With a simple switch "on," people with life-altering hearing loss can hear the world around them thanks to a bone conduction implant. 7News spoke with the first local recipient of this hearing implant and the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor that reconnected him to the world of sound.
It has been almost six months since Steven Broussard of Holmwood had the bone anchored hearing aid or "Baha" surgically implanted at Lake Charles Memorial's Southwest Louisiana Ear, Nose &Throat. "I can take it on and off really easily," said Broussard, "my workplace is a loud environment, so I don't wear it there and I take it off when I'm sleeping."
When Broussard was just a toddler, his mother discovered that hearing was limited to his right ear. "I was sitting on the side of her lap and she tried to talk to me and tell me something in my ear and she said I turned around and told her, 'this ear, momma, I can't hear in that ear,'" said Broussard.
It was a frustrating problem for Broussard, especially in conversations. "Probably the most frustrating thing is asking somebody to repeat themselves," he said, "I would always do it twice, but never a third time."
Tired of pretending that he could hear, he tried hearing aids that helped a bit, but then found out about the Baha sound processor and Dr. Brad LeBert. "For patients that either can't tolerate hearing aids or can't get enough volume from the hearing aids or are completely deaf in one ear, that's when the bone anchored hearing aid comes into play," he said.
The titanium screw is surgically placed into the ear bone and then clipped to a sound processor. "It actually uses bone conduction, which is transmission of sound by vibration of bone from the bad ear to the good ear," said Dr. LeBert.
The Baha system is something that can be used for all ages, but under the age of five, it is done non-surgically by clipping the processor onto a headband. "It takes about 10 weeks from the implantation until when the processor can be turned on. "It was instant," said Broussard about being able to hear, "it's like I had a speaker in my ear."
Broussard said he is still amazed by the sounds he did not know existed. "When you've never heard that, you take little things like that for granted," he said, "every day I enjoy turning it on when I wake up in the morning."
The bone anchored hearing aid is covered by insurance and Medicare. While the titanium screw portion of the implant is permanent, the sound processors will likely need upgrades every five to ten years to stay on target with technology.