The title of the December 17, 2012 edition of Toronto’s The Globe and Mail newspaper obituaries page caught my eye. “Inventor’s implant device restored hearing”. It had not really occurred to me before that someone had to be the first to invent this miraculous device. According to the obituary written by Douglas Martin of the New York Times News Service, Dr. House was a medical researcher who also developed a surgical procedure to combat vertigo, an often debilitating condition that causes extreme dizziness.
As is often the case with first inventors, others were skeptical about this cochlear implant device and felt it wouldn’t work. Lucky for me and many others, Dr. House persisted. While later scientists and researchers refined and enhanced the original concept, the intent was always the same – to bring sound to those who had not heard before.
I won’t get into the murky field of research and who claims ownership of this invention. Suffice it to say that many people including me are just happy it exists. Those like young Dara, a VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children poster child at age two who was fitted with an implant before she reached kindergarten. Or VOICE kids John and Jonathan, one now a lawyer and the other a financial advisor, both with profound hearing losses from birth who received cochlear implants in their early adult years. Or the woman in the waiting room at Sunnybrook that I spoke to just this week. She is from northern Ontario and had spent the entire day going through hearing tests, a C-scan of her head and the rather awful balance tests where the technician deliberately makes you dizzy so she can test the health of the nerves that control balance. Trust me, you don’t want to do this test unless it is absolutely necessary! After five hours, she was waiting for her final appointment of the day with the surgeon who would tell her if she would receive this amazing gift of hearing.
There are thousands and thousands of babies, youngsters and adults who are able to hear because of Dr. House’s initial work. We owe him a debt of gratitude.
And what about the title of this post: hearing my own voice. Those of you who read my cochlear implant posts know that the sounds I hear in my implanted ear are very robotic, much like Darth Vader. One of the exercises I do to help my brain learn to adapt to the sounds is reading out loud without my hearing aid. This week for the first time just using my implant, I heard my own voice – the voice I hear with my hearing aid – along with the Darth Vader version. The normal voice was very faint and was somewhat overpowered by the robotic sounds, but it was there.