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Caroline Payne’s son Oliver, now 14, was born without the three small bones in his right ear that allow hearing. The middle ear is a small, air-filled space containing three tiny bones called the malleus, incus and stapes. The malleus connects to the eardrum linking it to the outer ear and the stapes (smallest bone in the body) connects to the inner ear. Although Oliver has a functioning eardrum, without these small bones he has been in deaf in his right ear since birth.
“Every year we have to go for hearing tests. At his last appointment the audiologist asked as we were leaving if he is using earphones a lot. He does a lot of listening to music and I was worried that over time it might cause hearing damage in his good ear. She mentioned a brand called AfterShokz and I bought a pair as soon as we got home.”
AfterShokz bone-conduction technology works by passing vibrations along the cheekbones directly to the ear-drum, by-passing the small bones of the middle ear that Oliver is missing.
“As soon as he tried them he opened his eyes wide and there was a massive smile on his face,” Caroline explains, visibly moved by the memory, “he could hear sounds in his right ear he had never heard before. He was dancing around the front room in a way he has never done before! He just couldn’t believe the sound of dual track music. He started frantically going through all his favourite songs, listening to them in a completely different way.”
When listening to stereo music on headphones the sounds sent to each ear are slightly different, so Oliver for the first time was fully able to experience the nuances and complexity of music.
Once Oliver realised how much he could hear using the headphones for music he wanted to test phone calls, “he went upstairs to use his phone. He called us but he wasn’t really saying much – I think he was in a bit of shock! He couldn’t believe he could hear us so clearly in both ears. In the past he has tried to wear hearing aids which make the voice sound quite robotic, but with these he can hear me crystal clear!”
Hearing aids don’t give Oliver the clear sound he wanted and as a teenager he doesn’t enjoy having to wear one, with AfterShokz he is able to chat to his friends on the phone and hear their voices completely naturally without the need for cumbersome hearing devices.
For Oliver and his Mum Caroline, discovering AfterShokz has been incredible, “he wears them all the time now, for music and for phone calls,” Caroline says. “He can talk to me with them on, he can listen to his music and still hear me if I call him, which makes him less isolated.”
Using AfterShokz is also benefiting the health of his ears, “it’s not just about him hearing better, it’s giving the eardrum in his otherwise deaf right ear the chance to receive sound vibrations and remain active. By not covering or plugging either of his ears it ensures that both ears remain hygienic and healthy.”
Caroline had been worried that if he damaged the hearing in his left ear he wouldn’t be able to hear any sound at all, “because he can hear in both ears when using AfterShokz headphones it is protecting the function of his ‘good’ left ear as he no longer has to turn his music up so loud to hear it.”
One of the benefits of open-ear bone conduction to all users is situational awareness, you can listen to your music and still hear the world around you because you are not blocking your ear canal. For Oliver this is particularly important, “I used to worry about him listening to music on his paper rounds as with a headphone blocking his left ear he would not be able to hear anything at all. Now, I feel he is much safer.”
AfterShokz bone conduction can make a huge difference for people who have damage to their middle ear and are hearing impaired or have total hearing loss.
“It’s given me peace of mind that he is safe and protecting his hearing. He is not shouting as much anymore and he doesn’t need to turn his music up so loud to hear it. He can have crystal clear calls with his friends so he is happy to talk to them for longer. He can listen to his music and still hear the environment around him” finishes Caroline.
“For what he has gained I would have spent twice as much. It changed his life and mine!”
Ready to change your listening experience with AfterShokz bone conduction headphones?