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LISTEN: What It's Like To Relearn To Hear Through Cochlear Implants

Rob Jefferson
Rob and Betty Jefferson spent their 30th anniversary in Paris. That's where he started to consider getting cochlear implants.

Rob Jefferson started losing his hearing when he was in his late teens. Sensorineural hearing loss, a progressive degenerative condition, runs in his family. His hearing gradually declined over a few decades, and though he was able to use conventional hearing aids for a few years, Jefferson, who's now 56, had lost all his natural hearing ability by his late 40s.

After getting cochlear implant surgery a couple of years ago, he discovered that restored hearing doesn't come with the flip of a switch. Voices and household noises sounded like robots and digital chirps to Jefferson, rather than the natural sounds he remembered from his youth.

Like many people with cochlear implants, Jefferson worked to assimilate the sounds, and practiced listening to them so his hearing would become more subtle and natural. Even now — years after surgery — this work continues, and though it’s been at times bizarre and challenging, Jefferson describes his return to the world of sound as a rewarding, life-changing experience.

Alex Smith is a reporter for KCUR, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @AlexSmithKCUR

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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