Tag Archives: surgery

College Student Cuts Through Years of Noise with Ponto Plus Activation

Kevin Hotaling is a sophomore at Stonehill College who got his Ponto Plus on October 13, 2014. When we saw the video of Kevin’s activation, we just had to meet him. We knew you’d feel the same.

So, here’s Kevin to tell you a bit of his story:

I originally found out about Ponto through one of my mother’s coworkers. She didn’t have the Ponto, but she had a very similar bone anchored hearing aid procedure done, and she’s had results that were nothing short of stellar. I was nervous originally. Although surgery was nothing new to me, the idea of someone drilling into my skull was very unsettling. In addition to that, I hadn’t heard of any people my age who had ever gotten the procedure done. I had only ever heard of adults and small children owning the system, never a teenager. I was given the opportunity to test the device using a headband, and immediately, I noticed a massive difference in my hearing quality.

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Hangout On Air: Dr. Sheryl Lewin Discusses Microtia Ear Surgery & Bone Anchored Hearing Devices

Dr. Sheryl Lewin is a Craniofacial trained Board Certified Plastic Surgeon who has dedicated her career to ear reconstruction, specializing in Microtia ear surgery using the Medpor technique. Her artistic approach and innovative surgical techniques have helped minimize scarring and create more natural appearing ears.

On May 28 at 6pm PST, we hosted a Google+ Hangout On Air with Dr. Lewin about her work. Dr. Lewin discussed simultaneous Microtia ear reconstruction surgery with bone anchored hearing device implants. She also shared more about what the Medpor technique is, a case and took your questions.

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Scientific Meetings: The Future of Bone Anchored Solutions


The 117th American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO) Meeting took place in September and the 29th Politzer Society took place in November. Ravi Sockalingam, PhD and Director of Clinical Research at Oticon Medical took part in the meetings, which both included several sessions on bone anchored hearing systems. Here’s Ravi’s account of the meetings and information shared and themes of each. 

Meeting Highlights
Some of the meeting sessions touched on surgical techniques– one particular session focused on loading timeframe. Loading is the time when we put the sound processor on the abutment. Patients will have surgery, and then we wait until the skin heals before we put the sound processor onto the abutment. The FDA indications say three months before loading. Many doctors feel it is safe to put the sound processor on at six to eight weeks post-op. There is now more evidence indicating that even a three-week loading does not increase the risk of an implant extrusion or adverse skin reactions. Dr. Jack Wazen at Silverstein Institute in Sarasota reported no differences in outcomes between loading at three weeks and loading at six weeks. The outcomes at 3 weeks loading were reported to be good with no revision surgery or implant extrusion, and the skin reactions were either nonexistent or very minimal.

Three week loading is a discussion for adults with normal bone quality. Surgery for children was also discussed. There is some development on the pediatric side about whether the surgery should be done in a single-stage or two stages. Typically, surgery in children is performed in two stages because they have softer bone.

Surgeons would want to put the implant in first, wait for three months, and then put on the abutment. Then they would wait for another three months or so to be fit with the sound processor. There are centers here in the United States that do the surgeries in one stage. They place the implant and the abutment at the same time, just as they do in adults, and wait for three months before they load the sound processor. It depends on the quality of the bone before the surgeon decides whether it is going to be single stage or two stages. The rule of thumb is, if a child is over 12 years old, the surgery is not staged, provided the quality of the bone is good. If the child is under 12 years of age, then surgery is staged.

Surgical Techniques
For a long time the surgical technique employed was one that involved thinning of the skin and removing tissue around the implant site. Later, a linear incision technique, whereby a small straight line incision is made, was adopted by many surgeons in Europe and in the US. More recently, more and more surgeons are using a linear incision technique with minimal or no tissue removal. These surgeons are reporting better skin outcomes with this technique.

There are also, surgeons, particularly in the US, who have been using what we call a punch technique. They make a very small, circular 5 mm punch and put the implant and abutment in. Among the surgeons who perform the “punch” technique are Dr. Wayne Shaia from Richmond, Virginia and Dr. Daniel Coelho from Virginia Commonwealth University, also in Richmond. I always joke that Richmond is the punch capital of the world now. They are reporting good outcomes with this technique.

