Last October, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh surprised his fans when he announced he was nearly deaf. But earlier this year, the Cape Girardeau native says he regained 80 percent of his hearing after getting a cochlear implant.
That's given a lot of people hope, like Kathy Rhodes in Jackson, who has been gradually losing her hearing over the last several years. Kathy first noticed she was losing her hearing in the late 70s. In the beginning, she was still able to live a normal life, but overtime her condition got worse, and soon she and her family came to the conclusion they were running out of options.
"I have about five percent hearing in my right side, zero percent in the left side, as far as comprehension," Kathy says. For years, Kathy she wasn't hearing everything in her right ear, so she started depending on her left ear. But over time, things got worse. At the young age of 39, doctors told her and her husband that she had major hearing loss in her right ear. Now 14 years later, and countless tries with hearing aids, Kathy is getting ready for the cochlear implant surgery. Her husband, Pastor Luther Rhodes says, "After all other avenues failed we decided to look at it because as now she's legally and technically deaf."
We first talked to the couple in early June, a few days before she was scheduled to go into surgery. It's been a long wait for them and their family, who have seen Kathy struggle with her hearing loss. "I can detect sounds and vibrations and things of that nature but understanding at all," Kathy says. "The communication process breaks down tremendously," Luther says. "I have to find her, speak to her, no longer can we talk long distance over the phone, we have to use a lot of the computer."
Kathy's hearing loss hasn't just changed her life at home. Her husband, Luther, is the pastor at First General Baptist Church in Jackson, and over the years her hearing problems have also limited her duties there.
Kathy loves to play the piano, something she used to do in church, that's just one of the duties she had to let go. "We're hoping she will be able to communicate not only with me but with our family and the people who go to our church, and others who are a vital part of her life." Luther says. Kathy and her husband say a cochlear implant is her last option. "Without the cochlear implants things won't change, they will continue the way they are or they'll get worse." Luther says. "It's a little unnerving," Kathy says. "It will be totally different trying to understand with it, the sounds will not be what I'm listening to now, maybe it will be better, I hope."