Beck: Hi Ruth. Thanks for your time today.
Fox: Hi Dr. Beck. Thank you too.
Beck: I should start by telling the readers were conducting this interview over the telephone. Youre in Michigan and Im in Texas. And its a funny thing, because you and I are accustomed to this, but it is remarkable because youre deaf and listening to me through your cochlear implant!
Fox: Yes, thats right, and I am hearing you fine.
Beck: Ruth, would you please tell me when you first noticed your hearing loss?
Fox: As far as we know, I was born with hearing loss and it got worse over the early years. I recall not hearing the teacher in kindergarten, and I cant recall ever actually hearing my peers. The first audiogram I have was done when I was 8 years old. Maybe I was tested before that, but I dont recall. Anyway, at the age of 8 years I had a 60 dB loss. But my parents didnt get me hearing aids at that time. I am not sure why, maybe it was denial, maybe it was fear of social rejectionI dont know. I was 17 years old and a senior in high school when I received my first hearing aids.
Beck: What was it like wearing hearing aids for the first time? Do you remember the first sounds you heard?
Fox: Well, the first hearing aid memory is really hard to recall. But among the earliest memories was a snowy day when the snow was slushy and wet. While wearing my hearing aids in the car that day, it was the first time I had heard slushing sounds from the snow and water around the car wheels. It was really something to realize such sounds were out there, and I hadnt heard them before.
Beck: I cannot imagine how difficult it mustve been to get through elementary, junior high and high school with your hearing loss!
Fox: It was difficult, and back then, I had no support services. Nonetheless, I did fine and I earned a high school diploma, a college degree in music, and a graduate degree in library science. After that, I also earned teaching certifications to teach special education -- and thats what I spent most of my career doing -- teaching in special education. I did that for 25 years.
Beck: Ruth, what made you decide to get a cochlear implant?
Fox: My hearing continued to deteriorate through the years I was teaching. I had up to 7 staff members that I couldnt hear and I couldnt hear my students or their parents either. I really didnt know what I wanted to do about the situation, but I knew I had to do something. I went to the National SHHH Convention that year and I met three people with cochlear implants -- and they were all doing better than me! So that helped me decide what to do. That SHHH meeting was in 1986, and in 1987, I got my cochlear implant.
Beck: Can you recall what it sounded like when you were initially turned on some 18 years ago?
Fox: At first it was just terrible and I thought it was the worst mistake of my life! Initially, I couldnt tell the difference between speech, noise or music. It all sounded like lots of parakeets squawking! But I started to listen to childrens music and worked with books on tape and I kept listening and listening, and after three months it sounded pretty good. I was starting to use the telephone and I was able to understand in the classroom. In fact, I could talk to the students parents on the telephone and understand what they were saying. It was amazing being able to just listen to them without using visual cues. These were the same people I couldnt understand before I was implanted -- even when using my hearing aids while looking directly at them! So my cochlear implant made a major difference in my one-on-one personal and professional communication.
Beck: Have you had the same device this whole time?
Fox: No. Actually in 2000, I needed to have an MRI. The only option at that time was to have the cochlear implant electrode removed because my original electrode was not MRI compatible, although the new ones are. After the MRI, I had the Nucleus Contour electrode implanted, and thats what Ive been using for the last five years.
Beck: Can you tell the difference between the first implant and the second one?
Fox: Yes. I could tell the difference right away. As soon as the new electrode was turned on, I picked up were I left off. But as time went by, I was able to do much better with the Contour electrode. So the quality of the sound improved, and I could perceive even more speech sounds and enjoy music more. .
Beck: Whats the best thing about the cochlear implant?
Fox: There are so many fabulous things. The cochlear implant makes me feel completely alive. I feel like Im part of the real world. Before I had the implant I felt alive and real, but everything I saw appeared a little surreal because there was no sound -- the world didnt speak to me! Now it does. I can hear my friends and family, I can hear the sounds I create when I interact with the world, and I can even hear music again. I do very well in conversations and I continue to look forward to hearing new sounds!
Beck: Ruth, youre delightful to speak with. Thanks so much for your time today!
Fox: Youre welcome Dr. Beck. Its been fun speaking with you.
For more information about cochlear implants, visit the Cochlear Website
Beck: Hi Ruth. Thanks for your time today.