Patient Stories

Baha Implant Patient Story

First Bone Anchored Hearing Aid Enhances Life for 12-Year-Old

In one year, Anthony Passmore's world changed - twice. The first change brought difficulty; the second, opportunity.

Tony was born with one functioning ear. Although his "good" ear functioned perfectly, sounds coming from his deaf side were often missed. His world was quieter than most. But thanks to early screening, a supportive family and classroom designed for hearing-impaired students, his life was about as "normal" as it could be.

Quick with a smile and full of personality, Tony exhibits a sweet charm edged with the energy of being 12. Tony and his triplet brothers Dan and Russell enjoy being rambunctious and full of energy at the Passmore home in Mapleton.

But times grew tough for Tony when he entered middle school last fall. His new classroom didn't have the same equipment his elementary provided, and he couldn't hear his teacher. His grades started to slip. School made him tired, and he grew discouraged.

"I didn't want to be a problem and tell the teacher I couldn't hear her, so I basically failed the class," Tony says, seriously. "Sixth grade homework was a lot tougher, and I couldn't understand because I couldn't hear. I would get headaches from trying so hard to listen."

"We've evaluated different options for Tony since he was little," says his mother, Lisa. "It was time to do something."

Tony met Susan Pearson, M.D. at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. Specializing in pediatric otorhinolaryngology, she found Tony to be the perfect candidate to receive Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato's first Baha sound processor.

"Tony had one healthy ear," Dr. Pearson explains. "Simply put, the Baha is used to conduct sound from Tony's deaf side to his good ear." Jenne Tunnell - Morrison, Au.D., the audiologist, fitted the eager patient with a trial hearing aid attached to a tight band he wore around his head, to see if he liked the new "sound." He did. Surgery was scheduled.

"He loved it from day one," Dr. Pearson says. "This technology has been available in Europe for 30 years, and in the U.S. for about ten. External hearing aids do not work for patients who have a missing eardrum or a cyst in the middle ear; or in Tony's case, who are missing the middle ear entirely. This technology offers an exciting alternative."

Dr. Pearson inserted a tiny screw into a specific location in Anthony's skull. After four months of healing, the Baha was attached to the screw. Now sound is transmitted through Tony's bone to the working parts in his healthy ear. He was surprised and pleased with the results.

"I have a little switch I can turn if I want to hear one person when there's a lot of background noise," Tony explains. "I can hear my teacher now, and my grades went from Bs and Cs back to As and Bs. It took a while to get used to all the noise, though. Sometimes when I want to concentrate I just turn it off. It is going to take me a while to get used to all this hearing."

"I am so grateful to have such wonderful care this close to home," Lisa shares. "I'm confident we made the right decision."

Now Tony doesn't think so much about hearing, and concentrates on other things - like listening to country music, taking summer vacations and playing baseball.

"I'm the best outfielder on our team," he says with a smile. No doubt that's true - and thanks to the otorhinolaryngology team, when the crowd cheers - Tony will be able to hear it.  

Cochlear Implant Patient Story

Innovative Cochlear Implant Helps Restore Independence for Patient

She moved across the world with her husband and children, leaving behind family and friends in Jordan with hope for a new life in the United States. But when Nawal Abualhayjaa lost her hearing, she found herself more isolated than she'd ever imagined.

She had experienced hearing problems much of her life, and feared her world would eventually become silent. "My hearing would come and go," she says. Even though she was an accomplished lip reader, friends and family would often leave her out of conversation to save her the embarrassment of not understanding what was said. "My dream was to come to the United States and get help with my hearing."

That was three years ago. She had lost hearing in one ear, and hearing in the other would come and go. Shortly after making the trip to Mankato with her husband, Ahmad Hassan and four young children, Mustafa, Shatha, Nada and Bashar, her world fell silent once again. This time it stayed that way.

"I felt so alone," she shares. "I didn't know much English, and I could only lip read Arabic." She couldn't communicate with family and friends over the phone, and missed them. Worse yet, she became frustrated because she couldn't help her children with homework and found it difficult to care for their basic needs. When she couldn't understand, they would turn to their father. Leaving the house alone was overwhelming for her. She became more and more dependent on others. Learning English seemed impossible.

Nawal found the help she needed at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato. She was surprised and thrilled to meet Jenne Tunnell-Morrison, Au.D., audiology manager, who had lived much of her life not far from Nawal's home in Jordan. Dr. Morrison spoke fluent Arabic, which Nawal could lip read. The level of communication possible through Morrison was exciting for Nawal.

"Jenne made the process easy for me," she shares. "Finally, I had someone I could talk to. When I met Dr. Mark Cardamone-Rayner, he took my hand and told me they could help me. I thought to myself, my dream is going to come true."

Susan Pearson, M.D. explains that Nawal was a perfect candidate for a cochlear implant. "Nawal was deaf in both ears due to damaged hair cells in the cochlea," she explains. "Her hearing loss was fairly recent, so her hearing nerves were still fine."

Dr. Pearson performed the surgery, inserting a cochlear implant that would receive signals from an external device. The implant stimulates healthy hearing nerves, bypassing Nawal's damaged cochlea.

"The sound is not the same, I'm told it is more mechanical," Dr. Pearson says. "It helps if the patient has a memory of sound - its easier for them to make sense of what they hear if they have heard before."

"Things are good," Nawal says, in English. She goes to class, studies, and is mastering her new language. She recently interviewed for a job, by herself. She plans to learn to drive, and take college courses. Her children turn to her for their needs. And, she joyfully shares, she is able once again to talk on the phone - reuniting her with loved ones who still live in Jordan.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato's cochlear implant team - consisting of nurses, surgeons, speech therapists, psychologists and audiologists - continue working with Nawal to assure her success. She is the third patient to receive a cochlear implant at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.

"Nawal is an exceptional patient," Dr. Pearson shares. "The cochlear implant is something we can do that really makes a difference in someone's life."

"I don't miss anything now," Nawal says. "I want to thank all of them for everything they've done for me." They gave me hope.