After years spent around loud noises, including years of loudly learning how to play an electric guitar, Jean-Claude D. suffered from hearing loss. When hearing aids and intratympanic steroid injections stopped helping, he decided to move forward with a cochlear implant while at the same time reconnecting with his faith. See how this musician with a Cochlear Implant is doing now:
To understand where I am, you will need to understand where I came from and how my journey to hearing loss began.
I am 44 years old from northwest Louisiana. My dad started taking me to the woods at age 5 to teach me how to shoot. We did not use hearing protection because it was not stressed at that time. By third grade, I showed some high-frequency hearing loss during a school physical. We still did not use hearing protection after this.
Somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10, I received an acoustic guitar for Christmas. I played it for a couple of years, but I dreamed of getting an electric guitar and ‘melting faces’ with rock & roll. I finally received one and started actively playing. I have never been a great player, but I am gifted in that I could listen to a song on a cassette tape and pick the song out by ear. Loud guns without hearing protection and 120-watt tube guitar amps (fully cranked) are never good for your hearing though.
In 1998, at the age of 25, I decided I wanted to join the Army National Guard. I signed up to become a combat medic. During the initial entry physical, I was flagged for having significant hearing loss, but I was able to get a waiver that allowed me to enlist anyway.
I served in an armor battalion, meaning that we were medical support for tanks and scouts. It doesn’t matter what you have for ear protection, when a tank fires its main gun, the shock and sound goes through your body. After a training exercise to get us ready for deployment, I failed my hearing test, and I was told that I had profound hearing loss. A follow up with a civilian ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor confirmed this. I was discharged within the next eight months. At this point, I still did not use hearing aids for help, and I still functioned well until the fall of 2007.
This was when my hearing started to deteriorate faster
I woke up one morning and was not able to hear at all. With oral steroids, my hearing would come back a bit but never to the level it was prior to the episode. This happened almost every three months like clockwork.
Finally, my local ENT sent me to Dallas, Texas to see an ear specialist. After testing for everything known, the specialist chalked it up to an autoimmune disorder triggered by stress. By this time, I was wearing hearing aids. The ear specialist gave me a series of intratympanic steroid injections each time I had one of these episodes, which was a series of three shots. I received one each week for three weeks bilaterally. Finally, the left ear quit responding to the injections, and we talked about cochlear implantation.
During these years of various states of hearing loss, I quit playing music because I could not hear the notes that I was playing. Being self-taught, I honestly had no clue what I was doing. I sold what gear I had as it was depressing seeing it in the corner knowing I could not play. It was also during this time that I became a born again believer in Jesus Christ.
After I received my cochlear implant, a new world opened up to me
For the first time in a long time, I had stable hearing. My brain was learning to interpret the frequencies rather quickly. With sound always improving, life was great, but music was still a struggle for me. Old songs were OK because my brain filled in the spots my ears missed.
During my new hearing journey, I met and married a great woman who has always been supportive and pushed me to keep stepping out of the box. She forced me to go to a concert once. I did not want to go, but I caved and went anyway. It was a Chris Tomlin concert. I was sitting there trying to listen to the songs; some I could make out from hearing them on the radio, but most I could not.
Then it happened.
I remember watching the guitar player on the stage and saw in his face and his eyes that he was really worshiping God. I knew in that moment that I had squandered the gift that was given to me of playing music that I had no reason to play. I promised that if God gave me back any of the ability that He had previously given me playing music, that I would use it for His glory.
I bought the cheapest, decent guitar I could get my hands on. I started studying some theory and started playing again. It was still difficult, but I faithfully pushed through. I was determined to serve through music.
I currently have the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor, and my hearing curve has greatly improved. I have been actively playing and now play live. I play every week at my church.
Because of Cochlear, their products and my desire to overcome my hearing loss, I have been able to serve God and continue my musical journey ahead.”