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Cochlear implants allow grandfather to hear again

Cochlear implants are allowing a local grandfather the opportunity to hear and talk with ease to his family again. (WKRC)

DRY RIDGE, Ky. (WKRC) - A family in northern Kentucky says they have yet another reason to celebrate this holiday season as they recently got a great gift back.

Like most kids, the Courtneys' grandkids can't wait for Christmas. But this year they are especially excited. For the first time, thanks to an ear, nose and throat team at UC Health, they are getting to share the holiday and the sounds of the season with their whole family, including their grandparents.

Debbie and Jerry Courtney have been married 42 years, but the last few have seen more difficulty in communication.

"We had gotten to the point that we didn't really talk to each other very much because I had to yell when I talked to him," said Debbie.

The kids weren't really talking to Jerry anymore either.

"They just kind of ignored me because they said, 'I know Grandpa just can't hear,'" said Jerry.

But now, Jerry has the chance this holiday season to hear everything, including the voice of his six-year-old grandchild, whom he's never heard speak.

None of this would have been possible had it not been that, a short time ago, Jerry had something put in that enabled him to have that hearing back, and it's made a huge difference.

Jerry had his second cochlear implant in 2016. These devices go on the outside of the head and are attached by a magnet to the implants which are surgically placed underneath the skin.

Cochlear implants replace the function of the damaged inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, these bypass the damaged hair cells of the inner ear, or the cochlea, and provide sound signals to the brain.

"It picks up the sound in the environment and allows the patient to hear," said Dr. Lisa Houston, a clinical audiologist.

"It just gave me a whole new life; that's all there is to it," Jerry said.

So, this Christmas, as the Courtney kids share the sounds of the season, all Jerry and Debbie can say is:

"It's wonderful, and the fact that he can hear what they are saying to him...we just have so much to be thankful for," Debbie said.

The good news about these implants is that, in most cases, now they are covered by medical insurance plans if you meet certain criteria. Otherwise, you are looking at about a $30,000 per ear procedure.

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