July 2020 Odessa American

Jimmy Choate recently underwent a life-changing experience. He had the Cochlear implant inserted by Dr. Raphael Nwojo, an Odessa ear, nose and throat physician, several weeks ago. Choate’s brothers, Ronny and Danny, Nwojo, a Cochlear representative, audiologist Sally Miranda and members of the media crowded around a small room at All About Hearing in Midland to witness the occasion. Jimmy and Ronny Choate live in Hobbs, N.M., and Danny lives in Las Cruces, N.M.  Erin Hattey, Cochlear provider network territory manager for the company Cochlear Americas, said the services are just becoming available in the area. Hattey said she and her colleagues work together to get doctors like Nwojo and Miranda set up.

  •  Jimmy ChoateJimmy Choate lets out a big smile as he experiences hearing in his left ear for the first time in decades after his Cochlear implant was turned on. Choate has cerebral palsy as well as hearing loss.

jimmyMiranda said they were excited to host the Cochlear implant activation in the Permian Basin.

“… Patients have to go to Lubbock, or Dallas, or Houston, or a bigger city. We are the first to partner with the Cochlear provider network here and we’re excited to have a surgeon in Odessa that’s actually doing the surgeries here …,” 

When people have hearing loss, Miranda said, it can be progressive. “And over time, their hearing aids aren’t enough for them anymore, so if they’re really struggling with a hearing aid then the next step would be to do a Cochlear implant.” In the past, candidates for implants had no hearing at all, but over time the guidelines changed. People can have no hearing or some hearing, Miranda said.

“When the activation first comes on,” Miranda said, “things might sound more mechanical. It’s not a clear sound, and over time patients do better and better and we see improvement out to 18 months where they weren’t hearing anything at the beginning, or it just sounded like noise. Then their brain learns how to process the sound that they get and over time they can even enjoy music.”

The implant can’t be activated until after the ear or ears heal from the surgery which takes about three to four weeks.

Jimmy Choate was put through his paces of signalling how many beeps he heard through the implant and the volume of sound and speech he was hearing. At first, the sound seemed to cause him to cringe, but his brothers could tell he was excited and happy. “I am excited,” Ronny Choate said. “I’m hoping it will be a huge blessing for him. Time will tell. He’s had trouble hearing his entire life and we have high hopes.” Danny Choate said he didn’t know anything about the Cochlear implants until Ronny started looking into them and set Jimmy up with Dr. Nwojo.

Nwojo said he has performed implants in Miami during his residency on babies, but has never done one on an adult. “So this is also new for me. I’m just excited for him; super excited for him,” Nwojo said.

Ronny Choate said his brother will turn 71 on July 19 and he’s looking forward to when his brother can hear. “… He can’t hardly even talk on the phone right now,” but the implant will change that, Ronny said. “… I think it will help his speech tremendously when he can hear how words are supposed to sound …,” Ronny added. Danny said he could tell Jimmy couldn’t hear yet, but he knew things were happening. “And he was pretty excited that he could and it was working.”

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