Britney T.’s son, Myles, was born with an ear malformation at birth. After Myles was slipping behind with annunciating sounds, his parents acted fast to get him a Cochlear™ Baha® 5 Sound Processor. Eager to celebrate his sound processor, Britney got a tattoo that matches his Baha 5 Sound Processor. See why Britney is proud of her son:

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“Our 5-year-old son, Myles, was born with a birth defect known as unilateral microtia, Grade 3. Microtia is rare and affects less than 1 in 10,000 live births (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) with various grades ranging from simply a smaller ear to possibly no ear at all.

Child with ear malformation at birth with Baha 5 Sound ProcessorDoctors have not fully targeted what or how this birth defect occurs, but to our family it made no difference. I did take one dose of a fertility medication called Chlomid to become pregnant, but we will never know if that drug impacted his deformity.

My pregnancy seemed very normal with no complications throughout until one day my water broke at 36 weeks and one day gestation. Even though this was our third child, to me, that seemed too early and I prepared myself for the worst. However, Myles was born very healthy with no immediate concerns. His weight was that of a full term baby and he was thriving.

Noticing his ear malformation at birth

Child with ear malformation at birth with familyAt birth, we instantly noticed that his right ear was folded over, and there was no ear canal present. He passed the newborn hearing screening with 100 percent hearing in the open ear. The other ear was not tested at that time. As time went on, we never really paid his little ear any mind and neither did he. He was a healthy, happy child that otherwise had no concerning medical needs. In our minds, he was perfect!

Over the years, we did notice that he was having a difficult time localizing sound. If he was in one room and I was in another, he would have a hard time locating the sound of my voice. We later learned that this is a classic symptom of single-sided deafness, but again we did not give it much thought because at his wellness checkups, they let us know that he was progressing and reaching age appropriate milestones; that is until his 4-year-old visit.

Referral to speech therapy

Child with ear malformation at birthHe was referred to speech therapy for several delays in the ability to properly annunciate sounds. Not just one or two sounds, but almost all of them. For my husband, and myself, it broke our hearts. We felt like we had failed him by not noticing it sooner. He is the baby of the family, so what we thought was cute baby talk in his speech turned out to be a significant delay.

After beginning speech therapy, he quickly put the pieces together and realized his inability to produce sounds correctly was directly related to his inability to hear them clearly. My very confident 4 year old became a very disheartened self-conscious 4 year old practically overnight. My family acted fast to get access to sound; however, prior to this point, we had never even heard of the Baha 5 Sound Processor.

We hit several roadblocks with insurance, and in full desperation, we reached out to a non-profit organization called the Ear Community. I was trying to find used hearing aids immediately for my son until we could work out all of the insurance hurdles, but to my surprise, they donated a trial bone conduction hearing solution to my son.

He wore that on a Baha® Softband for approximately six months. He began a preschool program in October 2018. The initial teacher evaluation revealed that Myles could only pronounce two out of 26 sounds correctly. By the end of the school year, after being aided, he could pronounce 21 out of 26 sounds correctly!

Ready to have Myles hear his best

Before and after pictures of child with ear malformation at birth earWe still decided to pursue ear reconstruction surgery in Torrance, California. We drove through the night from our home in Alabama to Dallas, Texas so Myles could get a 3D scan of his normal ear. This scan was used to create the mold for his reconstructed ear. We raised the $25,000 out-of-network fee for the surgery in a matter of 12 weeks and flew to California in early April 2019 to have the 12-hour procedure done.

Child with ear malformation at birth with Baha 5 Sound Processor on the Attract SystemThis surgery was appealing to us as it was a one time outpatient surgery. The new ear mold was made 20 percent larger than the existing ear to account for growth. During the procedure, we also had Myles receive the Baha Implant System1. At that time, my son had a magnet implanted on his skull to hold the Baha 5 Sound Processor.

After six weeks of healing, he was finally able to wear the sound processor again! One of the first things he mentioned after putting the new Baha 5 Sound Processor on the Attract System was being able to hear wind again…something most people take for granted.

My tattoo

Mom with tattoo celebrating child with ear malformation at birthShortly after returning home from our two-week stay in California, I decided to get the Baha 5 Sound Processor tattooed on my skull in the same exact spot as his Baha Attract System. I wanted to ensure he would never feel different and remind him of how brave he was for having the procedure done without complaint.

I did not care that my hair would eventually grow over the tattoo or that the type of Baha Sound Processor he wore may change later on. Having him know it was there was what mattered to me. He loved it so much that I decided to wear it proudly and never let my hair grow back over the spot to hide it.

The Baha 5 Sound Processor technology is amazing and we have no regrets of moving forward with having Myles receive the Attract System. He loves having the ability to simply stick the sound processor on himself instead of struggling with a Softband. Our family is so very grateful for the advances in modern medicine that have allowed our child to hear, when aided, as if he has no hearing loss at all.”

Was your child born with an ear malformation at birth? Give them proper access to sound and learn more today.

  1. In the United States and Canada, the Baha Implant is indicated for children ages 5 and older.
Cara Lippitt
Cara Lippitt is the Public Relations Associate 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.