hearing aid,” James raves. “And, she had a cure in her pocket.”
First, James had to go through a regimen of antibiotics to clear up the infection. After a series of hearing tests, Dr. Huang determined that James was a good candidate for the Baha, and he underwent the outpatient surgery. After the surgical site had healed, the external pieces were fitted and activated.
Then James could hear - better than he had ever heard in his life.
“The first thing I did was turn up Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony,” James recalls. “How wonderful to hear that fine symphonic music so clearly!”
Suffering from hearing loss
James is thrilled to have found a doctor with the expertise to help him.
Dr. Huang explains that many people who could benefit from BAHA devices are not treated with them. “While community audiologists know about the device, it’s not commonly understood to help patients with chronic ear infections. They think – we’ll treat the infection. But, it’s the hearing aid that is causing the infections, so it’s a cycle.”
The BAHA device was first approved by the FDA to treat hearing loss in 1996. It is recommended for patients with malformations of the ear canal or middle ear, chronic ear infections, and middle ear inflammation, dysfunction or diseases.
James has advice for others who suffer from hearing loss: “Find the very best physician you can – a physician who is really interested in healing. I happen to know one – Dr. Tina Huang.”