Cochlear Implants Restore Hearing For Many Oklahoma Seniors

Wednesday, February 9th 2011, 9:09 pm
By: News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's a harsh reality for many Oklahomans-- as they age they begin to lose their hearing. For some, hearing aids are enough to help restore a bit of what they've lost, however, others have found hope through a transplanted device.

It's called a cochlear implant, an electronic device designed to help people hear again.

It's been about two and a half years since Chris Brown received her cochlear implant. Her hearing had gotten so bad she was forced into retirement.

"One-on-one I could still read lips, managed to do quite well. Had to discontinue talking on the telephone because I could not hear," Brown said.

"With the loss of your hearing you become socially isolated, sort of cut off. Your relationships with friends tend to stay at home and not go out. It can be depressing at times," said Dr. Rick Kopke, Hough Ear Institute.

Brown's hearing loss was hereditary and hearing aids were of little help. Desperate, she decided to give the cochlear implant a try.

"It's been like a miracle would be the easiest way to describe it," Brown said.

The surgery takes about two to three hours. While part of the device is implanted under the scalp, the microphone sits behind the ear. It picks up sounds and then transforms them into electrical signals.

"I would say for any senior citizen that gets implanted there may be 10 or 15 others out there that could benefit from a cochlear implant but they don't," Kopke said.

Brown said her cochlear implant has definitely changed her life for the better.

"It was opening up my world again because I could participate in conversation even across the room. It's been wonderful. It's been amazing," Brown said.

Doctors said hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing, so it takes time for people to learn how to use it.