Montreal

Hearing-impaired teen is 1st North American to undergo groundbreaking surgery

A Montreal teenager born without the ability to hear from one ear recently became the first patient in North America to under groundbreaking surgery to implant a bone-anchored hearing aid.

Montreal Children's Hospital surgeon performs minimally invasive surgery, recently approved by Health Canada

Karina Theoret describes what it was like to be awake while surgeons used a groundbreaking technique to implant bone-anchored hearing aids. 0:41

A Montreal teenager born without the ability to hear from one ear recently became the first patient in North America to have groundbreaking surgery to implant a bone-anchored hearing aid.

 I felt it a little bit, but it didn't hurt at all- Karina Theoret

In a few weeks, doctors will finish the procedure on Karina Theoret. They'll attach a small external microphone that will conduct vibrations through the implant — through Theoret's skull — so her working left ear can process it.

The 15-year-old's hearing problem doesn't affect her speech, but she says she sometimes has difficulty hearing friends or classroom conversation.

"In conversations, I would have to place myself where I could hear everybody," she says.

Initially, she had anticipated that it would take months to recover from surgery to implant the bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA).

Karina Theoret, 15, was awake for the whole surgery. The Montrealer says her surgeon warned her the vibrations would feel like an electric toothbrush against her head. (CBC)

But surgeons at the Montreal Children's Hospital proposed a new procedure, just approved by Health Canada, that would shorten her recovery time to a matter of weeks.

Bone-anchored hearing aids aren't new, but the technique used for Theoret's surgery has only just been approved and is much less invasive, according to her surgeon.

Theoret underwent the surgery Wednesday, and was wide awake because it only required a local anesthetic.

"It was just like a loud vibration. I heard it. I felt it a little bit, but it didn't hurt at all," she says.

Surgeon Sam Daniel punctured a tiny hole — smaller than five millimetres in width — to drill a screw into into his patient's skull during the surgery at Montreal Children's Hospital. The hole was so small, it didn't require stitches. (CBC)

Her surgeon punctured a tiny hole — smaller than five millimetres in width — to drill a screw into Theoret's skull.

The hole was so small, it didn't require stitches.

Pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr. Sam Daniel says the surgery took less than 10 minutes, compared to other similar surgeries that have been undertaken and have taken several hours.

"She lost two drops of blood," he says.

In a few weeks, doctors will attach a small external microphone that will conduct vibrations through this implant. (CBC)

Daniel believes the procedure could soon become the norm, though it's not suited to all patients.

"Not everyone is a candidate. You need a minimal skull thickness, so it's not something I would do on a very small child."

Theoret says since the surgery, she has been relaxing with her family.

She's also looking forward to being able to hear more of the world around her.

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