RUSH: Matt in Phoenix. I'm glad you called, sir, welcome to the program. Great to have you here.
CALLER: It is great to talk to you. I called you once 18 years ago. I was working as a paramedic. And right in the middle of our conversation I got a dispatch call and I had to hang up. And it's been 18 years trying to get through. But I'm glad I waited.
RUSH: Wow. You had a dispatch call and you had to hang up 18 years ago.
CALLER: The one time I got through to you I was working as a paramedic, and right in the middle of our conversation a tone went off and I got dispatched. And I had to hang up.
CALLER: I am, although I will say I did win life's lottery with my grandson. That's what I wanted to talk to you about. He is five years old. My wife and I are raising him with our daughter. He was born with auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder. So he kind of hears but it doesn't translate into anything. They explained it as hearing white noise. We had a cochlear implant done three years ago. And one of the most exciting days of my life was the day six weeks after the surgery when they turned it on. I just happened to be talking and that little boy whipped his head around with an astonished look on his face and just smiled. It was absolutely incredible. Now we're thinking about a second cochlear. And, as you know, the nerve, when they put in the cochlear it does stuff to the nerve. And I'm kind of wondering what you would advise on a second cochlear versus one, waiting longer? Basically, if you had to do it over again, from what you knew 10 years ago, would you have gone and done it immediately, or would you still have waited?
RUSH: I can't change the circumstances I was given. Ten years ago I was told fairly confidently that in 10 years there was going to be a cure for what ailed me and so I should keep my second ear untouched so that the cure could be applied to it and natural hearing restored.
CALLER: That's kind of what they told us.
RUSH: Right. But 13 years ago, it's all changed. Thirteen years ago the best science of the day said that all any cochlear implant patient needed was one. Whether they were deaf in both ears or not, only needed one, because two would be cost prohibitive; the benefits were not measurable in terms of speech comprehension and a number of things. But 13 years is a long time ago. Now, the last two years the medical community has been imploring me to get the second ear done because they've had an entire change of heart on the nature of bilateral implants and patient's success measured in terms of speech comprehension, perception of environmental sounds, spatial awareness, where sound comes from, and general enjoyment of life.
I'll tell you, 13 years ago, I said, "Why are we only doing one?" I never believed there was going to be a cure for baldness. I thought that was smoke and mirrors, but I had to trust the doctors. I couldn't understand why I wasn't getting two at once anyway. God gave me two ears. Why are you guys only going to replace one of them? What do you know that he didn't? That was my thinking on it. But I trusted what they said. In your case, what is the nature of your son's deafness? Are there any real possibilities that his natural hearing could be restored in his lifetime? He's only five years old, you said.
CALLER: Right now we don't know what he is actually -- we know he can hear noise. He just can't process that noise. The best way to explain it is it's like that nerve is asleep and it's constantly tingling. He can hear a noise but cannot process that into sound.
RUSH: Let me step in here again and try to help the audience understand this, because, folks, I'm going to venture to say that most of you don't understand what this man is saying. "What do you mean his son can't hear?" Because you can't relate to not hearing. People that have not experienced deafness -- I can't emphasize this enough, you cannot replicate deafness. You can't put your hands over your ears or headphones on your ears and replicate deafness; you can't do it.
You can close your eyes and be blind. You can strap yourself into a seat and not be able to walk. You can replicate other disabilities, but you cannot replicate deafness. So when you hear a man like on this call talk about "we don't know what our son is hearing, grandson, we don't know what he's hearing." He can't tell them what he's hearing. He doesn't know enough. Everybody's flying blind here. He doesn't know if he's hearing words. The things coming out of his parents' mouths, he's never heard words. He doesn't know what he's dealing with. His grandparents have no clue and the grandchild cannot tell them. It's the biggest mystery in the world.
Now, imagine Helen Keller who was blind and deaf. She went nearly insane trying to communicate with people. It's really a tough thing for people who can hear to put themselves in a position of people who can't, because you can't relate. Hearing sounds is easy, it's nothing. When that's all somebody hears and they don't know how to convert them into words because they've never heard words before -- your grandson has a lot of time ahead of him with therapists. They're going to try to teach him letters and vowels and language and this kind of thing. And I would just see how it goes in that one ear.
One thing to take solace in, though, regardless of what happens with speech and your grandson, he is always going to be connected to his environment via sound, and that's irreplaceable. Even if he doesn't know what you're saying, the fact that you're making sounds, he's going to interpret them some way and in conjunction with your facial expression, he's going to know when you're happy. He's going to know when you're not. He's going to be able to make connections, and you are going to establish ways to communicate. It may not verbal right off the bat. But the fact that he can hear environmental sounds, it's a safety thing.
He's going to hear sounds like a car close by or whatever, it's all good no matter what the negatives are. There's good in all of it. From what I'm being told by the doctors now, the second implant is only anecdotal. There's no really scientific empirical data on it, but all the anecdotal data is that the second implant is an improvement, to give you a short answer to the question.
CALLER: We know he can hear because when he's doing something he's not supposed to, like using grandpa's iPad without permission, he will take his implant and pull it off the side of his head and let it hang down so that, well, if he can't hear us, we obviously can't hear him, either.
RUSH: Right. Clever. You clever little guy, you. (laughing) But he can use an iPad with no problem?
CALLER: He has learned to use the iPad. And for a kid who was born with a brain malformation and deaf -- and we were told all sorts of things that were going to be wrong with this kid -- he is just absolutely an incredible kid. We gave him an old iPhone that we no longer were using and have it connected to the Wi-Fi so he can use his sign language apps on it. We haven't been able to get him an iPad yet, but that's down the road. And we're looking at the technologies to be able to connect with Bluetooth to the iPad.
RUSH: I was just reading last night -- and, by the way, Matt, don't hang up here. Apple and their latest iOS 7 has some of the most amazing hearing aid software. It's astounding. For people who can hear naturally to be able to hear in crowds, to improve hearing in crowds. It doesn't do people like me any good. You've got to have residual hearing. But Apple has some of the most incredible, you named it, low power Bluetooth, third-party hardware that works in conjunction with their system software that is apparently miraculous, used in conjunction with an iPhone. I wish, when I was reading the story, I wish it would work for me. But it doesn't because I don't have any residual natural hearing.
Now, I've gotta go. I'm going to put you on hold. But I want Snerdley to get your address. I'm going to send you guys an iPad Air so he can have his own, the least I can do. Just play yourself out with this first implant, see how it goes. You've got all the time in the world to decide whether to do a second one. And the doctors will tell you the best thing to do on it. I have full faith that they know what they're doing there. I'm not going to play doctor with you. Gotta take a break. Thanks for the call. Sit tight, we'll be back and don't hang up now, Matt, so Snerdley can get the address and tell me what color you want. We'll just send you the Air. I'm not sure we have any minis left. The Air is better because it's lightweight, thin, big screen. We'll do that.
RUSH: The grandson's name is Eric. We're going to send him a couple of Rush Revere books along with his iPad.