Single-sided deafness (SSD) is a unique challenge. It’s incredibly frustrating to only be able to hear on one side, especially in noisy or crowded situations when you have little control over your environment.
Baha® 5 recipient and Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dan understands that struggle firsthand. He lost all the hearing in his right ear when he was in eighth grade. The cause is still unclear, but his doctors suspected it was a virus that damaged his cochlea or auditory nerve. They told him there was nothing to be done and sent him home.
Dan said that for the most part, he was able to mask his hearing loss while growing up.
“It was something that you didn’t talk about, you didn’t tell anyone— you basically faked it,” he said. “You sat in a certain spot in the classroom trying to keep everything to your good side. When everyone else laughed, you laughed, and when they were quiet, you were quiet.”
He said it didn’t make a large impact on his life until he was a junior in high school, when he applied for the military academy at West Point. He passed the testing and physical exam and was preparing to attend the academy when he was notified that because of his SSD he wasn’t eligible to join the army. They attempted to transfer his appointment to another military academy, but all their physical standards were equal or greater.
“That was really the first time it affected me,” Dan said. “But if West Point hadn’t turned me down, I wouldn’t be where I am today, period.”
He chose to attend Ohio State University instead. On the first day of class he ran into a girl he’d known in high school, and they began talking, hit it off, and started dating. Now, 36 years later, they’re still happily married.
In fact it was his wife, Susan, who first introduced him to devices that offered a solution for his hearing loss. Dan wore a hearing aid system for about 20 years, with mixed results.
“They were fair, and they let me know something was happening on my deaf side, but I couldn’t understand it very well,” he said. “It was something… something to help.”
In 2005, Susan ran across an article about a new product called a Baha. Dan went to his doctor for a trial processor and spent a week comparing the hearing aids to the Baha device on a headband. He said that trial gave him all the information he needed.
“For me, the Baha with the headband was superior in clarity, volume, and understandability,” Dan said.
He was implanted with the Baha abutment soon afterwards and his first processor was the Baha Compact®.
Now, after over a decade of advancements and processor upgrades, he has the Baha 5 and says the sound is better than ever.
“It’s so second nature, it’s like putting on your glasses,” Dan said. “You put it on and it works, you take it off and it stops. It does what I need it to do, and I don’t have to think about it throughout the day. It’s completely invisible, and I no longer have to sit in a certain place to hear.”
He said the moment that really drove home the importance of his processor was when both of his daughters got married, two years apart. Both times, he was able to do the father/daughter dance and be completely in the moment. Even when his daughters rested their heads on his right shoulder, he was able to hear every word they said.
“That, to me, is totally, completely priceless,” he said. “I can never replicate it or duplicate it. It was a one-time shot, and the processor let me hear what’s most important.”
THE PATH TO BETTER SOUND
Dan decided to begin volunteering 11 years ago, as a way to share what the Baha device has brought to his life.
He saw volunteering as a natural way to share his experiences with others and help them find a personalized answer—whether it was a Baha device or something completely different. Dan said he still finds the connection rewarding.
“It’s not therapy or counseling, it’s walking that path together,” he said. “Not pulling people to the solutions, but allowing them to make their own informed decisions about their hearing.”
His dedication to volunteering was recognized when he and his wife were awarded the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award for their commitment to helping others.
“When they called our names, you could have picked us up off the floor!” Dan laughed. “We were completely flabbergasted, shocked and surprised that it happened. It was very unexpected, very appreciated, and a complete and total surprise.”
A LIFELONG CONNECTION
Dan said he’s enjoyed his connection with Cochlear throughout the past 11 years.
“This is going to sound hokey, but it’s been my pleasure to work with the company,” he said. “I’ve never been ignored, never been misled, never been promised something they didn’t deliver. They are top-shelf company. … Everyone appears to truly care about the product and the people that they serve.”