There have been many great videos in recent years of people hearing for the first time with cochlear implants. However, I am convinced I saw documentary footage back in the '70s of a girl for whom doctors managed to do the same (electronically, surgically, I do not know). I do recall that the girl, as usually happens, wept heavily with joy but could not speak intelligibly because she’d never heard her own voice before…at least that’s what I recall my mother telling me.
Do any other old timers recall seeing this back before the procedure became relatively commonplace? I’ve searched for it online for some time but come up with nothing except recent ones. Thanks in advance, even just for confirmation that I did see it.
I can definitely confirm having seen this, circa 1980 give or take. The girl got to hear some pop music (no lyrics) thru an earpiece she was holding to her ear for the first time and she was pretty emotional. It was definitely PBS, my first guess would be an early episode of NOVA.
Ok, I just did another search, think this was it (scroll down near the bottom): An episode of NOVA, *Across the Silent Barrier *which first aired in June 1977! Unfortunately I can’t find any other info about it (even on the PBS site).
Do you remember if the girl understood what people were saying to her? There are plenty of videos on YouTube showing people who are supposedly hearing for the first time in their lives, yet they understand what others are saying to them (link to one of them). Is that possible or would they have only been partially deaf? If they had been completely deaf, I would have thought they’d have to first learn the sounds of words before they could understand speech.
I cannot recall but wish the video were available to know. I only recall her blubbering incoherently (not an insult) because based on what my mom told me, she’d NEVER heard sounds before and so was unable to form words to express her joy. But being almost 40 years ago, childhood memories can be flawed, and often are.
The cochlear implant didn’t give clear hearing until 1978 . Before that, there were some prototype implants, which could improve deaf peoples contact with the world … eg the low quality sound would still assist in lip reading…
But of course there are many causes of deafness, and they were doing surgeries on the ear for many reasons.
eg The world’s first stapedectomy is credited to Dr. John J.Shea Jr. who performed it in May 1956 on a 54-year-old housewife who could no longer hear even with a hearing aid.
The idea would be that most surgeries to correct hearing in children, or are not so dramatic, as they restore from medium quality hearing to good hearing to someone who was suffering some disease. Whereas the first stapedectomy in 1956 turned the hearing from very bad (necessary for the trial of a new technique … as it can’t make it worse… ) to good for that lady.
There are other surgeries, stapedectomy is just an example.
Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote an interesting piece once (it was expanded into a terrible Val Kilmer movie) about a blind man whose vision was restored, and who found that it was an unpleasant, even scary experience.
I am not qualified to discuss the medical reasons, but to oversimplify… even if the immediate cause of blindness is a simple problem with the eyes, there’s a LOT more to vision than just the eyes. The eyes take in images, but then the brain has to unscramble and make sense of those images.
That’s not a simple task, and in persons who’ve never been able to see, the portion of the brain that’s supposed to unscramble and interpret visual data may have atrophied. If the eye problem is fixed, the brain may get hit with all kinds of data that it’s not capable of interpreting correctly. As a result, perceptions of distance and perspective may be totally off. An airplane that’s a mile up in the sky may appear as if it’s right on top of you, or a car that’s 100 yards away may look as if it’s about to hit you.
For someone who’s always been completely deaf, I can only imagine that sudden exposure to sound COULD be equally unsettlng. What if the brain tissue that’s supposed to interpret sound has atrophied. Would the newly cured person be overwhelmed? Could he/she tell the difference between loud and soft noises? And even if all went well, how long would it take for spoken words to make sense to him/her?
That came up in a fairly recent thread, and is what made me wonder about deaf people who can suddenly hear being able to understand instantly what’s being said to them. There were several examples in the thread of blind people gaining sight who couldn’t adapt to it. Depression and sickness was a common result and sometimes led to an early death.
Heck, when my wife, who is not completely deaf has very poor hearing, started wearing hearing aids she found it extremely annoying that everything made a sound from turning a page on a book to the whirring of the refrigerator. Since she was used to hearing only the most prominent sounds, she hadn’t learned the skill of ignoring most of the sounds around her. Something which most of us do without thinking. Even then she would constantly ask me “what’s that sound?” and I would have to figure out which of the many background noises she was referring to.
Previously being a fully functioning hearing person, in 2009 I went deaf in one hear. In some senses, it was merely an inconvenience, while in others it was more subtle, but dramatic. While I can still talk and understand in most environments, I lost the ability to understand in noisy environments AND the ability to locate sounds. This includes the ability for my brain to filter out sounds I’m not interested in. I, too, would often ask my spouse, “What’s that sound?” My enjoyment of movies also went way down. (No directional hearing.)
The loss of binaural hearing has taken longer for me to appreciate and has been bothering me more recently. Next week my ENT will loan me a sample device that returns binaural hearing to me. I’m trying not to get too excited about it, just in case it doesn’t work on me. The return of binaural hearing, however, would be a BIG boon for me.