A Saskatchewan woman is spending more time in conversation after undergoing North America’s first-ever Neuro System cochlear implant surgery in August.
“Every time I pass my husband in the house, I say ‘say something, say something,’” Vi Flatt said with a laugh Friday at Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital.
It’s no surprise she’s eager to listen. The 80-year-old said she’s used hearing aids for roughly 35 years and her hearing has deteriorated since.
“When you first lose your hearing it happens so gradually that it becomes a new normal and you’re asking people to repeat and you don’t realize that you can’t hear,” Flatt said.
“You try and focus on what they’re saying and it doesn’t come through because you really don’t have the capability of listening.”
Flatt’s right ear has been completely deaf for a decade, according to doctors. In August, she had a device implanted under her skin behind that ear that allows her to now hear.
“What cochlear implants do is they allow people to regain their own entity, because they can connect with people, whether they’re family or friends,” said Dr. Nael Shoman, who performed the procedure at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.
Shoman added that the procedure is targeted toward those that have hearing loss to the point where hearing aids offer little or no benefit.
“For that population of patients, life can be very, very challenging,” Shoman said.
“It’s hard to connect with somebody else if you’ve lost hearing.”
The system collects sound through an external device. It then travels to the auditory nerve, which is connected to the brain. Shoman said roughly 45 people in Saskatchewan could qualify for the procedure annually.
Saskatoon is currently one of only five Canadian cities to offer the Neuro System, which was brought to country by Oticon Medical. The device was already available in various European cities for nearly a year.
Flatt said she’s still adjusting to the device as the sound is more mechanical than natural. However, she said she hopes to soon enjoy her favourite melodic pastime.
“My favourite is Floyd Cramer on the piano and I have to have that in my life.”