Struggling in hearing aids, Ed W.’s hearing declined so much that he was forced to retire from his two passions: playing music and teaching children to play music. Ed began closing himself off from the world, but when he learned he was a candidate for a cochlear implant, he jumped at the opportunity to get back to what he loved:

“I have been a professional musician, jazz trumpet player and a band director in high schools, middle schools and elementary schools almost all of my life. I had to quit playing professionally about 20 years ago when my hearing took a big dive, and the piano quit sounding like a piano but more like a tinker toy piano.

Being a jazz player, I really worked off a strong bass player. When that turned into a funny sound too, I found I could no longer ‘key’ off of the bass player to play jazz solos the way I knew I could play, so I had to hang that part of my professional playing up too.

Almost all of my audiologists have determined that my hearing loss started in my early twenties when I worked for an airline as a ramp serviceman loading and unloading 707’s at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The noise from the jets was unbelievable, and we had no hearing protection then as they do now, plus the engines were much louder then. Standing in front of 18 piece jazz bands probably didn’t help either later in life, and I also used a lot of power equipment in my woodworking hobbies.

For 25 years, I had hearing aids, ranging from the small, completely in canal aids to digital aids.

I had a very difficult year teaching band in 2006-2007, and should have retired before then, but kept teaching and retired at the end of that year when the hearing in my right ear took a serious dive. I had a very difficult time hearing and understanding young people even without any noise in the room. I was forced to retire from a fabulous job and the thing I loved doing most of all because of my hearing loss.

After retiring from teaching, I moved to Idaho to build my dream house and became a hermit. I didn’t want to be where people were because of my difficulty understanding them and fitting in. I know I acted like I heard them and would acknowledge them, but most of the time had no clue as to what they were saying.

After more tries with the latest and very expensive digital hearing aids, my audiologist told me he could no longer help me and sent me to Salt Lake City for extensive tests at the University Hospital where I learned I qualified for a cochlear implant. I got my first cochlear implant July 2010.

My CI surgery was a piece of cake, and I had no pain or any ill effects. (I hope knowing this might put future cochlear implant candidates at ease too.)

After I got my first cochlear implant, I kept an old digital hearing aid that still worked fairly well in my other ear. It helped me tremendously to adjust to the sounds with my new implant. My hearing with my implant kept getting better and better with adjustments from my audiologist in Salt Lake City, and I worked diligently on my aural rehabilitation.

I have always been told anyone with a cochlear implant has a wait ahead of them in learning to hear music again, as it is one of the things that takes more time to adjust to with an implant. Being a professional musician whose love for playing music was taken away from me by my hearing problem, I know first-hand the long wait and frustration to being able to discern music again.

After I got my first cochlear implant, I returned to Southern California in 2011 where all my friends were. Slowly but surely my left ear kept declining. When it got to the point where my digital hearing aid was doing no good, I went to a clinic in Los Angeles for testing which determined that I was ready for a cochlear implant in my left ear. I went bilateral June 2016.

Now, I am still getting used to my newest cochlear implant and am continuing my rehab work.

Since my pitch widened slowly after my first cochlear implant, I can’t recall how many months it took before I could go to a concert and be able to discern the difference between the flutes and tubas with my eyes closed or hear songs that I could recognize from my past hearing life.

I’m still working on getting back to a full range of pitch in my newly implanted ear. It’s a little bit harder since now I’m working with middle and high school bands again as a volunteer. I am also now able to compose and arrange songs on my great music software for those bands to play when I go out to work with the band directors and their bands.

I can’t say enough about being able to get my life back because of my Cochlear Implants. I can once again enjoy life and get back to my huge love of music and working with young people.”

To learn more about cochlear implants and if they could be a solution for you or a loved one, visit Cochlear.com/US/CochlearImplants.

Renee Oehlerking
Renee Oehlerking is the Public Relations Manager at Cochlear Americas where she is responsible for the region’s public relations and consumer marketing social media. Renee enjoys uncovering, telling and showcasing the inspiring stories of hearing implant recipients. As a recent transplant to Denver, Colorado, Renee enjoys exploring all that the state has to offer outdoors.