The linear incision technique with minimal or no tissue reduction, and the “punch’ technique aim to preserve as much soft tissue as possible. Often times these techniques are collectively referred to as “Tissue Preservation technique”. Long term data indicate that this technique results in quicker healing, better cosmetics, fewer postoperative complications, and shorter surgery time. 

Product Design
The modern design of our implant itself lends itself to tissue preservation surgery very well. We have a smooth titanium surface on the abutment that adheres to the skin and supports it very well. You may have to use the longer abutment if you are using the tissue preservation technique because you are not removing any tissue. You will typically use at least a 9 mm abutment. In some cases, surgeons use a 12 mm abutment. There is an ENT professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden who has been following patients for five years using the non-skin reduction technique and a longer abutment. She has been reporting very good outcomes, even up to five years.

The next hot topic is a transcutaneous solution. In a transcutaneous solution the battery and other components are on the outside. You have to use the power to transmit the signal. Implanted inside are magnets and a receiver. The receiver will transmit the vibrations to the bone. “You are still going to lose some energy across the skin. It will never be better than the bone conduction vibrator that you would use to measure bone conduction thresholds, because that oscillator is in tight contact against the head. For children who are under the age of five and cannot have the surgery, we put a processor on a soft band. You try to make it as tight as possible. If it is too tight, there will be an indention in the skin, and that can be painful after a while. That is what transcutaneous solutions do. Cosmetically, it is appealing, but you are not going to have the same amount of output and gain that you would from a percutaneous system.

Bone Anchored Solutions
Bone Anchored Solutions are getting more public awareness. We are reaching out to consumers directly through social media. We also have patient advocacy weekends and retreats, picnics, and so forth. The consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about bone anchored hearing systems, and they are educating other potential consumers.

Patients are empowering themselves with the information they find online, and in some cases they’re even educating their professionals. I work closely with some of the surgeons and they say some of the patients show up saying, “I need a Ponto. Do you do that? What is the price? When can you do it?” They are not coming for an evaluation or opinion from the doctor. More and more of that is happening, especially with the baby boomers, who are better educated, particularly those living in urban areas. This is, in fact, a topic that is being discussed in current conferences.

Do you have a question for Ravi? Let us know in the comments section below.

Lasting Support: Breck Pipes Supports Son with Ponto Tattoo

Breck Pipes decided to get a tattoo with a purpose. When his 7 year old son, Winslow, recently got his Ponto Pro Power, Breck made a deal to get one of his own.

Breck wanted to connect with Winslow and help to overcome his anxiety about having the surgery for something permanent. Now, Winslow won’t be the only one answering when someone asks, “What’s that thing?”

As Ann Pipes, Breck’s wife and Winslow’s mom put it, “Those two are constantly scheming and making plans!”

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How do you support children with hearing loss? Whether it’s giving a baby doll a Ponto or permanently “wearing” your own device like Breck, we’d love to see it on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments section below.

Minimally Invasive Procedure Increases Tissue Preservation for Better Patient Outcomes

Daniel H. Coelho, MD, FACSDaniel H. Coelho, MD, FACS specializes in Otologic & Neurotologic Surgery. He is assistant professor of Otolaryngology, Physiology and Biophysics, and he’s the director at the Cochlear Implant Center at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, Virginia. Following his training in Otolaryngology, Dr. Daniel Coelho completed a two-year fellowship in skull-base surgery. He began practicing minimally invasive linear surgery 5 years ago, and was an early developer of the punch method about two years ago. 

“On day one of medical school we learned that you have to respect the tissue.”

Progressive surgeons like Dr. Coelho spend a great deal of their time studying outcomes and working together to improve surgical procedures. Yet, very few patients are aware of the surgical implant techniques used for bone anchored hearing devices. Many only know of the traditional skin-graft technique, which causes a visible scar and frequently results in skin overgrowth and post-surgical irritation. Today, we’re sharing information about a new technique that Dr. Coelho uses. It’s a minimally invasive technique to optimize tissue preservation.

The procedure takes about 10 minutes and is typically done under local anesthesia. As most users have experienced, patients can expect a bit of soreness for a few days afterward. But, with little pain and no narcotics, patients can go back to work or normal routines the day after the procedure. This is all because the whole process is designed with tissue preservation in mind.

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Tissue preservation is important for several reasons. It contributes to a very short amount of recovery time, and there’s little -to-no scaring and no hair removal. The bottom line is that the tissue preservation is minimally invasive, which improves overall results.

