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A Canadian first implant operation at LHSC allows youngster to hear

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A pioneering operation in London, Ont. has helped a youngster to achieve hearing after being born with a closed ear canal in one of his ears.

The Canadian first has made 10-year-old Carter McDonald somewhat of a walking, talking, and listening medical marvel, and yet he’s just like any other kid.

“When I wake up I put my hearing aid on and I go to the bus,” he explained.

As a newborn, Carter was diagnosed with atresia of his right ear, meaning his ear canal didn’t have an opening, so he couldn’t hear from that ear. It was overwhelming for his parents Marzena and Reid McDonald.

“At first it was a little scary because when your son is born and the doctors, the audiologists say he’s unable to hear, it’s not what you expect,” said Reid.

By the time Carter was 7 years old, he was identified as a perfect candidate to receive the first BONEBRIDGE 602 implant in Canada.

According to Dr. Sumit Agrawal, an otologist at London Health Sciences Centre, what’s special about this device is the entire implant can be surgically placed under the skin without the need for a protruding external post.

“So the nice thing is it works kind of like those new type of speakers that vibrate your skull. So this one goes through the skull, bypasses the external ear, bypasses the middle ear, and directly stimulates the inner ear. So it’s perfect for Carter,” said Dr. Agrawal.

The surgery a success, Marzena remembers the big day three years ago when Carter had his hearing device activated.

“I’m eagerly waiting, you know, for the first time he can hear through this hearing aid, and all of a sudden Carter looks at me and says, ‘Mommy, you’re talking too loud,’” she exclaimed. “It was exciting because when I look back, he’s never heard those types of sounds in his entire life, and I got to be there for that very moment.”

Carter may have been the first, but Dr. Agrawal said the BONEBRIDGE implant has since become the standard of care for most patients unable to use a hearing aid for conductive hearing loss.

“The technology is established, the surgical technique is established, and is fully government funded, so any child that comes in needing it can get the device,” he said.

As for Carter, he gets to make history as a Canadian first, and he thinks that’s pretty cool.

“Really good because I watch some world records on YouTube, and now I think I have my own,” he said proudly.

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