Last Friday, Jon Stauff was nice enough to make the visit to good ol’ St. Ambrose to talk about his cochlear implants, balance, and his ongoing hearing disability. His journey is an interesting one; from hearing to deafness and back again. Jon explained to us about growing up in New Jersey, his obsession with the Jersey Shore and Snooki (being slightly facetious here), teaching at St. Ambrose in the History department for over 10 years, teaching in Virginia for a couple years, and eventually going back home to direct the Center for Global Engagement at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) which he is passionate about.
Jon explained to us that he was born with some hearing, but little by little he began to lose the ability to hear higher frequencies. He struggled his entire life, using hearing aids to get through schooling, graduating with his PhD in German History. The choice he made to come to Ambrose to teach was because of the security he felt there. He knew that the close-knit family here at SAU would be a good place for him to pursue his career, and that his disability wouldn’t limit him. Eventually after making a few trips to the University of Iowa Hospitals, Jon was introduced to the opportunity of participating in a study which maintains what hearing is left in the patient, but installs a cochlear implant with 6 electrodes in the inner ear in order to increase hearing in the higher frequencies. This implant is used as a replacement for the cilia in his ears, which were no longer functioning properly. He himself was a research participant in this brand new study, hoping to see results. After time passed, and the experimental surgery eventually failed, he decided to get the complete cochlear implant in one of his ears. Although it would wipe out all of his natural hearing, he decided it was for the best. This particular surgery included installing an implant with 22 receptors, in order to better pick up on all frequencies. The aftermath of the surgery included vertigo, which lasted for several months, and affected his balance (the inner ear is crucial for balance). However he was immediately was happy with the implant itself. After having it for some time, Jon began trying to get a cochlear implant for the other ear. To all of our surprise, the insurance company didn’t think it was very necessary to hear out of both ears; I mean who does that anyway? But thankfully he was finally able to get the the other surgery, and is very much enjoying the results.
Jon showed us the 5th generation speech processor that he was going to have programmed for him at the University of Iowa.
With each new generation of speech processor, his hearing continues to improve. Jon has pushed through a lot in order to achieve the hearing we so frequently take for granted. He was quite interesting and not to mention hilarious. It was a great experience to meet him.
Switching gears now to our study…we’re on a roll! After today’s data collection, we’ve seen 20 participants. It has been really interesting to watch people’s reactions when we tell them they have to pair a cognitive task with the balance one they are already trying to accomplish. It has been interesting having people realize their multi-tasking skills aren’t as outstanding as they thought they were. We have at least 10 participants to still take data on, so soon we’ll be able to start figuring out what it means! We’re looking forward to it! …and no Rob, I’m not being facetious.