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Asha and Holly’s story: a Sheffield Children’s first with Bonebridge

Asha and Holly (right)
05 August 2022

Meet Asha and Holly (right).

Between them they achieved a Sheffield Children’s first! They’ve both had a special type of new implant fitted to help their hearing.

Asha in TAUEight-year-old Asha has been visiting the Hearing Services team at Sheffield Children’s for care since she was just two, travelling in from Barnsley with her mum Eva. Meanwhile, ten-year-old Holly came to Sheffield Children’s with her mum Lori for specialist treatment after being referred by her local hospital in Chesterfield.

A few hours apart, they were the first two patients at Sheffield Children’s to have a surgical procedure to fit a Bonebridge middle ear hearing implant under the skin by their ear. This implant is an active device that allows sounds to be transmitted to the inner ear via bone conduction.

Both families were offered the option of a Bonebridge implant because of the type of hearing impairment that they have.

Asha has unilateral right sided profound hearing loss. She is reliant on the hearing in the left ear to process sound. When there is an imbalance in the hearing, locating sounds is usually difficult and hearing in background noise is more challenging.

It hasn’t affected Asha’s ability as a performer though; she loves nothing more singing, dancing and gymnastics.

Holly in TAUEva said: “We hope that being able to hear better will allow Asha to be more independent. With Bonebridge she will be able to acknowledge more sounds all around her.”

Like Asha, Holly is also deaf in her right ear and has unilateral profound sensory hearing loss. She also enjoys dancing and gymnastics, but wants to go into hair and beauty when she grows up.

Her mum, Lori, said: “Holly is very excited to be one of the first in South Yorkshire to have this day surgery. The team here have been brilliant. They’ve explained everything so well to me – and they have always made the hearing tests fun for Holly, ever since she was four.”

How does it all work?

Traditional hearing aids aren’t always effective for different hearing conditions and the Hearing Services and Surgery teams worked with Lori and Eva to go through the best options available.  Both families decided that the Bonebridge procedure was the one they wanted.

Bonebridge implant comparisonWith usual hearing, sound vibrations are sent through the outer and middle parts of the ear, and on to the inner ear. In Asha and Holly’s case sounds that would normally reach the right ear are received by the processor and then transmitted via the implant through the natural vibration of the skull to the better hearing left ear. The audio processor is kept magnetically in position above the implant, so it fits nicely under Asha and Holly’s hair. Other options, such as a bone anchored hearing devices (BAHD) are worn on the head, fixed to a metal abutment on the outside of the head.

Suzanne Carrick, Head of Hearing Services at Sheffield Children’s explained: “One of the big positives is that this procedure leaves the skin intact, which can be cosmetically more acceptable for some patients – and they can still go swimming with their processor if they wish!

“These types of hearing implant are also suitable for patients who are unable to use traditional behind the ear hearing aids for example if a patient has is born with their outer ear is not fully formed or missing completely – then this method would still an effective treatment.”

Into the Theatre

In December 2021, Asha and Holly visited our Theatre for their procedures. Both were under general anaesthetic for the couple of hours it took for the implants to be placed.

Audiology surgeryMr Rohit Verma and Mr Simon Carr first made an incision behind the ear before excavating a small recess for the implant to fit into. While the batteries in the audio processor need to be changed regularly each week, the implant itself won’t need to be touched again. This procedure has been performed on adults before, but it was the first time in South Yorkshire that this was carried out on a paediatric patient.

After Asha and Holly’s implants were switched on they will be reviewed again in clinic to see how they are doing and to consider the benefit the implant has offered – they can even be paired via Bluetooth to smartphones and other devices. The Hearing Services team will continue to work with them providing long term support until the age of 16 years.

New referrals to the bone anchored hearing aid audiologists Mirriam Iqbal, Chief Audiologist and Jane Scott , Senior Audiologist in Hearing Services go through a series of hearing assessments and questionnaires before looking through all available options with the ENT surgical team , and now Bonebridge will be one if it is appropriate.

Holly’s mum Lori said: “The surgery went very well. She had a little bit of pain afterwards but that was well sorted. She was so excited!”

Eva, Asha’s mum, added: “We had looked at lots of options. COVID has slowed this process down but it has been so worth the wait. Asha already feels more grown up to me. It’s more flexible too because there’s no processor soft band which she found restrictive. She’s more her and that makes every day a little bit easier.”

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