Audiologist Jacqueline Olson’s No. 1 rule — no crying in her office — got broken a lot Thursday afternoon. That’s what happens when you change a life, the way she and her colleagues were changing the life of 26-year-old Samuel Ochenehi.
Ochenehi was in his first year of medical school seven years ago in his native Nigeria when, following hospitalization for typhoid fever, he went deaf. He finished medical school but learned to his dismay that his hearing loss was going to prevent him from being admitted to a residency program.
Then he met DougGreen, a Jacksonville neurotologist, who is founder and president of the Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute. Green, who also founded Hearing Help for Africa, regularly does medical missionary work at Evangel Hospital in Jos, Nigeria, where Ochenehi lives.
Green considered both Ochenehi and 19-year-old Emmanuel Odido, who lost his hearing at two as a result of meningitis, good candidates for cochlear implants. Both had sustained damage to the cilia, hairlike cells inside the ear that receive sound, which the cochlea translates into electrical signals. The implant takes over that function.
But because of sectarian violence in Nigeria and a lack of adequate medical facilities there, Green decided the best approach was to bring the two young men to Jacksonville.
“I kept having to postpone the trip because bombs kept going off, ” Green said. “It was easier to bring them here.”
In October, Ochenehi and Odido flew to Jacksonville and moved into an apartment Green rented for them. Green did surgery on Odido Oct. 16 and on Ochenehi on Oct. 23, implanting in each a device beneath the skin. A second piece fits over the ear, with a magnet that attaches to the implanted device linking them. Normally, the procedure costs about $50,000. But Green waived his surgical fees, and MED-EL Corp. donated the cochlear implants.
During the time they’ve spent in Jacksonville, Ochenehi and Odido have grown close to many of the people who work at the institute.
“They’re incredibly gracious people, ” Green said. “It’s really fun for me and for my office to be a part of this.”
“It’s been so awesome to see him blossom, ” Olson said of Ochenehi.
Thursday, Olson did tests to check how well Ochenehi was hearing and then made adjustments, creating four different hearing programs Ochenehi can switch to using a remote control. Ochenehi had been having trouble hearing male voices clearly but the adjustments seemed to solve that problem. Following the adjustments, Olson did a second round of tests.
“You’re in the normal range, ” she told Ochenehi,
“Wow, ” he responded.
Knowing what was coming next, Olson reminded Ochenehi about her “no crying” rule. Then she gave him the stethoscope Doug and Kelley Green had bought for him, a stethoscope that can be connected directly to the external earpiece.
As he put on the earpiece, Olson began crying. As he listened to the heartbeat of Allison Jeffries, the institute’s front office manager who has been den mother to Ochenehi and Odido during their visit, Jeffries started crying. As he listened to his own heartbeat, Ochenehi started crying, laying his head on his hands on Olson’s desk.
He looked up briefly, reproaching Olson: “You shouldn’t have made me cry.”
Then, placing his hands together as if in prayer, he closed his eyes and cried some more.
With damp tissues littering the desk — audiology extern Lindsay Oldham, assisting Olson, was also in tears — Jeffries lightened the mood by promising Ochenehi his favovite American meal, Bono’s babyback ribs and French fries.
“French fries, that’s my favorite, ” Ochenehi said with a grin.
Jeffries placed a call to Nigeria, where it was early evening. Ochenehi’s father answered and she handed Ochenehi the phone. For the first time in seven years, he heard his father’s voice.
That led to more tears and more damp tissues. Ochenehi told his father he’d be flying home soon, leaving Jacksonville on Thanksgiving Day so he can resume his medical education.
Odido will stay longer in Jacksonville while he works with a speech therapist. He lost his hearing as a young child and so is having difficulty with speech, having communicated all his life with sign language.
Leaving will be hard, Ochenehi said.
“It’s becoming difficult to say goodbye, ” he said. “They taught me what it means to care for people. I think this has been one of the best periods of my life. I don’t want to wake up from this dream.”
But he’s decided he has a mission to perform in Nigeria and he’s chosen a medical specialty he wants to pursue in order to fulfill that mission.
“I’ve decided to go for ENT [ears, nose and throat], ” he said. “This has been a life-changing experience for me. … I hope one day I’ll be able to put a smile on a child’s face like they did for me.”
Charlie Patton, writer for The Florida Times Union, wrote a front page article about the Cochlear Implant surgery that was recently performed by Dr. J. Douglas Green. This amazing story was published on November 19th and is titled “Sound procedure brings pure joy”. Read the Full Story here.
What is it like to not hear splashing of water when swimming or not be able to participate fully in Marco Polo with your friends at a pool party? Imagine hearing only silence. For Rachel, a 12 year old bilateral cochlear implant recipient and JHBI patient, situations such as these could not be experienced or fully enjoyed.
Rachel lost her hearing completely at age 5 years and quickly received a cochlear implant to each ear. Since her surgeries, Rachel uses her cochlear implant external sound processors to hear again. She has excelled in school and has even learned to play the violin. Rachel’s original sound processors were water resistant but not waterproof, and she could not use them while swimming or bathing and could not hear to communicate in these situations.
