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Turn Hearing Loss into a Renewed Sensation

Friday, December 21, 2018 7:15 AM

Terry Harris is surrounded by the sounds of a busy life. The 43-year-old from Glenview is a devoted husband and father of two. His job as a high school special education teacher includes coaching football and baseball. Harris also has lived with profound hearing loss for most of his life.

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“I could never hear in my left ear and used a hearing aid in my right ear,” said Harris. “My biggest fear was not being able to hear—even with my hearing aid.”

Audio Silence
Harris’ worst-case scenario was realized four years ago, when his full and noisy life went silent after suddenly losing the little hearing he had left. Understandably devastated, he turned to NorthShore expertise for help.

“When I first met Terry, he was extremely anxious and fearful,” recalled NorthShore Otolaryngologist Michael Shinners, MD. A hearing loss specialist, Dr. Shinners started the cochlear implant program at NorthShore nearly a decade ago.

“In many cases, it’s difficult to identify the cause of sudden hearing loss like what Terry suffered. But he was an excellent candidate for a cochlear implant, which can profoundly improve hearing and ultimately enhance someone’s quality of life,” said Dr. Shinners.

The implant stimulates the cochlear nerve controlling hearing. One part of this small electronic device is placed behind the ear; the second part is implanted in the inner ear, connecting to the auditory nerve that sends sound impulses to the brain. Despite its success, cochlear implant surgery is still vastly underutilized.

Remarkable Result
“Only 6 percent of Americans who are eligible for this treatment have undergone the procedure—mainly due to lack of awareness on the part of patients and even some physicians,” noted Dr. Shinners, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “Thankfully, in Terry’s case, with the implant he has done much better than we ever anticipated.”

“Terry received a cochlear implant in each ear and the results have been amazing,” added Clinical Audiologist Maggie Molloy, who along with fellow Audiologist Katie Bialobok, are part of Harris’ NorthShore otolaryngology care team. “At the time, Terry just wanted to get back the hearing he lost. Instead, he now hears in the normal range in both ears—something he’s never been able to do.”

“I call them my ‘CI’, or cochlear implant moments,” explained Harris, happily. “That’s when I hear something for the first time that I’ve never heard before. This life-changing experience could have been so difficult, but my team at NorthShore made it so easy. If I’d known the difference a cochlear implant would have made, I would have gotten one much sooner.”