Student overcomes hearing impairment with cochlear implants
First, doctors shaved a small portion of hair around his left ear. Then, they put him under anesthesia.
They drilled into his skull and inserted a small electrode ray into cochlea, his inner ear.
Once activated, the electrode would give him the sense of sound again.
Josh Blanco, The Oklahoma Daily
OU freshman Taylre Turoczi wasn’t born deaf, but he did get 22 ear infections before he turned 18 months.
He got his first hearing aid at age 5 and switched to newer models. But as his hearing continued to deteriorate, the devices became useless, he said.
Turoczi’s doctor recommended an implant, so in 2005 he agreed to go through with the procedure, he said. It did not cure him or restore his hearing, but it has enabled him to experience sound again.
There are 14 students registered with the Disability Resource Center this semester who are deaf or hard of hearing, said Suzette Dyer, director of Disability Resource Center. Turoczi is one of them.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved cochlear implant devices for adults in 1985 and for children in 1990. Approximately 67,000 people in the U.S. have implants, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
The best candidates for the procedure are those who have lost their hearing after speech and language development, have severe hearing loss in both ears and have limited benefits from hearing aids, according to the American Speech Language Hearing Association.
“I had no ideas what was going to happen, but I was pretty hopeful because a lot of people said it helped a lot,” Turoczi said.
An injury to the facial nerve during the procedure can cause a temporary or permanent weakening or full paralysis on the same side of the face as the implant, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
“I was pretty nervous,” Turoczi said. “They said if it didn’t work out right, this side of my face could be paralyzed.”
He doesn’t hear through his ear but through the device, so it’s still difficult to listen to people when their lips aren’t visible, Turoczi said.
He can’t have conversations over the phone or listen to music without reading the lyrics, but Turoczi said the procedure was worth it. And he said he may get a second implant for his right ear.
“Some people are comfortable staying deaf, but if you want to hear, implants are the way to go,” Turoczi said.
Turoczi said his hearing impairment didn’t disable him from living a normal life. In high school he played five sports including football, and participated in various clubs. At OU, he is a member of Lambda Chi Alpha and Young Life.
“There are definitely challenges, but challenges are made to overcome,” he said.
He didn’t face the stigma and difficulties some other students go through because he always had a close group of friends to support him, he said. There are people who have difficulties and alienate themselves from others, but if they have a positive outlook, they can face and defeat those challenges.
“If you have a positive outlook, no one is going to be able to bring you down or give you a hard time,” Turoczi said. “No one wants to be nice to someone who is always angry and has a bad attitude.”
Students with hearing impairments get teased sometimes, but he hasn’t heard a lot of negative reactions from others, Turoczi said.
“I have never heard anyone make fun of me — that’s one of the benefits of being deaf,” Turoczi said smiling.
The key to making the most of the implant is reaching out and listening, Turoczi said. If you have problems, there are always others who have faced those problems and can help you, he said.
Turoczi said he wants to be someone that individuals with impairments like his can turn to and is planning to become an otolaryngologist — an ears, nose and throat doctor — and specialize in cochlear implants, he said.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” he said. “I think becoming an otolaryngologist would be cool because I can relate with patients.”