8/07/02 - Hearing Home

Over the past two days we've been telling you about Kathy Rhodes, a Jackson, Missouri woman who got a cochlear implant, in hopes of being able to hear again. It hasn't been easy for Kathy, she's had to suffer with some facial numbness and a few other discomforts. Now, almost two months after her surgery, things are looking better.
Since the last time we talked to Kathy in early July, she's been hooked up to a speech processor and headset that allows her to hear, and do things she hasn't done in over twenty years, including taking an active part in her church.
August fourth was the first time in years, that Kathy could sit in church, and hear everything going on, including words of praise by her husband, Luther, the pastor at First General Baptist Church in Jackson. "I can definitely understand words, voices, but I can't identify them," Kathy says. "The first thing when I was hooked up, I could understand anything that was said, but they were mechanical, robotic sounds." "She can hear, she can literally hear," Luther says." "She can carry on a conversation just like you and me."
Kathy's cochlear implant works by a magnet that attaches to metal under her skin, a microphone clips over her ear, and a speech processor is attached to her waist. All these items work together to allow Kathy to hear things she hasn't heard in years. "I went to pour a soda and I heard all the fizzing, I forgot it even did that," Kathy says "I can also hear the birds, bugs, anything with a high pitch sound I can pick up on easily."
But she still has trouble with lower pitches, and part of the numbness in her face still hasn't gone away. "The lower half has, and the upper half has, but in the center it's still numb. Other than that we're doing good," Kathy says. After talking to other patients who suffered with temporary numbness, Kathy and her husband are sure it will go away, and that positive attitude stays with them everyday. Even though there's still a long road ahead, Kathy says she wouldn't change a thing. "I really dreaded it and it took me a long time to do it," Kathy says. "But even with the paralysis, it was worth it. Even if I don't get any better than I am right now, it's nice to feel like you're back in the world again."
For the next 15 weeks, Kathy and her husband will go to St. Louis two times a week, so doctors can make adjustments to her implant. It's part of a mapping process, that will help "tweak" her implant, so she won't have trouble with different sounds. A cochlear implant was the best option for Kathy, but everyone's situation is different. If you're having some hearing problems, talk to your doctor about the option that's best for you.