Practice A Patient’s Journey

The joy of cochlear implants

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 18 March 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2019
  1. Michel A Ibrahim, professor of epidemiology and medical doctor
  1. 1Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
  1. Correspondence to: M A Ibrahim mibrahim{at}
  • Accepted 3 January 2014

“What’s for dinner?” I asked my wife—who, by the way, frequently mumbles when she addresses me—as I entered the house and saw her working in the kitchen. I suspected she had a hearing problem, and so I moved closer and repeated, “What’s for dinner?” Having again received no response, I was almost certain it was because of her hearing loss. I then stood inches behind her and barked, “What’s for dinner?” She turned around to face me and barked right back, “For the third time: chicken!”

When I was about 55 years old, while watching the evening news one night, I realized that I was not able to comprehend some of it, which I attributed to the newsreader not speaking clearly. I also noticed my inability to hear and understand conversations in other situations, and the problem was brought into focus when I started not being able to hear (or understand) questions raised by students after I had given a talk in a large room. I began to have difficulty following conversations in small groups—initially in noisy places, but later in quiet environments as well.

When I could not follow a conversation, my mind would start to wander, and that essentially created an “attention deficit disorder” that exacerbated the hearing loss. In a small group setting, I was thought to be aloof. When lecturing in an auditorium, I would move closer to the person asking the question in order to hear better, and so I was characterized as being a “warm” person (little did they know that “warm” was a cover-up for “deaf”). The fear of not hearing and, therefore, not being able to respond intelligently led me to avoid social gatherings and to decline many speaking engagements. I was worried about becoming socially isolated and about the serious consequences …

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