Why a Surgeon Chose a MED-EL Cochlear Implant

When Jason’s hearing loss started to affect his everyday communication, he decided to get a cochlear implant. In this article, the 46-year-old surgeon and CI user shares why he chose the MED-EL device, the benefits it has brought him, and how close his CI hearing is to his natural hearing.

My name is Jason. I am 46 years old, born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I currently reside. I’m a physician specializing in cosmetic surgery of the body and face. My hobbies include cars and car racing, running, fitness, as well as attending theater performances.

“Cookie Bite” Hearing Loss Diagnosis

My hearing loss started in college, but I didn't give it much thought until the end of my surgical residency, when a colleague brought it to my attention. About six months later, I had a hearing test and was diagnosed with the so-called "cookie bite" hearing loss, which is a type of sensorineural hearing loss. I was fitted with a pair of hearing aids, which made a big difference.

Over the next decade, however, my hearing deteriorated to the point where it was difficult to cope in everyday life and the hearing aids made no difference in recognising words anymore. I realised that my hearing loss was genetic. Unfortunately, my family knew nothing really about it - only that I had some relatives who were hard of hearing. No one told me that my hearing loss would probably be progressive.

Social Isolation Due to Hearing Loss

As time went on and hearing aids became less and less useful, my world began to shrink socially. Work became increasingly difficult. I found myself in a number of embarrassing situations almost every day: answering a question completely wrong, not being able to order in shops and restaurants, or looking completely withdrawn because I couldn't hear something. My wife was my support during this period and she did most of the navigating and public speaking, as well as answering or clarifying questions. When my wife wasn't around, my daughter took over this role. When I was completely alone, I simply got used to awkward situations.

Finding a Solution for Hearing Loss

I did a lot of research prior to choosing an implant company. MED-EL was the company I decided to go with because of their electrode. Having an electrode that covers the second turn of the cochlea makes sense because the pitches are closer to natural hearing. This not only gave me the best chance to hear things normally again, it also enabled me to appreciate music to the fullest.

Waiting Five Years to Get a Cochlear Implant

It took me five years to decide on an implant after my initial consultation. My first appointment with the surgeon was just to see what my options might be, and I really didn't expect to be a candidate. I went home from that appointment and cried.

I thought it was the end. Now I know it was just the beginning.

- Jason, CI user from the US

When everyone wore a mask during COVID, I realized how much I'd relied on lip reading. Communication became extremely difficult. That's when I knew I had to take action. That's when I decided to get an implant.

Close to Natural Hearing With My Cochlear Implant

The morning after the activation, I went downstairs and poured myself some coffee. All this sounded perfectly normal - everything else that day didn't. And even though people sounded strange, I could understand everyone when they talked to me. I couldn't understand a single word with that ear before the activation. More and more things started to sound like before my hearing loss. About a month later, I started to hear very good bass tones. It took about three to four months to hear everything normally.

Today, my CI hearing is very natural. There were some sounds that took longer than others, but the sound quality is nearly the same as with my natural hearing.

The Advantages of My RONDO 3 Audio Processor

I have both the RONDO 3 and the SONNET 2 audio processor. The RONDO 3 is the processor I use on a daily basis. The sound quality with my MED-EL device is great, everything sounds like before my hearing loss. I like that I don't have to wear anything on my ears with the RONDO 3 audio processor, especially after years of wearing hearing aids. Not having to worry about batteries is another big plus. I just put the RONDO 3 on the charging station every night, and the next morning it's ready to go. It's also fantastic to hear sounds while I'm running. I couldn't wear hearing aids when I went for a run because the sweat would turn them off. The RONDO 3 easily withstands my sweating.

My Rehab Activities After The CI Activation

I would use different rehab apps and have my family say lists of words to me while they were covering their mouths. On the way home from activation, my wife used to play "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. I listened to that song every day for probably four months. It's amazing how it changed over time. Another thing I did as I could understand words right away was not using my hearing aid at all for the first month.

My favorite sounds are people's voices now that I understand them, a good electric guitar solo, and electronic music. Today I can enjoy all these sounds again despite the hearing loss.

The Benefits of Getting a Cochlear Implant

  • The implantation has really boosted my self-confidence. My fear of not being able to hear in certain situations has disappeared.
  • I'm no longer mentally drained in the evening because I've been trying to hear all day.
  • I've also been able to take a leadership role at work and participate in large meetings. I can hear everything now, even people on the speakerphone.
  • My relationship with my wife and daughter has improved because I can now participate in conversations.
  • Since my wife's a classically trained singer, she participates in many musical theater productions. It's great that I can hear her sing and perform again.

My Advice for Others With Hearing Loss

Hearing loss separates you from the world and the people around you. It can affect your mental, emotional and even physical health. My world grew smaller with each passing year as my hearing deteriorated.

Although a cochlear implant can't restore natural hearing, it's the next best thing. It's opened up the world to me again.

- Jason, CI user from the US

If you're suffering from hearing loss, my only advice is not to hesitate and do everything you can to address it. Stand up for yourself instead of trying to hide your hearing loss - as you probably can't hide it anyway. If you're a cochlear implant candidate, undergo the surgery. With my current knowledge, I waited five years too long, and I can't get back that time when I could've heard.

Thank you so much Jason!