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Health Team

Woman Credits Double Cochlear Implants for Renewed Life

Posted July 13, 2007 2:07 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2007 10:32 p.m. EDT

— Cochlear implants allow many people who are deaf to hear. The devices have been successful in one ear. Now, more doctors are using them in both ears.

Candace Wilcox was 14 years old when she started going completely deaf.

"It was really frustrating. I wouldn't go out alone. I made everyone come with me when I did go out. I would just look at everyone,"she said. "If you didn't look at me and I couldn't see your lips, I had no idea what you were saying to me."

Wilcox tried all kinds of treatments but nothing worked. She had lost all hope of ever hearing again, but then she had cochlear implants placed in both ears.

Cochlear implants have been around for 30 years. Over the past decade, though, research has begun to confirm the benefits of implanting the devices in both ears.

The cochlea is deep within the ear, and damage to it can stop or diminish the sound. To fix the problem, surgeons place electrodes in the cochlea and attach them to a receiver just under the skin.

When a transmitter is placed outside the head on the receiver, the sound begins.

"They hear better in terms of sound localization and speech delivery clearly in very noisy environments including parties and restaurants," said otolaryngolist Dr. Shao Weiru.

Wilcox has regained more than 97 percent of her hearing in both ears, and she said she's also gotten her life back.

It's an incredible difference. I actually want to walk by myself. I'm not scared to go to parties," she said.

Wilcox said one of the greatest sounds she's looking forward to are her wedding vows when she gets married next year.

Doctors will choose single or double cochlear implants based on whether the person is completely deaf or has some residual hearing in one ear.