The fact that the procedure is minimally invasive is the most important aspect of a surgical procedure. “The more trauma there is, the more inflammation and scarring. While scarring isn’t ideal cosmetically, it also means less predictable tissue – the implant and the abutment are foreign objects that the tissue can work to reject,” Dr. Coelho explained.

Tissue preservation is incredibly important in function—it’s one of the most important aspects of the surgery. And it’s all possible since the introduction of longer abutments. “The Ponto is an excellent product and a major advancement was the development of the longer abutment. With a longer abutment, it’s no longer necessary to thin out the tissue to prevent the processor from touching the skin. If you’re going to be doing tissue thinning and suturing, those are traumatic to the skin and soft tissue and may result in an increased inflammation. Inflammation can lead to scarring, tissue overgrowth, loss of sound quality and eventually to non-use.” As as an added benefit, less tissue inflammation also yields excellent cosmetic outcomes.

In the 70-80’s, an abutment was 5 mm or less. “The only way to get the processors to function without rubbing against the skin (and compromising sound quality) was by undermining the skin” Dr. Coelho recalls. “Once the new, longer abutment came out, and the sound quality was shown to be equal, it showed that any additional skin manipulation was not necessary.” Oticon Medical was a leader in introducing the longer abutments, giving surgeons increased flexibility to adapt to individual variations in skin thickness and accommodating new clinical developments in surgical techniques, including tissue preservation.

The improved technology enables medical providers to focus on other factors like continuously iterating surgery to be as minimally invasive as possible. “Patients are happy with the functionality and the great cosmetic outcomes— it’s truly as minimally invasive as you can get.”

Melissa Tumblin, founder of Ear Community asked Dr. Coelho, “What are the common concerns about skin irritation? What do you recommend other than the cortisone cream and general cleanly maintenance?”

“First of all, hygiene shouldn’t be blamed for everything. Some people just have a more robust reaction to that foreign object—just like people have allergies worse than others.” Dr. Coelho explains that some people even clean too frequently, which can irritate the area even more.

Dr. Coelho has had no skin overgrowth, as of 2-year follow-ups, with his own patients that received their implant via the punch technique. When he does treat overgrowth, it’s in patients who had the traditional technique. For overgrowth, Dr. Coelho uses clobetasol cream, a topical steroid to help reduce the number of surgical revisions. But, he points out that there is a longer term solution. “Surgical revisions only buy time, they do not actually fix the underlying problem. But, the longer abutments theoretically do. Because it’s such a simple procedure to switch, people who were getting the steroid shots are now making the change. The abutment change procedure is done in the office and takes seconds—some insurance companies are covering the abutment switch.” Patients can also immediately go back to wearing their processor unlike some of the corrective treatments.

Overall, more surgeons are slowly, yet surely, implementing the minimally invasive procedure. Dr. Coelho predicts that within 5 years it will be the standard. “Surgeons learn from colleagues, conferences, journals and the industry as well. People expect to see a divide between industry and medical providers, but many technological advances are made by industry organizations or through a collaboration with clinical professionals – this open line of communication benefits everyone.”

Help us spread the word about tissue preservation by sharing this post. If you have questions about Ponto, bone anchored devices or implant surgery, let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Aaron’s Story, Part I: The Journey to Getting a Ponto

“Well tomorrow’s the big day. I cannot wait to get this process started. I bet when it’s done I will hear noises that I’ve never heard in my whole life. My hearing has always been bad from the time I was six. I just can’t wait.” That was the first thing Aaron told me yesterday over the phone. His excitement radiating through every single word.

“See, right now I can hear the background noise in your office more than our conversation. I even tried to just understand what people were saying through lip reading in the past since background noise is so distracting. That’s just one of the things I won’t have to deal with anymore,” Aaron said.

Arron Morris won’t have to deal with background noise, poor hearing and countless reconstructive surgeries anymore because today he’ll start the process of getting an Oticon Medical Ponto. This is part one of a three part series based on Aaron’s experience. We will join Aaron throughout his journey– today, the day of his surgery, after his surgery and then on the day that he receives his device. In Aaron’s own words, “If I can get just one person to change their life by encouraging them to get this procedure done, any amount of time and effort would be worth it. Just one person.”


