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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

A new world of sound

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bill Henson receives instructions about his new Cochlear Baha implant from Cochlear representative Theresa Matuszak and Alisa Calhoun Tuesday afternoon. With the implant, Henson can hear out of his left ear for the first time since he was 8 years old. Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN
GREENCASTLE -- Bill Henson has spent most of his life only hearing half the world around him.

When he was 8 years old, Henson lost the hearing in his left ear after a battle with spinal meningitis. Since then, he's been unable to experience sound in the same way as most people.

"Hearing in one ear is like seeing with one eye," Henson said. "Cover an eye and you can't see anything over there. Take away one ear and you can't hear anything over there."

However, there's even more to just hearing with one ear. Henson said music has always been simply "a bunch of noise" to him. Technologies like stereo and surround sound are meaningless, if not detrimental.

At a large dinner, it's impossible to have a conversation with more than one person at a time. To pay attention to a person on one side, you must totally ignore the other.

And for Henson, who spent 47 years as a teacher, telling where noises came from in his classroom was impossible.

That all changed Tuesday, though, as Henson was fitted with a Cochlear Baha implant for his left ear at Hearing Care Professionals in Greencastle. With sounds coming in from both sides, Henson's eyes brightened and the joy spread across his face.

Cochlear Baha implant recipient Bill Henson and wife Donna Henson look on as Cochlear Americas representative Theresa Matuszak presents an award for the First Cochlear Alliance member in the Ohio Valley to Hearing Care Professionals owner Todd Oney and Alisa Calhoun, board certified in hearing instrument sciences. Bill Henson is the first recipient of a Cochlear Baha from a dispensing clinic in the Ohio Valley. Banner Graphic/JARED JERNAGAN
"I'm trying to hear which ear I'm hearing out of and I can't tell. I can just hear," Henson said.

Cochlear representative Theresa Matuszak leaned in close to whisper in Henson's ear.

"How about that weather today?" Matuszak asked.

"Isn't that something?" was Henson's simple response.

Henson's wife Donna was touched, wiping tears away while watching Bill's face.

Alisa Calhoun, who is board certified in hearing instrument sciences, said what made Henson a candidate for the Cochlear implant was his complete hearing loss in one ear.

The implantation process involves an outpatient surgery by which a titanium fixture is fused to the bone behind the ear. The implant helps transfer sounds through the bone to the functioning inner ear, bypassing any problems the patient might have in the outer or middle ear.

This is what made Henson a candidate. The nerves still functioned, in spite of the fact that the ear had seemed "dead" all these years.

"When I came and saw Alisa I said, 'Don't get too excited about my left ear because it has a dead nerve,'" Calhoun said.

It turned out, though, there was something that could be done.

Dr. Benjamin J. Copeland did Henson's surgery 12 weeks ago. After healing, Henson was ready to connect the sound processor on Tuesday afternoon.

The sound processor contains two microphones that search for speech and, if needed, it blocks out other sound.

"Isn't it amazing what they can do?" Henson asked. "And just in that tiny box?"

The tiny box can be turned on and off as well as taken on and off, for showering or sleeping, for example. It has controls for the volume and settings for situations with more or less background noise.

Calhoun said Hearing Care Professionals offer a number of ear and hearing related services, from custom ear buds to hearing aids to something as involved as an implant like Henson's. She said one of the biggest problems is awareness of the problem and awareness that something can be done.

"Out of 100 people, 20 have a hearing loss," Calhoun said. "Only one or two are doing something about it, so it's a problem."

Hearing Care Professionals is located at 204 N. Vine St. in Greencastle and can be reached at 655-1104.

For Henson, taking care of his hearing problem means he really has something to look forward to with the coming high school boys' basketball season. Henson taught in Bainbridge schools when Pat Rady was the coach in the 1960s. When Rady returned to Putnam County to coach Cloverdale several years ago, Henson had retired as a teacher from Cloverdale schools. He got back in the action as the bookkeeper for the boys' varsity team.

Now he's looking forward to what he'll hear there at the scorers' table.

"I'm looking forward to basketball games just to see how it happens. I want to talk to someone and not have to sit sideways," he said.

However, even the simplest things are a wonder to Henson these days. On his first trip outside with the implant, an afternoon wind brought him a smile.

"I can hear the wind just a rattlin'," Henson said. "You don't know what you're missing."

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Had Mr.Henson for a teacher at the old Bainbridge School-always professional,glad to read of his good fortunes...

-- Posted by kubotafan on Wed, Oct 27, 2010, at 7:15 AM

Touching story! Mr. Henson was a great teacher and a kind person.

-- Posted by mal on Wed, Oct 27, 2010, at 9:15 AM

Anyone remember when Mr. Henson was the principal at Putnamville School? (or even remember when there WAS a school 1-12 at Putnamville?)

Congratulations Mr. Henson - you're lookin' good.

-- Posted by Unbiased on Wed, Oct 27, 2010, at 10:57 AM

I had Mr. Henson in 6th grade at Cloverdale. Great Teacher and great person. It really does come back around doesn't it? So happy for you!!

SW Class of '84

-- Posted by indianaresident on Wed, Oct 27, 2010, at 10:23 PM

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