Not so perfect, not so young

Thursday, August 17, 2006


I attended a "Voice Care Symposium" in Banff last week. It was fantastic, with speakers ranging from surgeons discussing the molecular structure of vocal folds to wacky Los Angeles "Sing Like the Stars"-type voice coaches to. . . . BRAM from Sharon, Lois, and Bram.

If you're not Canadian, or over 20-or-so years old, this may not interest you, but for me it was one of the major highlights of the whole event! Bram was presenting at this symposium to offer the perspective of a singer who has significant hearing loss - he is completely deaf in one ear, because of an acoustic neuroma, and wears a BAHA (bone-anchored hearing aid). Because we had been sitting through 3 full days of somewhat dry lectures at that point, he brought out his guitar and had a sing-along with the audience. It was awesome, and he was very entertaining. I didn't realize how likeable and funny he is.

I learned a lot at the conference, particularly that it's very nice to sing "I know an old lady who swallowed a fly" with a room full of otolaryngologists, opera singers, and speech pathologists.


  • At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Jena said…

    That's cool, Jaimie! How effective is the BAHA? Does it give a person almost perfect hearing? It must be pretty close if Bram can sing in tune. I have fairly good hearing, and I still can't sing in tune.

  • At 7:53 AM, Blogger Jaimie said…

    Well, no hearing aid comes anywhere near perfect hearing, but some are pretty good. In the case of the BAHA, the device capitalizes on the intact hearing abilities of the inner ear. It is anchored to the mastoid bone behind the ear, and it vibrates the skull (the device doesn't actually make any "sound" that you can hear through air alone). Our inner ear senses bone vibration in the same way that it senses air vibration, so for a person with normal hearing, the BAHA sounds like you're hearing everything through a little headphone (you can actually try it out by holding it against your skull or teeth while it's on - very cool!).

    Anyway, in Bram's case, because he's completely "nerve" deaf in one ear, he doesn't receive any auditory information from one side of the world around him, which makes music, dinner conversations, and hearing in general very difficult. His BAHA is anchored on the same side as his deaf ear, so that it receives sound from that side of the world. The sound is conducted through his skull to the cochlea of his good ear on the OTHER side of his head. The brain is able to incorporate all of the incoming sound information. He says that it doesn't help him localize things on the deaf side, but he is able to hear much better with it.

    The BAHA is a great device for people who are born with no outer ear or a closed ear canal, but an otherwise intact inner ear. Unfortunately, it isn't be an option for a person who has hearing loss resulting from noise exposure or old age, because that type of hearing loss damages the hair cells of the inner ear, and no amount of skull vibration will make those function again.

    Boy, that was quite a lecture! Thanks for asking the question, Jena. And I'm sure you sing on tune just fine!!

  • At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Jena said…

    Thanks for the info, Jaimie. I'm impressed. You really know your stuff!!!

  • At 5:25 AM, Anonymous Athena said…

    Did you sing 'One elephant came out to play upon a spider's web one day'? That was always my favorite Sharon, Lois and Bram song.

    Hey, when do you move to Moose Jaw?

  • At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Effie said…

    I saw a documentary about hearing aids a year or two ago and there was a big segment on Bram getting his BAHA! I'm not sure if I'm remembering correctly, but I think he was one of the first people to try one out (?). Anyway, it was pretty cool.

    PS I wish we had sing-songs at our chemistry conferences...


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