When Melissa Washabaugh took her daughter, Isabella, to her first ENT appointment, she was not prepared for the result. What she thought would be a routine check-up gave her the shock of a lifetime – her daughter was completely deaf in her right ear, and no one knew. This is her story.

We found out about Isabella’s hearing loss at her first ENT appointment when she was four years old. I wondered why they were running so many tests. They had me go into the sound booth with Isabella.  I could hear the beeps, but she wasn’t moving – she couldn’t hear them. The doctor pulled me aside and told me that Isabella wasn’t hearing out of her right ear. Her ear inside was beautiful, but the nerves didn’t work. You always think your child is perfect and healthy. We were devastated, shocked that we didn’t realize it sooner.

Isabella 1

Early signs of hearing loss

Looking back from that moment, I suddenly realized all the signs we had missed along the way. To start, we looked at the paperwork from her newborn hearing screening. It indicated that she failed the hearing test in her right ear three times. We didn’t remember anyone in the hospital mentioning that to us. Our minds went back to all those times when we called to her and she didn’t respond. How could we not have seen this?

But Isabella was my first child.  There were so many things I didn’t realize were important. Running along the sidewalk, Isabella wouldn’t listen. I would stop her and tell her she needed to listen so she wouldn’t get hit by a car.  She’d nod in agreement and say she just didn’t hear me. I didn’t realize she actually couldn’t hear me. Now, with my son at the same age, I notice that he is talking much more. I guess I just didn’t see it with Isabella because I didn’t have experience from which to compare.

Conventional hearing aids didn’t help my daughter’s hearing loss

After the ENT appointment, I asked Isabella if she could hear out of her left ear, and she said yes.  I asked if she could hear out of her right ear, and she said no.  When I asked why she never told me, she said, “I did Mom. You called me, and I told you I couldn’t hear you.” I had to smile, yet felt a heavy sadness. She had told me, and I was the one that didn’t listen!

We learned that with Isabella’s type of hearing loss, conventional hearing aids were not going to help. But there was something that would – the Baha® System. We had to wait until Isabella turned five years old because children in the US and Canada can’t get bone conduction implants before then. However, she was able to use a Baha Softband until the surgery and heard better right away.

I worried about something being implanted in my daughter’s head.  I worried what her friends would say, if they did each other’s hair.  But I was more worried about her not being able to hear.  My husband said we just needed to make sure she never feels different.  Just before Isabella’s fifth birthday, we found out about the magnetic Baha Attract System, which was more discreet and involved less daily care than the abutment system. We decided to wait until it was available. Isabella was the first or second child at Washington DC Hospital to get a Baha Attract System!


Every parent has fears when their child is going into surgery, but the doctors reassured us it was not invasive; it was an outpatient procedure, and we didn’t need to spend the night. I was still nervous the whole time. Afterwards, Isabella was a bit fuzzy. But after we got home she was back to herself, playing with her brother as if nothing had happened. We had to keep reminding her that she’d had surgery. The next day she was outside playing with the other children. She only needed mild pain relief for the first few days. My fears quickly evaporated.

Isabella’s Baha Sound Processor helps her while playing soccer

Isabella loved her sound processor right away, but needed to get used to wearing it, just like glasses or contact lenses. Now she wears it all the time. She plays soccer, does gymnastics, and ice skating. It has been especially helpful in soccer, with people yelling from the side lines and the coach talking to her from across the field – it definitely helps Isabella to play the game. She loves playing with her brother, cousins and friends, with dolls, riding her bicycle, roller skating, dressing up, dancing… just like any active kid.

Isabella soccer

The Baha Attract System is the best thing to ever happen to our daughter. Isabella was well below the curve before it, whereas now she is reading more than most of the kids in her class and has become much more outgoing. It’s amazing how a little piece of equipment has given her so much more confidence. It really was the light at the end of the tunnel for us.

We chose the Baha Attract System because it’s seamless

I’ve started talking to a couple of families who are just getting the Baha Softband.  When we were going through this we had no one to talk to, and now I’m willing to share our experience with others because I’ve been there, done that. I tell them we chose the Baha Attract System because it was seamless. She’s very active, and this went right along with her everyday life.  It’s like a seatbelt, I know my kid is safe with it on!

My daughter loves secrets. I whisper a lot to her, our special little secrets. It breaks my heart that I never knew she couldn’t hear all my secrets and “I love you’s” before.  Now she is always asking me to tell her a special secret. The future is bright for Isabella.  She excels in everything she does, and hearing loss is not a weakness or handicap, it’s just something that she has.

Learn more about the Baha Attract System.

Cochlear Guest Writer
Cochlear Americas showcases the stories of real people celebrating life's real moments. This blog was written by a guest writer for Cochlear Americas.