Cynthia S.’ son James was born with microtia and atresia. After a few solutions that did not work, Cynthia was at her wits’ end. Luckily, Cynthia was able to find pure joy of finally helping her child hear with the Cochlear™ Baha® Implant and Baha 5 Sound Processor.

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James was born with microtia and atresia. This typically happens when the pinna (the external part of your ear) is not fully developed and/or the external auditory ear canal is quite narrow, small or closed off.

James' Baha Implant and Cochlear communityJames was therefore unable to hear out of his right ear. At the time of his birth, Cynthia was reassured by the doctor that his left ear was okay and normal, but like any parent, she was concerned about James and his future.

At the age of 3, James underwent speech and language therapy with a speech pathologist from home who educated the family about how important it is to hear efficiently. At that time, there were no options available that could effectively support James’ hearing journey, so the family continued to support and develop his speech and language as best they could.

Technology then progressed, and at the age of 5, James underwent his first of several surgeries and gained a brand-new ear! The surgeons had taken a rib graft to build James a new ear. Cynthia recalled thinking, Wow, my boy has 2 big ears! She explained that it took multiple surgeries to get it to what it looks like now.

Finding support with the Ear Community

James, his Baha Implant, and his momShortly after that set of surgeries, Cynthia found support within the Ear Community. “It was a really validating experience,” Cynthia explained, as she finally understood that James wasn’t the only one with hearing issues. In fact, she learned that there were many individuals that were like him! As Cynthia and James began connecting with the community and its members, the organization was able to educate her about microtia and atresia.

A year and a half later, James had his canaloplasty surgery. The surgery went well, but his external auditory canal and middle ear were extremely small, so James only gained the ability to hear things like jet planes (140 dB). Unfortunately, his hearing gain was only temporary as his ear canal closed up again. James and his family opted not to try the procedure again.

Finding Cochlear

Another year went by and Sick Kids in Canada came into the family’s life. Sick Kids helped educate the family on Cochlear’s products and how they could help James. Shortly after, James became a candidate to receive the Baha System, which consisted of the Baha Implant with the Baha 5 Sound Processor. Cochlear was a perfect fit for James!

You can imagine Cynthia’s emotions during this time as she had scarcely even heard of bone conduction implants before Sick Kids introduced her to the Cochlear technology.

Cynthia chose for him to have the Cochlear Baha Attract System. James was the first child at SickKids to have the Baha Attract system.

James’ activation appointment

James and his Baha ImplantTwo months later, on James’s birthday, his Baha 5 Sound Processor was activated! Simple words would have a difficult time explaining how happy Cynthia and James were to receive the gift of hearing.

As the years went on, James and Cynthia have remained very involved with the Ear Community, Cochlear, Sick Kids and the hearing community. They have even hosted five Ear Community Picnics, with past picnics seeing members of parliament and school board officials attending.

On November 9, 2019 on National Microtia Awareness Day, the City of Hamilton, ON lit up the city sign in front of City Hall at 7 p.m. in honor of all the little ears in the world. James and Cynthia are so excited that James can finally hear.

Was your child born with microtia and atresia? Learn more about solutions to help them hear.

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  1. In the United States and Canada, the Baha Implant System is contraindicated in children below the age of 5.
Cara Lippitt
Cara Lippitt is the Public Relations and Marketing Manager at Cochlear Americas. She is responsible for consumer marketing social media and blog content. Cara is inspired by the stories of the recipients that she is able to tell and the incredible journeys they have taken. Cara was born and raised in Colorado and adores the mountains, snow and the world of musical theatre.