Aaron’s hearing had been gone for a while when he went to the doctor in 2006. He’d always had ear problems, including tubes in both ears when he was little. A specialist worked with Aaron to identify that now he had a bacterial infection affecting his middle ear bone. As the doctor took care of his infection, Aaron’s hearing eventually returned.

Like the old saying goes, not all good things last. With a severe sinus infection, Aaron had lost his hearing again. But this time, he had also developed a hole in his ear drum. Back to the doctor again, in 2008, Aaron had surgery to repair the damage. And, once again, his hearing was somewhat restored.

In April 2009, the unexpected happened. Aaron got into a car accident. The impact of the accident caused Aaron to hit his ear. Because of the trauma, he was forced to go undergo reconstructive surgery. The surgery left Aaron with an equilibrium problem and issues with balancing. Since then, he has never regained his hearing.

Now, Aaron has decided to try a bone anchored hearing system. As his hearing continues to deteriorate, Aaron’s doctor identified the system as the best option. After demoing both products, he felt his clear choice was the Oticon Medical Ponto. Finally, after all of the ups and downs of Aaron’s journey, he’ll be undergoing surgery for his abutment today. As Aaron put it, this is the first step in his journey to hearing again.

“I haven’t heard since 2005, and I’ll hear even better now — probably like when I was young.”

Aaron is looking forward to having conversations with friends and family, going to the symphony and, most importantly, just being able to hear a conversation that’s immediately in front of him and not clear across the room.  “And, my wife will really appreciate it,” he added.

Stay tuned to hear how Aaron’s surgery goes. Aaron will be sharing the second installment of his series later this month. While no one can predict the future as Aaron’s story has so clearly demonstrated, he has a very optimistic outlook. “I don’t know yet, but when I went through testing I was blown away, and they said the real thing would be even better. I can’t even imagine.”

Wish Aaron good luck, give him post-surgery tips or ask him any questions in the comments section below, on Facebook or Twitter. Aaron will also be sharing his journey through his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Always Improving: A Survey of Clinical Outcomes for the Ponto Bone Anchored Implant System

Do you ever wonder what happens after you get your Ponto? How do professionals work to make bone anchored surgeries better?

Well, at Oticon Medical, we conduct research and studies with other trusted professionals. One of our recent studies focuses on patients who have bone-anchored hearing systems to compare surgical techniques and look at outcomes.

Lead by Oticon Medical’s Ravi Sockalingam, Ph.D and Director of Clinical Research and Professional Relations, here’s a peak at the studies results:

Research Results

You can see the full set of outcomes here. 

How I Went from Angry to Advocate: Guest Post by Jim Buter

You may have read Jim’s story on the Oticon Medical website. But, there’s nothing like hearing the story directly from the source. Here’s how Jim describes his experience, and his advice to those looking to try a bone anchored hearing system. 

Jim Butler

I’ve counseled over 70 people individually in the last two years, plus many others at user meetings and online groups. When you read my story, you’ll see that a doctor’s error caused my Single-Sided Deafness (SSD). It took me some time to get over that and focus my energy on overcoming my deafness.

Fortunately, my doctor got another user to advise me. When everything eventually worked out well, I made up my mind to help other people like she helped me.

I had my surgery in early May 2010. When I decided to have the surgery, I chose the Ponto. I always tell people who are considering bone anchored hearing systems to do what I did– try both manufacturers. I tried both the Cochlear and the Oticon Medical units on a headband, and I felt that I got more intelligible volume with the Oticon Medical Ponto Pro. Second, I thought it looked much better and was easier to conceal in my hair, which I wanted to do.

Since then, with all the users groups I’ve participated in, I’ve developed a list of many benefits that the Ponto has over others.

In 2011, I acted as a tester for Oticon Medical’s new Ponto Pro Power while it was in development. Because I was a tester, and because I had become very active in their user groups, I got to keep my prototype Ponto Pro Power unit.

I can tell you that the Ponto Pro Power has even better volume and has zero feedback issues– it was a great addition to the Oticon Medical product offering.

As a potential Oticon Medical customer, current user thinking of upgrading or a parent looking for a solution, you can send me any questions you have about surgery, the processors, insurance….whatever, I’ll be pleased to answer them.

If you’d like to contact Jim please let us know in the comments section below, on Twitter or through a personal message on Facebook or by email.

Are you thinking of getting an upgraded processor? There’s no better time than now, we now have a special offer.