2013-06-19 / News

Local woman hears a new world of sounds through a cochlear implant

by Kate Evans

Berkeley Springs resident Ronnie Grove hears a whole new world of sounds with her cochlear implant. Berkeley Springs resident Ronnie Grove hears a whole new world of sounds with her cochlear implant. Berkeley Springs resident Ronnie Grove is excited to be rediscovering the world of sound through the technology of a cochlear implant after living for over 52 years with profound hearing loss. Grove, who is 69, worked at CNB Bank.

She shared her story in hopes that others that have struggled with hearing loss will look into the surgical procedure.

Grove said she started to gradually lose her hearing after she had a 105 degree fever during a bout with the measles when she was 10 years old. Doctors felt that her auditory nerve was damaged by the high fever.

She didn’t realize for a long time that she was having hearing problems.

Grove recalls telling her mother that she couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying even though she was sitting right in front of the teacher’s desk. She was around 16 then. Her mother took her to an audiologist since there was deafness on both sides of the family.

When she was told she had lost most of her hearing, Grove said she learned to read lips that very day and learned to pay attention.

Grove said she’d wanted a hearing device that could be worn on a barrette, but settled for one that she could wear behind her ear.

At first, “newspaper sounded like firecrackers” and “people walking around the house sounded like elephants,” Grove noted. She was told the sounds would fade away as she grew accustomed to them, and they did.

Lost hearing

Over the years, Grove’s hearing gradually worsened, even with the latest hearing aids. She heard about more advanced hearing devices and went to have her hearing tested for them. Grove was told then that she had no residual hearing left and was recommended for a cochlear implant.

Grove held off on her decision about the procedure for a year. She doubts many knew she was totally deaf for that year because of her adeptness at reading lips.

Of that year without sound, Grove said, “I was lucky to have wonderful people around me.”

No issues from surgery

Grove had the cochlear implant surgery done on January 14 at the John Hopkins Outpatient Center. She’s made a handful of trips back for post-surgery checks and to have the implant fine-tuned.

Grove said she had no problems from the surgery and raved about the difference in her hearing.

“The sounds are fantastic,” she said.

How implant works

A cochlear implant has a sound processor microphone that hooks over the outer ear that captures sound waves in the air.

The sound processor converts the sound waves into digital information, which is sent to a magnetic headpiece.

The magnet sends the digital signals to the implant’s electrode array in the inner ear.

The electrode array sends electrical signals to the auditory nerve, which sends the impulses to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.

Discerning sounds

Grove said she’d never heard the sound of a clock ticking before in her life, but can now distinguish the sound.

She hears the wind and the rain and birds squawking in the backyard. It will take her up to a year to completely process hearing speech at full capacity.

At first, sounds were loud and overwhelming, just like when she got her first hearing piece at age 16.

“It’s the same thing now with the implant. I won’t eventually hear them unless I’m listening for them,” Grove said of common background sounds.

At her last hearing test, her audiologist was amazed how far ahead of schedule Grove was in discerning sounds and speech with the hearing implant.

“Sound, along with reading lips, is fantastic. It’s so much easier,” she said.

Sibling implants

Grove’s brother Charles (Chuck) Grove, Jr. had a cochlear implant 16 years ago and her sister Jennifer Linexa had the procedure done in August. Both also experienced gradual hearing loss since childhood.

Her brother was very ill with the mumps at age 13 or 14, which triggered his hearing loss, she said. Aunts and uncles on their mother’s and father’s sides of the family had deafness. Their parents had good hearing.

“Dad could hear the cows chewing their cuds through the window,” Grove said.

A world of difference

Grove said that having the implant has already made a world of difference. She’s hearing better than ever and it’s made life less stressful for her.

“My whole life I’ve been on alert. Now I’m more relaxed,” she said.

Grove said she feels more confident going to doctor’s offices and for medical testing. She can hear her own voice and her speech is sharper now.

The biggest change is with the telephone. She can now hear the phone ringing from across the house.

Grove still uses the voice recognition relay system on her telephone, which displays captions on her computer of what the other person is saying with an eight to 10 seconds delay.

Grove was thrilled to be able to understand everything her aunt was saying in a recent phone conversation before the captions appeared for her to read.

To those who are living with hearing loss, Grove said, “Don’t spend the next 20 years half-hearing. Get it done,” she said of the cochlear implant surgery.

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