Liam’s Microtia Story

Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Audiology team sees 9,500 children and young people a year who visit them with a number of audiology related conditions. The 18-strong team facilitates one of the largest Bone Anchored Hearing Aid Programmes in Europe, carrying out many operations each year – changing the lives of youngsters like Liam.    

The nine-year-old has a severe case of Microtia - a congenital condition where the pinna (external part of the ear) is underdeveloped and incompletely formed. This can range in severity from a partially formed ear, to a lump of tissue and sometimes, the ear canal is very narrow or missing altogether.

When Liam was born his entire outer and middle ear had not developed and as a consequence he was completely deaf on his right side.

At age six, Liam, from Bristol, was transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Our team of experts carried out two complex operations to fit a bone anchored hearing aid, known as the baha system, to improve his hearing.

The baha system has three components; the implant, an abutment (support) or magnetic attachment and a sound processor. It allows for sound vibrations to be sent directly through the bone to the inner ear (cochlea), where they are converted into electrical impulses by tiny hair cells inside the cochlea – which transmits sound waves through the skull allowing audio to be heard.

Although the baha has made a tremendous difference to Liam’s hearing on his right side, he still struggles sometimes in crowded places and finds it difficult to pinpoint where sound is coming from.

Mum Lucy explains:

“In terms of school and everything else, it has made his life 10 times easier. Since having the operation, his reading and spelling have both improved dramatically and he’s just generally happier.”

The family now travel from their West Country home every six months to visit our Audiology team for routine hearing tests. 

It was during one of these routine appointments, that one of our audiologists overheard Liam expressing how his condition makes him feel and heard him utter the words “I just want to be like everybody else, I just want to be a proper boy.”

After hearing this, the audiologist explained more about the possibility of plastic surgery to Liam and his family – something that they’d not been made aware of before.

They are now set to meet with one of our plastic surgeons to discuss the possibility of Liam having a prosthetic ear – one of the less intrusive options available to him at the moment.

Lucy is hoping her son can have the surgery before he begins secondary school, enabling the youngster, who had his first operation at three-months-old to start that chapter of his life with a “clean slate.”

Commenting on the care provided she added:

“It has been absolutely tremendous; there isn’t one thing that I would complain about. Birmingham Children’s Hospital is the only hospital that Liam is not afraid to visit. He enjoys going to his appointments and he always says to me ‘mummy isn’t everybody lovely here’.

“The nursing staff are amazing and I can’t praise everyone enough. The care is fantastic and knowing that your child isn’t just somebody else in a bed, that they’re all made to feel special is part of what makes the hospital so phenomenal”.

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