José's hearing journey
It was “simply wonderful” for José Luis Iguain when in early 2000 years ago he received his cochlear implants (CIs). The Argentinian was the first person in Latin America to be given two implants at the same time. Since then, a lot has changed for the physicist who’s also a married father-of-four. Just one month after the implantation, José, born in the late 1960s, could understand speech, despite having relied on lip-reading for 19 years.
José’s life can be divided into three distinctive parts: his time as a child with normal hearing; the years between 1981 and 2000 when he was deaf after taking antibiotics for blood poisoning at the age of 14; and the years since his operation for cochlear implants. “Between 1981 and 2000, I could hardly understand people without lip-reading,” he says. He also had problems with phone conversations and listening to the radio or to music. Though he came to terms with the situation, he didn’t always find it easy: “I tried to do everything myself. But sometimes it was hard work – for me and for the people around me.” So it’s all the more surprising that he adapted to the CI within such a short time.
A few months after the implantation, José went to Paris for two years to do postdoctoral research. “The implants helped me a lot with learning French,” he says. Immediately afterwards he went to Montreal for another two and a half years and today he works as a professor at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata in Argentina, researching condensed matter and statistical physics. “The implants help me incredibly with my social relationships and independence,” says José. His hearing may not be as good as most people’s but the difference is only slight. “I can understand people during meetings, I can use the telephone, listen to music, watch television, and go to the cinema and theatre,” he adds.
In 2013, one implant had to be replaced. Hearing again with both ears means a lot to him: “Hearing silence is beautiful; hearing nothing is terrible,” he says.