Bob T. was a successful doctor when he started suffering from ringing in ears and hearing loss. After his hearing loss got worse, he started to mishear patient information. Fearing patient safety, he was forced to retire and leave a life he loved behind. After getting the Cochlear™ Nucleus® Hybrid™ Implant System*, his life was regained, allowing music, work and fun to return:
“My journey into hearing loss is not too long of a journey. In my late 40s, I noted ringing in my ears (tinnitus) that was most noticeable as I drove home at night after seeing patients in the hospital. I had also been noticing some hearing loss. This was in the late 1970s, and hearing equipment was very rudimentary, with the best help for hearing loss being either hearing aids that would make sound louder, or hearing aids that would ‘mask’ the tinnitus with ‘white sound,’ in other words noise to mask noise.
The first dramatic improvement I noticed in technology for hearing aids came when the digital hearing aid was produced. The prototype that I was allowed to try required five batteries and a large controller tethered to my behind-the-ear hearing aids. Unfortunately, it drained so much power that the five batteries needed to be replaced every three days.
Unable to enjoy music
I was fitted with my first working digital hearing aids and was able to enjoy life without tinnitus for the first time in years. However, my hearing loss was progressive and continued to get worse. I started noticing that at music concerts, I would see the performer stroking his violin, and no sound would emanate from it; I stopped going to concerts because of it.
I also had to leave multiple organizations that I was an active board member on because I had trouble understanding the conversations and felt embarrassed asking questions that had nothing to do with the conversation.
My hearing loss wake-up call
In 2005, I had my wake-up call. One of my patients went to the emergency room for what turned out to be a minor problem. However, when the emergency room physician called me, I totally misunderstood what the patient’s problem was…I realized I was putting patients at risk. I decided I needed to retire from medicine before a genuine problem happened.
In mid-2005, I was told of a Hybrid Cochlear Implant clinical trial. My background is in research, so I read all the literature on this new type of implant and discussed it with a trusted doctor, who was the inventor of this procedure. I chose to trial Cochlear’s device because of their reputation and the features available at that time.
Beginning of a new hearing journey
I was implanted on January 19, 2006. Before surgery, in the pre-operative area of the hospital in Los Angeles, my doctor shaved my head in a small area behind my right ear where the incision was to be made. I must say that if he feels that the stresses and strains of medicine gets to be too much, he does have a future as a barber! My surgery took about 2 hours and I was in the recovery room for about another 2 hours.
Pain or discomfort was minimal and I was able to walk that day. I did feel a ‘fullness’ in my right ear, similar to the feeling of water in my external ear. That ‘water feeling’ lasted a couple months, though it was barely noticeable. I also dealt with some vertigo for a short time that affected my walking. Discomfort for me was never a problem and when I was home after surgery, I never took any medication beyond Advil.
I had my implant activated on Valentine’s Day in 2006. When my activation was done, and I could hear high-frequency sounds again, I cried! It was the most precious Valentine’s Day present I have ever received.
The joy of music, regained
My experience with my Cochlear Implant was so fascinating that I kept a daily diary of my experience. It took about 6 months before I could hear that music was actually coming out of that violin and my hearing kept improving over the rest of the year. I hear instruments playing sounds I have never heard before, such as cymbals.
About 10 to 11 months, post-operatively, I started to hear every note played in a violin solo! Yes, every note! How did I know this? Easy, I saw the bow strokes and heard music, where before, all I saw was the bow move in a soundless environment. The sound is clear, pure and beautiful! 3 years after being implanted, I heard high frequency sounds that the piano and violin produced. Music was finally a pleasure for me again.
In 2009, I joined another charitable organization and am an active member of the board and executive committee. I partake in discussions because I can finally HEAR what people are saying and feel comfortable that my responses will be appropriate. I hear the turn signal in my car, I can hear passengers discuss issues in my car…I am in heaven.
Back to being an active member of society
I am back as an active member of society. I developed a unique computer program to assist patients entering into clinical trials in my line of work and the organization I developed this for has a grant that will fully fund the final development of this program. I travel all over the country demonstrating this program and discussing the virtues of it. I am in heaven!
I am also an artist and my art pieces are sold through a gallery, where I also make presentations. I can hear the questions, I can mingle among the guests discussing my art; I am in heaven!
Is my hearing perfect? No! But, I hear better than I have heard in years. I hear conversations behind me when I am driving in my car and someone in the back seat is talking, something I could not hear prior to surgery. I can hear birds singing (and can distinguish the song of four different birds in our area), keys jingling and seat belt warning sounds, but only in my implanted ear (right ear) at the time. I never expected to have perfect hearing, surely I will never. But, I do hear better, I hear more words and I infrequently have to interrupt people asking, ‘What did you say?’
This past June I had my left ear implanted. Within three months, I was able to hear better than ever before! Would I do it all over knowing what I have experienced? You bet…in a millisecond!”