Beck: Hi Mr. Kleinman, thanks for meeting with me today.
Kleinman: Hi Dr. Beck, thanks for the invitation.
Beck: Id like to learn a little about your hearing history that led up to your getting a cochlear implant. When did you first notice your hearing difficulty?
Kleinman: In December of 1967, at 9 AM I had a meeting with a client. By 9:30 AM I could not hear out of right ear. It went out that fast. It was diagnosed as sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Nobody knows what happened or why. With my total loss of hearing in the right ear, I also had Menieres and tinnitus too, so maybe the sudden loss and the Menieres were related, but usually Menieres comes on more gradually. Prior to that, while working my way through college in Detroit, I worked in an auto plant. I believe the exposure to air compressor noises from 11 PM till 7 AM every day created noise damage to my hearing. So even though the left ear tested as normal when the right went out in 1967, a few years later the hearing in my left ear began to deteriorate rapidly. In 1985, I recall the left ear lost about half of its hearing acuity within a few days.
Beck: When did you start wearing hearing aids?
Kleinman: I really never wore a hearing aid in the right. The right ear went out in a half hour period and by the time the left had become bad enough for me to seek hearing help, the right ear thresholds were worse than 125 dB, so I only felt vibrations in the right ear, but did not hear any sound.
Beck: Did you wear a hearing aid on the left?
Kleinman: Yes. Starting in 1982, I have worn in-the-ear and others on the left. The only one that has been most useful is the Phonak Claro, a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, which I presently use. The others just didnt have the power in the right frequencies to really help me significantly. The Claro has been very good and is very reliable.
Beck: And then you received a cochlear implant in the right ear in September of 2000?
Kleinman: Yes. Thats correct. I have the Nucleus 24 Cochlear Implant with a 3G behind-the-ear processor on the right and the Claro BTE on the left. They work really well together. Before I had the cochlear implant, it could take me a minute or two for my brain to process speech and other sounds and make sense out of what I was hearing. But since I received the implant, I can make sense out of sound in real time.
Beck: As an attorney, it seems like the demands on your hearing would be substantial. You need to hear testimony while someone is on the stand, and you need to be able to hear and respond with clients, colleagues and others, and of course phone calls, and of course people usually speak quietly with their attorneys!
Kleinman: Yes, all of those are real issues. The Nucleus 24 Cochlear implant and the Claro together allow me to understand about 95 percent of all voices. I have very little problem, if any, hearing most people. Because my hearing aid is nothing more than a very good amplifier, it is my Nucleus 24 Cochlear implant that provides the acuity and full reproduction of sound which I never had before. Even the telephone is pretty good, and I get by very well using the phone. Right now I am using the Claro as we speak, but I also use the cochlear implant for telephone use to achieve a very full sound. When on the telephone, I also sometimes use the telecoil on my 3G BTE implant processor when I need to achieve absolute certainty of the conversation.
Before I had the implant I was very concerned about my ability to continue practicing law, as my ability to hear was a substantial problem. Before I received the Nucleus 24 even in a quiet environment with male voices, I struggled while using a hearing aid alone to understand the conversation. Now with the implant with or without use of a hearing aid, all sounds I hear are richer, fuller, distortion-free, distinctive and clear. For the first time in my adult life, I am able to hear clearly and distinctly both high and low tones. As a result, I always have my 3G BTE on- because I dont want to miss any sound!
Beck: How long did it take from the time your cochlear implant was activated until you could make sense out of the words and other sounds?
Kleinman: Basically immediately. I heard speech from the first word, and for the very first time I heard the dinging bell on the microwave, and the clicking of the mouse on my computer. By the second tune-up it was even better, but I heard well with the cochlear implant from the get go. I was tested about 4 months ago and with the implant, I hear better than I have heard in 35 years. My sentence scores are above 90% and my hearing in noise is at 80%. Before the implant, I would sit in my office with a client, and without the implant I would get one of three words or so. Now I go to Art Institute of Chicago lectures, and various art shows, and now I get virtually 100 percent of the spoken words. The acuity is spectacular. Its like I have real ears.
Beck: What about music? How does music sound?
Kleinman: My wife and I have seasons tickets for the Lyric Opera in Chicago. Last Saturday we saw Samson and Delilah and the fullness and quality of the sound was incredible. My brain perceives a terrific depth of sound with the two systems together. In fact I recall discussing with my wife that during the second act, that the woman playing Delilah wasnt singing as expected, and we discussed the fine points of her singing voice in detail it was just marvelous. We also attend many of the DePaul University School of Music events.
Beck: Is there any time when you prefer the hearing aid, or perhaps the cochlear implant by itself, rather than the two together?
Kleinman: No, I always use the two together. I find hearing from both ears is superior to only hearing out of one. While I hear beautifully and clearly with my cochlear implant , I feel using a hearing aid on the other ear really helps me localize sound and provides improvements in background noise. This should be of no real surprise to you Doug, as audiologists have been promoting binaural hearing for years because of the benefits. But having said that, the only time I might wear just one is when I need to concentrate on a project and there's too much distracting sound around me! In these rare instances, I prefer to wear my cochlear implant alone. The sound is much richer and clearer than I receive with my hearing aid.
Beck: Was there ever a defining moment when you thought Oh my, getting the implant was exactly the right thing to do.
Kleinman: Yes, there were a few. I recall driving the car through Detroit, after getting the implant. While driving, my wife and I had a normal conversation without me having to look at her. It was amazing. I heard every word through my Nucleus 24 Cochlear Implant. Later that day when we were in the entryway of the hospital, we were about 25 feet away from each other and my back was turned to her, she said my name in a normal voice, and I turned and said, Yes? It really is miraculous.
Beck: Lets talk a little about your biking adventures. All I know is you bike further than most people drive!
Kleinman: Well, I like to do long distance bike rides. And they really are safer when you can hear with both ears! I did a 660 mile ride in New Zealand, and I did a 1,000 mile trip along the Mississippi by myself for the American Tinnitus Association, which was financially supported by Phonak and the Cochlear Americas . I think my long distance bicycle riding helps show that hearing aids and cochlear implants dont have to limit you. You can do whatever you set your mind to.
Beck: Any advice for people considering getting a cochlear implant?
Kleinman: I would tell them not to wait! Their life will be enormously enriched by getting a cochlear implant, more than they can possibly imagine Their world will open up and they will hear things they never heard before and will be able to easily communicate with others. They will be extremely happy that they were implanted. I am still amazed at the quality of speech and sounds I hear, and I would do it again in a minute.
Beck: Sid, its a joy to speak with you. Thanks for your time.
Kleinman: Thank you too Dr. Beck. Its been fun.
Beck: Hi Mr. Kleinman, thanks for meeting with me today.