For Paul, a bilateral Nucleus® 5 recipient, hearing is not only in the job description but also the title.
Paul works as a family court hearing officer, and he said that before he received his cochlear implant, hearing loss was “absolutely, unequivocally” affecting his job.
“Attorneys knew they could whisper or speak quietly to their clients five feet in front of my face and there was no chance I could hear anything,” he said.
Paul consistently struggled to hear, to the point where everyone he worked with had gotten used to repeating themselves, speaking loudly, and turning to face him so he could lip-read.
However, once he received his Cochlear processors, Paul said his communication skills and his ability to work improved dramatically.
“Things became much more normal and it was easier to do my job,” he said.
Shortly after he began wearing his processors, an attorney was speaking to her client directly in front of him—but this time Paul heard her and made eye contact. She realized he could hear her and she protested that it was unfair because she would have to start leaving the room to have one-on-one conversations with her client.
Paul said his cochlear implant has also allowed him to understand people who were previously difficult to hear.
“There were several attorneys who I categorize as ‘low talkers,’ and I couldn’t understand anything they said,” he said. “It was almost impossible to hear them. Now I understand them readily, and all of them have complained I now catch everything that’s said in the room.”
Although he was born with normal hearing, Paul began to lose sound when he was in his early- to mid-20’s. He said he believes it may be a genetic predisposition because he has a family history of early-onset hearing loss.
He asked his doctor about a cochlear implant for the first time when he was in his mid-40’s, but his doctor advised him to try hearing aids because his hearing loss wasn’t severe enough to qualify.
Several years later, after his hearing had continued to deteriorate, Paul’s doctor told him he was finally a viable candidate for a cochlear implant. He did research, found a surgeon, consulted the experts, and decided to be implanted on his left side in December 2011. He was implanted on his right side exactly a year later—to the day—in December 2012.
Paul said the activation of his processors was an emotional experience for his family.
“My wife was sitting behind me, and she started crying when she realized I was able to hear again through the implant,” he said.
He said the processor has impacted his life because he can hear things he’s missed for decades, including listening to conversations and music.
Paul is also able to wear one processor while he rides his bicycle, which was important to him as a recreational cyclist. He used a dremel to carefully carve out a pocket for his processor to help him hear traffic sounds and talk with his fellow cyclists.
When he’s not working or biking, Paul enjoys volunteering with Cochlear and helps to run a local Facebook group for recipients and those curious about the technology.
He said the online community is important because it allows people to share their own experiences.
“As volunteers we can say, ‘Look, I’ve been through this: I can’t tell you what your experience is going to be, but this was my experience,’” he said.
Paul added that peer-to-peer sharing is invaluable in the process of learning more about Cochlear implants and the reality that recipients face every day.
“When people ask a question to our Facebook group they get just plain, unvarnished truth,” he said. “As Cochlear volunteers we are supportive of the process, of the product, but we don’t make it all pretty and pretend there are no complications or no problems. The professionals will also tell them that, but we try to make sure they don’t have unreasonable expectations. We can share a variety of complications or successes we have experienced ourselves.”
He said volunteering is rewarding because he can help people through situations he’s dealt with firsthand.
“There’s a warm fuzzy sensation associated with helping other people,” Paul said. “I just like the fact I can answer some questions and provide moral support for someone who’s in the same situation I was in not that long ago.”