Oct 2011 Cochlear Implants
For a physician, being able to closely listen to a patient’s concerns is key when diagnosing a condition. Likewise, a musician must carefully discern pitches to successfully play with an orchestra. When Dr. Listwa began to lose his hearing, he worried how it would affect his medical practice, but also his ability to perform music. Would a cochlear implant enable him to improve his listening abilities both professionally and personally? Twenty years of progressive hearing loss found Howard Listwa at a crossroads. The Allentown, PA physician’s hearing aids were of less benefit in daily communications at his private practice. As a result, he relied more heavily on his medical assistants to repeat what had been said when conversing with patients.
Dr. Howard Listwa once again enjoys performing music by using a cochlear implant and a hearing aid
His concerns for his career were significant, but his disappointment in not being able to enjoy and perform music was nearly as important. Howard had learned to play the cello as a child, but as a busy medical professional had put his instrument aside. His love of music was still strong and he’d decided to return to it, but he needed better sound quality than his hearing aids could provide. “My hearing loss stood in the way of trying to enjoy the experience. When listening to recorded music you can change the volume and other settings, but you can’t adjust it while performing in a classical concert,” Howard explained.
He was faced with a difficult decision. “I was concerned I would have to retire, or find out if I was a cochlear implant candidate,” the physician/musician rationalised. Fortunately, Howard qualified for a cochlear implant and would be able to partner it with his hearing aid to take advantage of the remaining hearing in the other ear. “It’s made things dramatically different,” the doctor remarked when asked about how life has changed at work. He says his peers are happy for him and he’s much more comfortable listening to patients and participating in meetings. Howard often uses a neckloop with the telecoils on his cochlear implant and hearing aid helping him to listen on the phone with both ears. And music? Howard said, “I knew that music with my cochlear implant would not be the same quality of natural sound. But I found that over time my pitch discrimination improved when using software programs like Sound & Way Beyond to retrain myself.” The cellist now plays often with his local orchestra.
Howard’s family is delighted with his success, especially his wife Sherree, “It is just wonderful. I have had to practice ‘not’ interpreting for him anymore!” The voice of his young granddaughter is particularly special and the ease of being able to hear while dining at noisy restaurants with friends is pleasing. “It’s a life-changing event,” Howard remarked and asked others to heed his advice about considering a cochlear implant. “When you can’t understand what people are saying to you, and they’re telling you over and over that you can’t hear, then Go For It! What a difference. I got my life back!”