Living Life to the Fullest After Cochlear Implant Surgery

Lucile Lichtblau had managed her progressive hearing loss for about 20 years with the help of hearing aids. Like her mother and aunt who had similarly experienced adult onset hearing loss, Lucile did her best to compensate. She learned to read lips, she used captions when watching television, and she sat as close to the stage as possible at the theater. But as her condition worsened, even those efforts weren’t enough. She grew so frustrated that she stopped going out to restaurants and friends’ homes and dropped out of her three discussion groups.             

When a friend suggested she investigate cochlear implants, she began to do online research and became very discouraged. “They paint a very bleak picture, and much of the information is actually misleading,” she says. Her husband, an orthopedist, asked an otolaryngologist friend for a referral, and he recommended Maura K. Cosetti, MD, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Director of the Cochlear Implant Program at the Ear Institute at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai.

By now, Lucile had no hearing in her right ear and only minimal hearing in her left. When extensive testing revealed that Lucile had 0 percent hearing for words and sentences, she reasoned that she had nothing to lose. She put her faith in Dr. Cosetti, and she was not disappointed. She received a cochlear implant in her right ear in October 2017. On the drive home after activation a month later, her husband turned on the car radio and, for the time in years, Lucile could hear the music of flutes. All the high notes had previously been lost and, until then, Lucille had heard no melody, only noise.

Her scores went from zero to 72 percent for words and 80 percent for sentences. Her hearing is far from perfect, but she’s delighted with the results. “My cochlear implants have been life changing,” the 86-year-old says. “I’m back in my discussion groups, I can go to restaurants and have people over for dinner, I can hear well at the theater, I can hear lectures from the Great Courses series…I’ve been able to get my life back.”

Lucile feels strongly that possible candidates for cochlear implants should not be discouraged by what they read online, but that they should seek out people who have had the procedure before deciding. As for a treatment center, “I am completely sold on the Ear Institute,” she says. “Dr. Cosetti is a fabulous doctor, and the entire staff treats patients young and old like royalty. Right away, you feel like you’re in good hands.”