Seniors | Cochlear implants can solve hearing loss for some people

Hearing loss is much more common than most people realize. In fact, it is such a prevalent condition that only arthritis and hypertension affect more people. If left untreated, the consequences of hearing loss can be severe and greatly impact the quality of life and personal relationships of those affected.

Whether you are a spouse, a caregiver or a friend of someone with hearing loss, coping with the condition can be difficult. Communication may become greatly hindered, causing you to speak and share less with your loved one. It can also lead to less involvement in social activities and increased feelings of depression or isolation.

Howard Listwa, who received a cochlear implant in December 2010, and his wife, Sherree

“Before my husband found the right treatment for his hearing loss, we found ourselves leaving early from social events or declining them altogether,” says Sherree Listwa of her husband, Howard. “Hearing all day at work and then again on the weekends for social events was too tiring for Howard. It was a little depressing for both of us as we had three busy sons and many social invitations.”

According to the Better Hearing Institute, a large number of people wait 15 years or longer from when they first recognize they have hearing loss before they purchase their first hearing aids. Once they take this step, it may take another several years of being unhappy with hearing aids for them to realize that they are not the only option. The good news is that there is another solution that can medically treat more substantial degrees of hearing loss.

 “In 2008, after years of using the best and most powerful hearing aids, Howard’s audiologist began to mention the possibility of a cochlear implant,” says Listwa. “However, it wasn’t until 2010 that Howard became serious about looking into the technology. The breaking point came when we observed someone with two cochlear implants in a noisy restaurant, talking and enjoying their meal. We knew that day that there was help and hope.”

A cochlear implant is life-changing technology proven to help adults with severe to profound hearing loss, which is commonly known as “nerve deafness.” Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants bypass damaged parts of the inner ear and directly stimulate the hearing nerve to provide sound signals to the brain.

 “Following Howard’s cochlear implant in December 2010, there were immediate changes in his ability to hear and in our ability to participate in everyday things that most people take for granted,” says Listwa. “We now enjoy socializing, going to concerts and have even made some new friends. Howard is also involved in playing his cello again and is able to read stories to our granddaughter. He says he has ‘gotten his life back’ and that’s true for me as well.”

Unlike hearing aids, cochlear implants are covered by Medicare, most private health insurance plans, and may be covered by Medicaid. Additionally, the cochlear implant evaluation is typically covered by most insurance companies.

 “Howard wishes that he had looked into a cochlear implant earlier so he could have enjoyed the social life he now realizes he was missing. Our advice to anyone who is a candidate and is able to have the surgery is to go for it — you have everything to gain!”

To learn more and to find a cochlear implant clinic near you, visit To speak to someone who has a cochlear implant about his or her experience, call (800) 483-3123 or email [email protected]