Meet Dr. Paul

At 59, Dr. Paul is just now experiencing what many of us take for granted - the striking intricacy of sound. After recently receiving a cochlear implant at Ohio State's Eye and Ear Institute, he's hearing many familiar sounds for the first time: the beep of a microwave, his son's footsteps, even the whisper of his own breath.

The surgically implanted device provides sound to Dr. Paul, who has been profoundly hearing impaired since birth.

Peter Paul teaching

"I want more noise," says Dr. Paul, a college professor who lives in Westerville. "I just can't get enough of it."

Dr. Paul also is able to better perceive the fluctuation of his students' voices, the variant chirps of the cardinal, the difference between a police car and an ambulance.

"The longer you work with the implant, the better it becomes."

SILENT STRUGGLE

"I never liked going out to public places."

Dr. Paul's inability to hear well didn't slow him down academically. He learned to understand people by reading their lips. He earned a PhD and now teaches others how to educate deaf and hard-of-hearing students, using an interpreter to relay his lessons.

But, up until recently, communication for Dr. Paul was often a one-way street. Engaging conversations with students, colleagues, friends and family members were nearly nonexistent.

"I avoided social interaction," says Dr. Paul, who mainly conversed with Mary Beth, his wife of 28 years.

COCHLEAR IMPLANT RESTORES SOUND

"It's nothing short of a miracle."

Cochlear implants can provide hearing in patients who are profoundly hearing-impaired due to damage to sensory hair cells in their inner ear, or cochlea. Many patients are able to hear and understand speech, environmental sounds and music.

After learning last year he was a good candidate for a cochlear implant, Dr. Paul underwent the two-hour operation to have an internal processor implanted in his left ear. Dr. Bradley Welling, an otolaryngologist at Ohio State's Eye and Ear Institute, performed the procedure.

Five weeks later, Dr. Paul received an external processor. The device discretely wraps around the back of his left ear and is connected to a remote that allows him to channel the amplification toward different sounds, such as the voice of a person seated beside him.

MUSIC TO HIS EARS

"I wasn't aware of what I was missing."

As a child of the 1950s, Dr. Paul grew up loving the sound of Elvis Presley's voice, but "In the past," he says, "I didn't hear any words. I would just listen to his voice," It wasn't until he received his cochlear implant that he could finally hear Elvis' wide vocal range and the lyrics to classics like "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock." "It's unreal," Dr. Paul says.

HEAR EVER AFTER

"I have no fear of talking to anyone anymore."

Dr. Paul says the greatest advantage is that he's now more engaged.

He and Mary Beth planned a spring graduation party for their 22 year-old son, Peter Ben, and guests were surprised to see how social Dr. Paul had become. "Even I was shocked," Dr. Paul says.

"Going out to eat is more pleasurable than it's ever been," Dr. Paul continued. "Now I'm going anywhere and everywhere."

Perhaps his greatest joy is being able to discuss philosophy with his peers and students without the use of an interpreter.

"It's great to look around the classroom and see people's facial expressions and hear the tones and inflections of their voices."