UIHC patients give thanks for hearing this season

Published: Nov. 23, 2016 at 6:56 AM CST
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Listening to your favorite song, or having a conversation with family is something we’re used to doing, but for some it’s impossible.

Through innovative technology, The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are working to bring that hearing back to those who’ve lost it. Mike Everts is one of those people.

He started losing his hearing in the second grade, since then he’s tried many things.

“When I first put hearing aids on, I could hear a lot of noise, but I didn’t have clarification of speech,” Everts said. “You only hear what you hear. It got worse and worse for me because it got to the point where I was missing all the consonant sounds. I was missing the front end of the words and the back end of the words. I was only getting the middle part.”

That left Everts to rely on reading lips. That’s until he met with an audiologist three years ago. He was then named a candidate for the Hybrid Cochlear Implant. The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics leads research for this innovative technology.

“It’s a device for people who are actually having trouble hearing nose,” Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Department Chair Dr. Bruce Gantz said. “What we found out is that people that have hearing loss become socially isolated, and they become extremely depressed because they can’t communicate, and people don’t like to make small talk with them.”

Doctors at UIHC put in the first cochlear implant back in 1979. Ever since, the hospital dedicated time and research to improving them. The FDA approved the hybrid implant only three years ago. That’s when Everts had his put in.

The device has to be surgically implanted. The hearing aid portion connects by magnet. It takes about a month to heal, then doctors turn it on to test it out.

“It’s not normal when you first start out. We instruct patients that it takes a little bit to get used to. Over a period of weeks to months, gradually the brain learns how to use this information. So it’s really an amazing technology,” Dr. Gantz said.

“They turned it on for me and I was amazed because I was hearing all these S’s and T’s. I was actually on my way home, my mom went down with me, and coming home she was talking and I was understanding what she was saying,” Everts said.

He said it’s nice to be able to sit down and have a conversation. As well as appreciate the outdoors.

“I hear birds, I’ve never heard birds before. All the different insects, the world is come alive.” Everts said. “They’re doing a remarkable job to put some device on my head that allows me to hear. The world has got some beautiful sounds and I can now sit and enjoy those.”