Our Little Unicorn
You may have noticed in some photos that Noah has an interesting-looking contraption on his head. Although Cameron likes to call him a unicorn, this device is actually a bone conduction hearing aid used to address his conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is obstructed from reaching the inner ear, which in Noah’s case is caused by fluid in the middle ear and extremely small ear canals. Children with DS also have smaller Eustachian tubes that are positioned more horizontally, which means that it is difficult for fluid to drain down the tube as it is supposed to. When the fluid builds up and thickens, it obstructs sound from getting to the inner ear. Typically, this problem can be resolved by inserting tubes. At this time, Noah’s little ear canals are so small that he can’t have this procedure done. We are hopeful that as he grows, the fluid will drain properly and his ear canals will grow larger and thus eliminate the conductive hearing loss. In the meantime, he gets to look pretty cool sporting his unicorn horn. Thanks to Aunt Donna he has quite a few little headbands that fit his hearing aid, even one in Seahawks colors!
This site describes how bone conduction hearing aids work in detail. Here’s the simple version. The hearing aid has two parts – a receiver and a bone oscillator. The receiver (the piece situated in the front of Noah’s forehead) transmits sound to the bone oscillator. The oscillator vibrates the bone behind the ear which stimulates the nerves in the inner ear directly. This bypasses the middle ear completely, which is where the fluid is. I also learned a new fact: Beethoven used bone conduction once he went deaf. So there’s still hope that Noah can become a world renowned pianist and composer. :)