IM this article to a friend!

December 7, 2002

Commissioner receives ear implant

From: Las Vegas Review Journal, NV - 07 Dec 2002


Longtime Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury returned to work this week after undergoing surgery last month to repair a hearing problem that started when he was in his late 20s.

Woodbury, 57, who attended County Commission meetings this week with his ear bandaged, is nearly fully recovered from a Nov. 13 operation at the University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center.

He said it has been particularly difficult for him to hear in crowds, and he has used hearing aids for much of his life. On business-related telephone calls, his secretary often listens in and transcribes the other end of the conversation for him.

Cochlear implants like Woodbury's electrically stimulate nerves in the inner ear of people who suffer from hearing loss. The stimulation of the nerves allows some implant recipients to hear, even people who have gone completely deaf.

"I am wired for sound," Woodbury said jokingly. "The doctors told me it went very well. They tested the implants while I was under the anesthesia and they said the indications were good."

Woodbury said he is scheduled for a follow-up treatment next week. He still hasn't received a microphone and processor, which are essential to making the implant work correctly, he said.

Sounds are picked up by the small microphone located in a headset at the ear. Sounds are sent from the microphone to the processor, which is a tiny, powerful computer, according to a manual on the implants.

The processor then filters and digitizes the sounds that are sent by a coil as FM radio signals to the cochlear implant under the skin. And, the resulting electrical sound information is sent to the brain for interpretation.

Woodbury said the learning process can be like starting all over again.

"Your brain has to learn a new way of hearing. Some hear better right away, and for others it takes a while," Woodbury said.

Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1997 - 2002