Cochlear Implants Bring Sound to Deaf and Severely Hearing Impaired
Born with hearing loss due to a congenital anomaly, Lori Davis relied on
hearing aids to understand people and learn to talk. Her hearing
progressively worsened, however, until even with hearing aids, she had
to resort to lip reading. That all changed when Davis was fitted with a cochlear
The 40-year-old Hamilton resident was delighted to hear sounds she had
never heard with hearing aids: birds singing, her cat’s surprising
assortment of meows, music.
“The first time I heard piano, I didn’t realize how beautiful it was! I
almost cried,” she says.
Otolaryngologist Joe VanderMeer, MD, of Lakeshore Health Partners—ENT,
explained that cochlear implants mimic natural hearing for deaf or
severely hearing-impaired individuals. They do this by providing
electrical signals directly to the auditory nerve, bypassing the damaged
cochlea that is usually the cause of deafness. The brain recognizes the
electrical signals as “sound.” The cochlear implant consists of a tiny,
external sound processor worn inconspicuously behind a patient’s ear,
and a transmitter that is surgically placed under the skin.
Dr. VanderMeer is one of only two physicians in West Michigan—and the
only one in the Lakeshore region—specially trained to implant the
state-of-the-art devices. He performed Davis’ two-hour outpatient
surgery at Holland Hospital in September. A month later, Davis returned
to the Holland ENT office to work with audiologist Mary Van Wieren, who
adjusted settings on the implant and helped Davis learn to interpret the
new sound signals.
“At first she had trouble distinguishing men’s from women’s voices,” Van
Wieren notes. “At her last appointment, she was happy to report that
she hears some sounds before her normal-hearing counterparts.” Her word
testing scores had tripled, from 26 percent before surgery (with both
hearing aids) to 79 percent after.
“People who have lost all or most of their hearing later in life are the
most likely to benefit from cochlear implants because they can
associate the new sound signals with sounds they remember,” Dr.
For Davis, one of the biggest benefits of the cochlear implant is that
she can now hear and understand people around her without even looking
at them—like her coworkers at Target. “I can listen to them and still
keep working. Before I couldn’t do that,” she says. “I can be part of
the team and communicate with people.”
Lakeshore Health Partners - Ear, Nose & Throat
Joseph VanderMeer, MD, Lakeshore Health Partners - Ears, Nose and Throat discusses Cochlear implants.
Learn about one patient's journey with the Cochlear Implant process.