11/21/2015 05:26 EST | Updated 11/21/2016 05:12 EST

Hearing-Impaired Teen Is First North American To Undergo Groundbreaking Surgery

Piotr Marcinski via Getty Images
Young caucasian woman ear closeup.
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.

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).

Minimally Invasive Surgery

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

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.

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.

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

Pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr. Sam Daniel says the surgery took less than 10 minutes.

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

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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