Patient Testimonial: Cochlear implant saves a deaf & blind man’s hearing

At 25 years old, a brain tumor in the front left of Douglas LaFayette’s brain created optic nerve problems and eventually stole away his eyesight. Over the next several years, LaFayette experienced more tumors in his brain and ears. Eventually, he lost hearing because of a tumor. In June 2009, he woke up deaf.

“I thought I was going to lose my mind,” LaFayette said. “It’s like I was trapped in my body.”

LaFayette, 49, experienced sudden hearing loss in his left ear and lost hearing in his right progressively. LaFayette spent close to a year and a half almost completely blind and deaf. His wife, Janice, had to spell out letters on his hand to communicate. Before hearing about the option of cochlear implants at JHBI, the LaFayette family thought Douglas would be deaf for the rest of his life.

Douglas and his son, Nathaniel

“It’d take an hour to get a five-word sentence across,” Janice said. “He couldn’t write anything because he couldn’t see it. You get to a point where you have grieved the death of that relationship. And then you grieve over what could have been done if all the options had been known. He was trapped and we couldn’t communicate.”

In October 2010, LaFayette underwent surgery to receive a cochlear implant on his left ear. Eventually, he wants to get one in his right as well.

“People really need to know about cochlear implants,” LaFayette said. “I was told too much damage was already done. But I can hear now with my cochlear.”

Everything is different now for the LaFayette family. Douglas can converse on the phone with family he could not speak to for a year and hear his son laughing as he plays.

“It was very hard on a family and trying to raise a child as well,” LaFayette said. “But the best part is being able to hear all the words. Being able to hear ‘I love you’ from my wife. That’s the really cool part, being able to talk on the phone to my family.”