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I can hear clearly now

July 1, 2009
Dental hygienist enjoys a rebirth through sound.
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Dental hygienist enjoys a rebirth through sound.

by Susan P. Burzynski, RDH, MSEd

Most people have birthdays once a year. Not me. I was fortunate enough to receive a second birthday on Dec. 10, 2008. On that day, I received the implant for a Baha Hearing Aid (

Many of you will remember my article “Watch What You Say,” published a few years ago. I spoke of the hearing loss in my left ear, and the trials I experienced with that loss. Over the years, I hounded my otolaryngologist, asking if there was anything available to help me hear more clearly, not just louder. Each year I asked, but all I heard was “No, I’m sorry.”

Finally, in 2007 after an unrelated surgery, I asked my otolaryngologist the question again and this time the answer was yes! I thought I was dreaming! My otolaryngologist explained he didn’t perform the surgery, but his partner did, and said I was ready to make the appointment.

In October 2008, I started the journey that would open a new world for me. Initially, I had to undergo two hearing tests. The first was similar to the traditional hearing tests we all have had at one time or another. My tests were conducted in a soundproof room. The first test was with words through a background of wind noise. My right ear passed with flying colors, but my left ear failed — that was great news! Who would ever have thought a person would be happy to fail a test?

The second test was also in a soundproof room, but this time I sat between two speakers. The speaker on my right emitted “cocktail sounds.” By that I mean the clinking of silverware, dishes, etc. The speaker on my left emitted sounds of a woman saying words and then phrases that I had to repeat. I was tested first without a hearing aid, and again I failed, testing moderate to severe.

The second time, an audiologist placed a Baha hearing aid behind my left ear. As she walked out of the room, without thinking, she spoke while her back was toward me. I heard her and I cried like a baby! The audiologist turned to face me only to see my tears. She became upset and asked if I was in pain. I laughed and said, “I heard you loud and clear, word for word!” We both laughed and then she started crying! This test was so much better! I tested mild to moderate hearing loss in my left ear.

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The audiologist said I was a perfect candidate for the Baha hearing aid, but said we needed to contact my insurance company to see if they would consent to my having surgery. One long month later, I received the call from my otolaryngologist. He said, “They approved your surgery!” That was music to my ears!

The evening of December 9, I couldn’t sleep. I was like a kid waiting for Santa Claus! I even went to bed early because I needed to be at the hospital at 6 a.m. the next day. The only thing I remember of my surgery day was that it dragged! It seemed to take forever for them to transfer me to the surgical suite. But finally, I was there!

The surgery took only an hour-and-a-half, but seemed like just minutes had passed by when I woke up with a bandage wrapped around my head.

The doctor’s office and the hospital called the next day, both asking about my pain level. I was very happy to report that I had no pain! At each of my follow-up appointments, the report was the same — no pain. I was told that I must wait three months for the bone to integrate with the implant, which meant I would not receive the Baha hearing aid before March 10. Oh, how far away that seemed!

The Baha Sound Processer (its correct name) is FDA approved and uses bone conduction sound for the patient. The hearing aid is placed behind the nonfunctioning ear and transfers sound to the “good ear.” An abutment is placed surgically and the Baha, once issued to the patient, snaps onto the abutment. This hearing aid is for patients who suffer from conductive hearing loss, mixed hearing loss, as well as single-sided deafness (my type of hearing loss).

At the time of this writing, it has been three months since my surgery, and I have had my Baha hearing aid for two weeks. What an experience! The day I received it, I went directly into work. My first patient knew I was getting a hearing aid, so she asked many questions about it. All of a sudden, I heard water from somewhere, but didn’t know from where. My startled response caused my patient to ask me what was wrong. My first response was to look down at my feet. Since I am in my 50s, who knows if “something let loose!” Whew, it wasn’t me! This brought a roar of laughter to my patient when I told her what I was thinking! I then checked my sink, wondering if I had left the water running. Nope, it wasn’t that either. I looked across the hall and noticed my boss washing his hands. I had never heard water running before!

The next day brought another pleasant sound — wind. The day was beautiful, so I rolled down my window as I drove around. Did you know wind is noisy? I had never heard wind before either.

By far the best thing since receiving my Baha has been my parents’ faces. My mom, now 83, prodded me for years to see if there wasn’t something that could be done for my hearing. Each time I would tell her I had researched all possible solutions and that there was nothing available. Her response was either “they are lying” or “you didn’t research it enough!” Dad, now 86, never said much, but would always make sure I was either standing or sitting in a position so I could hear what was being said.

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Three days after getting my hearing aid, I invited my parents to lunch (they didn’t remember I had received my hearing aid that week). At the restaurant, my dad offered his usual, “Suzy, sit here so you can hear” comment. With a smile on my face, I pulled back my hair to show them my Baha. The smiles on their faces were priceless! Mom glowed and said, “Well, it’s about time!” Dad’s smile was the biggest I had ever seen on him! When their favorite waitress, Cathy, came to the table, Dad said, “My daughter can hear now! Suzy, show Cathy your hearing aid!”

My Baha has been a wonderful rebirth for me! I am so glad my mom encouraged me to keep researching. Every day is a “birthday” for me, because I hear all the sounds I have been missing. The birth of my third grandchild is due any day. I can’t wait to hear that child cry! However, I am sure my daughter isn’t as anxious as I am!

About the Author

Susan P. Burzynski, RDH, MSEd, has practiced clinical dental hygiene since 1971. An active member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, Susan currently holds the position the president of her local component, the Buffalo Dental Hygienists’ Association, as well as delegate for the Dental Hygiene Association for New York State (DHASNY). In 2007, Susan became a member of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene. She can be reached at [email protected]