Meandering Through A Hearing World 
Hearing Hope
In my journey through the hearing world I often browse the internet, searching for innovative hearing solutions. I’ve noticed that hearing aid manufacturers have made technological advancements with aids and assistive devices. Cochlear Implant manufacturers continue to improve their devices for a better hearing experience. There are all sorts of wonderful assistive hearing options, closed captioning for television and landlines, hearing loops in public buildings, streamers, which connect to televisions and roger’s pens and captioned options for smartphones. In short, there is a cornucopia of technological offerings to help people who suffer from any degree of hearing loss hear.
There is also a great deal of on-going research. A few weeks ago, I wrote about gene therapy studies at Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Oregon and Kansas Universities. The Pharmaceutical Company Novartis has developed a drug called CGF 166, which promises to regenerate hair cells in the inner ear. It is believed that those of us with sensorineural hearing loss have lost hair cells which leads to progressive deafness. No one knows why this occurs. There is some belief that the disease is genetic. Sometimes it is brought on by viruses or other illnesses or as a result of taking some types of drugs.
Earlier this year, I applied to participate in the CGF166 gene therapy study at Johns Hopkins and Columbia, only to find that researchers have temporarily shut down the study in order to assess the response of the first patients in those studies.
However some people were fortunate enough to participate in this ground breaking study. In the most recent addition of Hearing Life magazine, I read the story of Mr. Rip Wilson. He was among those first patients to receive the implanted gene at Columbia University. In the article Mr. Wilson describes his experiences. As the study’s nineteenth participant, he felt grateful for the opportunity. In the article, he shared information about the research team at Columbia. Mr. Wilson was pleased to say that he noticed some hearing improvement, particularly with lower-pitched sounds. It is believed that the implanted gene helped his inner-ear hair cells regenerate.
Reading his article filled me with hope. There is much research in the field of gene therapy, and I suspect that one day we will find a solution for hearing loss. My dad suffered from hearing loss and felt fortunate to receive one of the first cochlear implants. The technology in the 1980s wasn’t very advanced. Yet he was happy that his new implant opened up a world of sound even though that sound was so mechanical it didn’t seem real. He looked to the future for better technology.
How far we have come! Hearing technology advances. Researchers are marching forward. I believe that with all these wonderful hearing achievements, I will see the day when there is cure for hearing loss, which will allow all of us suffering from hearing loss to walk a smoother path as we meander through the hearing world.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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