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Sharing Stories

Jim’s Story

My name is Jim Savageau, and I am pleased to be able to share my experience with a cochlear implant (CI).  I’ll share a little about my hearing loss history, the events that led me to pursue a CI, as well as my choice of CI.  Additionally, I will share some of the results I have achieved in the four months since my CI was activated. 

My hearing loss surfaced as a young boy. Because my older brother had experienced a hearing loss at an early age, my parents were closely monitoring my hearing situation.  I was fit with a hearing aid in my right ear at age 10, thus beginning my lifelong association with audiologists and other hearing specialists. I was never given a firm diagnosis as to the cause of my hearing loss, only that it was probably due to a hereditary nerve loss. 

From the age of 10 until age 30, I managed to hear very well with one hearing aid, I went to college, got married, and started a family.  At age 30, I experienced a sudden drop in hearing in my right ear, and also in my left ear.  I was fit with a more powerful aid in my right ear, as well as an aid in my left ear.  Once again the specialists offered no reason for the sudden loss of hearing.  It was at that time (1985) that I first learned of a device called a cochlear implant that offered some crude “hearing sensations” to deaf persons.  I prayed that I would never lose enough hearing to ever have to consider that device. 

At age 40 (in 1995), I was devastated as I lost all remaining hearing in my right ear, and suffered a further loss in my left.  By this time, my left ear (my “good” ear) was in the “profound” hearing loss area, yet I still could not accept that I was deaf.  I was terrified that I would no longer be able to do my job as a Project Manager with an electrical engineering company, and wondered how I would support my family if I could not hear.

Somehow, I managed to get by, relying heavily on speech reading and help from others in order to follow conversations.  But as time went on, the physical and mental effort required to do this became too much, and I withdrew from social settings.  I no longer enjoyed concerts or plays, and stopped going to parties and family functions.  Business meetings were particularly stressful, and I dreaded those the most. 

In the meantime (in late 2002), my brother received a cochlear implant, and soon began telling me what a huge benefit this was to him.  “But he has always had worse hearing than I have, so it is no wonder he got a CI”, I thought.  I was still not ready to seek out a CI for myself.  I still thought I was doing “OK”, and did not consider the CI as something that would benefit me. 

Finally in late 2005, at the age of 50, I came to realize that I was NOT happy with my life, and unless I wanted to learn a new career, as well as learn sign language in order to communicate with people, I had better look into a CI for myself.  Looking back at that decision, it is now ironic to me that it was not until I accepted that I was deaf that could I begin my journey back to hearing. 

During my evaluation for the CI, I was amazed to learn how much I depended upon speech reading to understand conversation.  Seeing the very poor results of my hearing tests (which were done with my hearing aid in my “good” ear) made me anxious to receive my CI and get started on the journey back to hearing. 

We decided to implant my deaf right ear, and continue wearing a powerful hearing aid in my left.  It was up to me to decide which manufacturer’s CI device I would receive, and after researching all 3 devices, I chose the Advanced Bionics 90K implant and the Auria BTE processor.  As an engineer, I wanted an implant that was not only the latest in technology, but also had the potential for future upgrades without  requiring additional surgery or reimplanation.   I quickly recognized the design superiority of the AB device with its 16 individual current sources for electrode excitation.   This innovative design allowed sound processing strategies that none of the other manufacturer’s devices could offer me. 

My cochlear implant surgery was done in March, 2006 as an outpatient, and I was home for dinner the same day.  I returned to work after about a week at home, and was “activated” a month after surgery. My cochlear implant surgery was done in March, 2006 as an outpatient, and I was home for dinner the same day.  I returned to work after about a week at home, and was “activated” a month after surgery. 

While I could indeed “hear” sounds immediately upon activation, those sounds were not understandable, and were accompanied by a constant high pitched squealing.  I could not imagine ever being able to understand anything I was hearing with the CI.  However, after a few weeks, the squealing went away, and my brain truly did begin to adapt to the sounds, and I WAS HEARING WITH MY RIGHT EAR AGAIN!! 

The first few months brought rapidly improving hearing, speech understanding, and music appreciation.  I went to several sessions with my audiologist, and as she refined the sound processing programs, my understanding of sounds improved. 

By 4 weeks, my implanted ear was already understanding speech about 4 times better than my other (hearing aided) ear.  At 3 months, the difference was about 6 times!  In addition, I rediscovered the joys of attending concerts, as well as connecting with family and friends.  Before I received my CI, my wife was stuck by my side, acting as my interpreter at social events.  Now she happily complains that she has to hunt for me, as I wander all over, making conversation with anyone and everyone!  We have listened to bands, and gone to movies again.  For our anniversary, we are looking forward to attending a play for the first time in 20 years or more! 

As someone who has struggled for years with a profound hearing loss, I did not think that I would ever be able to enjoy the many things that hearing folks enjoy like concerts, plays, and movies.  But as much as I missed these things, I missed being connected with my family and friends even more.  My cochlear implant has given me back music, movies, and plays.  But most importantly it has given me back my life, by connecting me with my family, my friends, and the whole world.    

Jim Savageau
Nashotah, WI
AB 90K/Auria
Implanted 3-22-2006
Activated 4-25-2006

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