Hearing restored by cochlear implant after 51 years of silence
Posted Sep 03 2010 9:22am
A man born profoundly deaf can hear for the first time – thanks to a new cochlear implant.
Richard Bizley, 51, from Lyme Regis, said his life has been changed by the implant, which has enabled him to hear everyday sounds like birds singing and people talking.
Artist Mr Bizley is feeling more confident and happy since having the implant earlier this year, and is able to cope better with running his own art gallery, BizleyArt.
Richard underwent an operation in March at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at Southampton University, and was fitted with the implant six weeks later.
He said: “It’s life changing. Because of the extraordinary skill of the surgeon and the dedicated staff and the marvels of technology, I feel so much happier, more confident in meeting people, friends and family.
“It is a very exciting time for me after being so profoundly deaf for 51 years.
“My implant means I am able to cope more in my job as a gallery owner, dealing with the public and therefore it helps me keep my job.”
The father-of-three, who has worn hearing aids since the age of two, was taught to speak when growing up and communicates by lip reading.
“The sounds that I could hear with hearing aids were very limited and distorted or non-existent,” said Mr Bizley. “I have never been able to hear the high frequencies essential for speech and some other frequencies.”
He said lip reading is not enough for the ‘outside’ world, but it has enabled him to communicate in the home with wife Ruth, and their children Laura, 19, Katie, 17, and Michael, 13.
Mr Bizley developed Meniere’s Disease five years ago, a disease of the inner ear, which distorted and further removed what little hearing he had left.
After being struck again with the disease recently, it was suggested by one of Mr Bizley’s friends that he looked into getting a cochlear implant.
Having assumed he was not suitable for an implant, he was told after extensive tests that it was possible.
“I was astounded,” said Mr Bizley. “I did not have to think twice about going ahead, I knew it was the right thing to do.
“I didn’t realise what a noisy world we live in,” he said. “I’m not used to it because I’ve always lived in silence.”
He has been told it will take a long time to learn the essential sounds of speech and that he will never hear 100 per cent. “But the main thing is that already I am hearing a lot more than I have ever done,” he said.
“It is a marvellous, exciting experience. It is hard for people to appreciate what they have regarding hearing, without it you lack the constant access to information which people take for granted, and of course there is music. I hope one day to enjoy music, but it is early days yet, and the cochlear implant centre is currently doing more research on this.”
Mr Bizley is urging other people who wear hearing aids to check if they are eligible for an implant. “I shudder to think how easy it would have been for me not to have the implant simply due to ignorance,” he said.
He added: “Remember when talking to deaf people, do not shout. Speak a little more slowly and clearly, be sure that the person is looking at you before you speak.”