In March 2012, Rachel’s cochlear implant manufacturer, Advanced Bionics, released the first completely waterproof sound processor, the Neptune. When Rachel and her family learned of this new processor option, she immediately “had to have it”. After the Neptune was fit to her right ear, she immediately raced home and went swimming in her back yard.
Share with Rachel and her parents as she uses her new external cochlear implant Neptuneprocessor to enjoy swimming and hearing underwater for the first time.
Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute is sponsoring a hole in this local golf tournament where all proceeds go to support the many programs that Metro Kids Konnection offers to local children. The Tournament is October 22nd at The Golf Club at South Hampton. For more information on this wonderful charity, go to:
Metro Kids Konnection is a community-based program that intentionally creates caring personal relationships with at-risk children and youth in order to identify and address obstacles to healthy lifestyle choices in their community, families and school.
“I want the most discrete hearing aid possible so that I don’t look old.” This is heard almost daily during our hearing aid consultations. Despite the significant advancements in hearing aid size and technology, there is one thing that hasn’t changed: their stigma. Although a hearing aid is much less noticeable than the hearing loss itself, people continue to shy away from being properly amplified due to the perceived negative impact that it may have on their daily lives. Well, a young girl named Samantha wants to change your perspective on hearing aid use.
“Sean (her brother) and I were born with hearing loss. We both wear hearing aids. It’s not that hard to get used to wearing hearing aids. All you need to do is think of good things and then you put it in your ear and you hear better. That’s all there is to it!”
Samantha, age 8, has written a book about her experience with wearing hearing aids and an FM system at school. The book, called “Samantha’s Fun FM Unit and Hearing Aid Book” was written to explain why she wore her hearing aids at school and to help other hearing aid users (adults and children alike) feel the positive impact of hearing aids. The book not only examines Samantha’s perspective of hearing aids, but also teaches about daily use of the aids and FM system.
Earlier this morning, Dr. Douglas Backous and his team at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, WA, offered a rare inside look at a cochlear implant surgery, from start to finish. We followed this with great interest, as the surgery generated significant discussion on social media. Thanks to those involved for sharing this experience with us. See below for information on the series from the Swedish Medical center website. Who knows, maybe this will inspire us to do something similar in Jacksonville!
These are some of the many questions you may have if you know or love someone with hearing loss or deafness. Or, you may have hearing loss and be wondering if there is anything you can do about it.
To help raise awareness around options for those with hearing loss, Dr. Douglas Backous, medical director of the Center for Hearing and Skull Base Surgery at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, developed this video series to increase awareness of cochlear implant surgery as a treatment option for hearing loss. The series will culminate in a live-tweeted and Instagrammed cochlear implant surgery at 7:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, followed by a live chat on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10 a.m and 6 p.m. (Pacific Time) with leading hearing-loss experts.
This series was developed to increase awareness of cochlear implant surgery as a treatment option for hearing loss, to raise awareness of this life-changing surgery and to demonstrate that people who are deaf can have the ability to hear.
Two short videos discussing hearing loss and cochlear implant surgery will be released every week throughout September and early October on this page. (All videos have transcripts that can be viewed on the individual videos’ YouTube pages. Also, closed captioning is available for each video by pressing the CC button located on the video action bar after the video begins playing.)
That is over 4 times the amount of people who live in New York City!
The statistics are shocking and even more so knowing that over half of those 36 million Americans are under the age of 65. Hearing loss is an increasing health concern in this nation that is often preventable. Taking time to see an audiologist for regular hearing screenings and knowing the signs of hearing loss can protect your hearing. Make an appointment with an audiologist this October during National Audiology Awareness Month.
“Hearing loss can be caused by exposure to loud noises, ear infections, trauma, or ear disease; harm to the inner ear and ear drum, illness or certain medications, and deterioration due to the normal aging process,” explains Liz Pearson, Audiologist. The amount of noise Americans are exposed to today plays an important role in the recent increase of hearing loss across the nation. It is no longer just a health concern for seniors.
Have you stopped going to restaurants and social gatherings? Do you keep to yourself when in noisy environments? If you answered yes, you may have a hearing problem. Some tell signs of hearing loss are: trouble hearing conversation in a noisy environment such as restaurants, difficulty or inability to hear people talking to you without looking at them, and/or a constant pain or ringing in your ears.
On average, most Americans don’t know how to recognize the first signs of hearing loss or which health professional is qualified to diagnose and treat the condition. If you think you may have a hearing loss, you need to see an audiologist.
An audiologist is a licensed and clinically experienced health-care professional who specializes in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating people with hearing loss and balance disorders. The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is to get your hearing evaluated by an audiologist. A hearing evaluation will determine the degree of hearing loss you have and what can be done. Although most hearing loss is permanent, an audiologist can determine the best treatment, which may include hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and hearing rehabilitation.
In response to the growing number of Americans suffering from hearing loss, the American Academy of Audiology in conjunction with Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute has launched National Audiology Awareness Month this October.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us at 904.399.0350.
Some people experience unilateral hearing loss, or hearing loss in just one of their ears. Dr. Jacqueline Olson and her patient Brian Register talk about the solutions with a CROS hearing aid on another segment of First Coast Living.