Emerald hears – and sees – better thanks to inspired idea

Seven-year-old Emerald was born with severe hearing loss in her right ear and has been coming to the Audiology Clinic ever since. She later developed some hearing loss in her left ear and also needed glasses to improve her vision. Thanks to some creative thinking by a Rady Children’s audiologist and her mom, she can now see and hear better.

Emerald was born with facio-auriculo-vertebral malformation spectrum and a deformity (microtia and atresia) of her right ear. After being diagnosed with a unilateral severe to profound mixed hearing loss of that ear, she was initially fit with a bone conduction device on a Softband (which looks like a headband) at about 10 months of age. Due to her other medical conditions, however, she was unable to use the device, even after undergoing multiple surgeries.

The Audiology Clinic continued to see Emerald to monitor the hearing in her left ear.  As time went by, multiple pressure equalizer tubes were placed in the ear, but she ultimately developed some hearing loss. When she was 5 years old, Emerald was also having vision problems. She was diagnosed with refractive error and needed glasses, which were fit on a soft headband.

Emerald’s’ audiologist and her mom then came up with an idea: What if they could integrate her bone conduction device and coupler with the soft headband of her glasses? That would improve her vision and her hearing. Success! Working together, they figured out a way to integrate the devices, and Emerald could indeed see and hear better.

More recently, Emerald’s bone conduction device was upgraded, and she was fit with a behind-the-ear air conduction hearing aid for her left ear. Now 7 years old and soon starting the second grade, she loves school and has many friends.

Published August 2017