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Cochlear implant’s success is music to patient’s ears

Jan. 28, 2016, 9:57 AM

Sidney Kleinman is living proof that you’re never too old to have your hearing restored.

Kleinman, 83, has been a successful attorney in Chicago living with hearing loss for nearly 50 years. His career has taken him from marching with Civil Rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, to working on hundreds of legal cases in Chicago. But even with the help of a series of progressively stronger hearing aids, he lost nearly all the hearing in his left ear.

Sidney Kleinman

That’s what brought Kleinman to the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center in November 2015, where he received a cochlear implant — a surgically implanted electronic device that restores hearing to people with severe-to-profound hearing loss.

“They did absolutely a wonderful job,” he said. “It was amazing. I never had any real pain… The implant started working immediately.”

Kleinman’s surgery was conducted by David Haynes, M.D., professor of Otolaryngology, Neurosurgery and Hearing and Speech Sciences and co-director of the cochlear implant program.

“I’m very impressed with all the accomplishments that Mr. Kleinman has achieved despite his hearing loss,” Haynes said. “I’m very grateful for him to be so appreciative of the care that he received here.”

The cochlear implant program at Vanderbilt, and the program it merged with in 2004, the Otology Group, is one of the oldest and largest in the country. It has performed more than 2,500 procedures in Nashville over 35 years.

The program is part of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, which draws patients from all 50 states for treatment of ear, nose and throat diseases, and communication disorders such as hearing, speech, language and voice problems.

Haynes and Vanderbilt’s team of doctors and communication specialists worked together to accommodate Kleinman’s schedule, starting with rescheduling his surgery after a flight delay from Chicago.

René Gifford, Ph.D., associate professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences and co-director of the cochlear implant program, programmed Kleinman’s implant the day after his surgery in order to expedite his trip back to Chicago. The programming process normally occurs approximately two weeks later.

“I can’t say enough good things” about the care at Vanderbilt, Kleinman said. “And remarkably now, music from opera to jazz sounds to me just as beautiful and wonderful as it last sounded before my hearing loss all those years ago.”

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