Cochlear Implants

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Jan 2021 Geauga Maple Leaf

 

Roz KvetRosalind “Roz” Kvet was not surprised when she started losing her hearing in her mid-40s

Many of her relatives have the same condition where the hair cells in the inner ear degrade, gradually causing deafness, she said. Hearing aids allowed Kvet, 79, of Chardon, to continue to teach elementary school students in Kirtland until her retirement, but the children’s’ high-pitched voices were a challenge, even with a microphone system the school district installed for her.

When Kvet learned Cochlear had developed a highly successful cochlear implant that bypasses the damaged cells and sends electric signals to the brain which interprets them as sound, she thought the program was only for people who had been born deaf. “I never, ever dreamed I would get an implant,” she said.

So, she continued using hearing aids as her hearing continued to deteriorate. Then, during a visit to her audiologist, the subject of an alternative came up. “She surprised me by saying, ‘I think you’d qualify for a cochlear implant,” recalled Kvet. So she went for the test – and failed. The process tests how much hearing a person has in his or her “good” ear and she still had a high enough percentage that she didn’t qualify for an implant, Kvet explained. Not to be deterred, she returned a year later and she had lost enough of her hearing to qualify for a cochlear implant.

In 2012, Kvet met with Dr. Cliff Megarian, otolaryngology surgeon with University Hospitals, and her operation was arranged.

The process took about 90 minutes.

“I came out looking like a Civil War soldier,” she said, adding her head all bandaged up. The surgeon had drilled a hole in her skull for the internal implant just under the skin behind her ear. The second part of the system is an audio processor, worn externally, that detects sounds and sends them to the implant. After a while, the bandages were removed, but Kvet knew the equipment wouldn’t be turned on remotely for a month, so she waited to fully heal and went on with her life.

When the miracle occurred, she remembers she was washing something in the bathroom sink. Kvet thought she heard popcorn cooking until she realised it was the soap bubbles popping in the sink. The excitement she felt is reflected in part in her poem “Bubbles, Birdies, My Buddy —and Popcorn,” which reads: “Amazing!!!  Awesome!!!  Adoring!!! “I hear forgotten sounds — be still my heart! “NO! Sing with joy!”

But “hearing” the more complicated sounds, like someone talking, took a little more time.

“For three days, it felt like Donald Duck talking — an acoustic guitar in one ear and an electric guitar in the other,” Kvet said, adding her brain started to sort it out after a while. Being able to carry on a conversation with friends and relatives made a big difference. Better still, she was able to hear sounds made by her infant grandson for the first time.

Kvet has a deep appreciation for everyday noises most take for granted. When a wren outside her window serenades her or her only grandchild, Quinn Krapf, 8, sings to her, joy is the best word to describe her emotion. It is a main component of the freeform poem she wrote and the quilted collage she created recently, both of which she submitted to the Inspire Us contest held by Cochlear. Kvet’s poem and the collage, featuring pictures of Quinn, were selected to decorate the Cochlear Americas headquarters southeast of Denver, Co.

There are interesting details of her experience with the cochlear implant Kvet is happy to discuss.

Every six months, she visits with a cochlear implant audiologist and is hooked up to a computer to check the device’s operation and make some minute alterations to volume and other aspects of the connection. “They have to make changes. Otherwise, your brain goes to sleep,” Kvet said. “She can see how many hours you use your implant.”

Technology has advanced incredibly and Kvet has learned to use a “clicker” or remote control to adjust for speaking on the phone, listening to music or even to others when there is a lot of background noise. “Usually, I can hear better in a restaurant than other people,” Kvet said. “My hearing is like 96%.” She is also an A-plus student in her speech and hearing therapy. Her homework consists of listening to various programs to keep her hearing sharp.

A little icing on the cake: Medicare paid for the cochlear implants, Kvet said. Because of her family history, she is also active in encouraging people with hearing loss to be aware the progression eventually could affect their minds. “My mother was stone deaf. I couldn’t have conversations with her,” Kvet recalls, adding if a person loses the ability to hear, he or she may also forget the meaning of words. “It may have caused Mom’s dementia,” she said.

Her daughter and Quinn’s mother, Stacy Kvet, is a psychologist at DePaul University in Chicago and Kvet insisted she visit an audiologist to determine a hearing baseline. The testing showed Stacy, 50, has started to lose her hearing. “Make sure you get hearing aids. If you wait too long, it could be too late,” Kvet said.

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