August 19, 2011

Using a Cochlear Implant: Rush Limbaugh Describes What it is Like for Him

To those of you who don't know, Rush Limbaugh, a popular political conservative commentator, lost a significant amount of his hearing in 2001 and received a cochlear implant device. 

I found on The Rush Limbaugh Show a transcript from his radio show where Mr. Limbaugh describes to a caller in detail what it is like for him to use the cochlear implant. It is very interesting and I have never heard anyone talk about how their cochlear implant works for them as frankly and honestly as Mr. Limbaugh. He also talks about his hearing loss. Even if you hate him or disagree with many of his opinions, you can't deny that this is fascinating stuff.

Here is a portion of the transcript:

RUSH: I have a cochlear implant. It doesn't have nearly the sensitivity of the human ear, it's not even close.

CALLER: I was just wondering.

RUSH: Like violins or strings sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

CALLER: Oh, well, I was just wondering.

RUSH: What I have to do, I can still listen to music, but it has to be music that I knew and that I've heard before I lost my hearing. And what happens is that my brain, fertile mind, provides the melody. I actually am not hearing the melody, and the way I can prove this to you, sometimes it will take me, even a song that I know, it will take me 30 seconds to identify it if I don't know what it is. Now, if I'm playing a song off iTunes and the title is there and it starts then I can spot it from the middle, but if I'm listening to a song from the beginning, and I don't know what it is, it sometimes can take me 30 seconds to recognize it, if I knew it before. But the quality of music that I hear is less than AM radio, in terms of fidelity. I can turn the bass up on an amplifier and I don't hear any difference at all. I can feel the floor vibrate, but I don't hear any more bass. I can turn highs up and I can hear the difference in the highs, but on the low end I actually cannot -- (interruption) I'm getting a note here that says: "You're not missing anything. There aren't any melodies in music today." (laughing) At any rate, you adapt to it. I've adapted.

The worst part of my hearing is being in a crowd. Like right now, I hear myself as well as I heard myself when I could hear. If I'm talking to one other person in a quiet room I can comprehend 90-95% of what they say depending on how fast they're speaking. There are some words that sound alike. But you add room noise, like if Kathryn and I are watching TV and she wants to talk to me about what we're watching, I have to hit pause or the mute 'cause I cannot hear what she's saying. Even if she's sitting two feet away I will not hear as long as there are other noises there. Any room noise when added to other room noise is gonna be louder than the one voice that I'm trying to hear. I've got the implant on my left side so if we go out in a public place, anybody on my right side, it's hopeless. I'll have to literally turn to them, and sometimes as I turn to them they turn with me. They don't know what I'm doing so we'll do pirouettes 'til I finally say, "No, you stay where you are. I'm trying to position my ear so I can hear you."

My favorite part:

RUSH: Look, folks, don't get the wrong idea. Having a cochlear implant has a lot of positives. I was out playing golf the other day with a bunch of guys, and there was a loudmouth crow in a palm tree right on the tee box, no more than ten feet above us. The thing was cawing like crazy. You just wanted to grab something and throw it at the damn bird to shut up, and it was screwing everybody's tee shots off. I mean, you can't concentrate. The guys would swing and right at the moment of impact, "CAWWW!" and you could just see the effect.

All I did was take my implant off, gently place it on the ground, and total silence. No distractions whatsoever. However, I do have tinnitus (some people say tinn-i-tus) in my right ear -- which, in my case, I constantly hear Gregorian chants. That's the noise in my right ear, but I've got so used to it I don't hear it unless I stop to focus on it, but it's always there. I always think I'm in touch with God. Gregorian chants are constantly going off in my right ear.

To read more of this transcript click here.



  1. Thanks for sharing the transcript. I read the whole thing and this quote stuck with me, "Everybody says you need to get one on your right side now. I kept the right side clear because there might have been a cure for these dead hair cells." ***Rush only has implant on his left ear***

    This is exactly why I have not opted for cochlear implants, I am hoping for a cure. I feels good to know that I am not alone. I've occasionally read that some blind people have gained partial vision from gene therapy and I hope that will come to us soon.

  2. Pretty much the same with me although I AM born profound deaf (near the severe range so I was able to benefit and speechreach with hearing aids all my life until I was implanted at the age 26 in 2003) so I was never hearing in the first place like Rush. I have one implant like him as well.

    And being without implant does leave you with a really bad sounds like an angel chorus 24/7 - you know, like one of those movies with a heavenly chorus playing in the background when someone is meeting at a heaven gate for the first time ....

  3. Btw, the tinnitus is on my implanted ear, my unimplanted ear do not have much tinnitus. It only show up if u havent wore your processor for awhile.

  4. The difference between his and mine, he was using drugs to damage his nerve cells. This is the primary reason why he's hearing unnatural like he mention about music. He had implanted in 2001 which was 2nd generation technology and after 2002 turned out to be the 3rd generation. That's 80% difference between 2nd and 3rd generation.
    He shouldn't take pain killers in the first place.

  5. Sorry, but drugs have nothing to do with his auditory memory that he grown up with.

    1. He damaged his hearing abusing oxycoden. He did it to himself. He's lucky he is not in prison.

  6. This goes to show that CI isn't perfect and as far as I have been able to ascertain, reading blogs by parents of deaf children with CI, I have not seen one that stated CI is perfect.

    It befuddles me when I see ASL advocates trying to shoot down CI as being not perfect when it never is to begin with.

    Like life itself, nothing is perfect. We adapt.


  7. and I'm sure plenty of people who taken pain killers and their ear nerves cells are fine

  8. However, with my HAs, my only pet peeve is driving and listening to music, I have to close the windows. The sound coming from rushing air is annoying. I have adapted to listening to people talking in a crowded room, fact is many hearing people have a hard time hearing too in that environment. We all adapt. ;o)


  9. Candy, it's because when hearing aid users explain our situation (at least with certain struggle like noisy areas and such) and what it is like, they dissed us and say it will be better CI.. that CI can hear 15 -20 db all across the board

  10. Anonymous...

    not sure I understand what you're getting at. Hearing Aid users dissin CI users? Not having a CI, I'm not in a position to make any statements other than what I've seen CI users sharing and/or personally have talked to some CI users. What I've gotten so far seem to vary among CI users. What will be better? The part I don't understand is when you said "....,they dissed us and say it will be better CI..."


    1. candy, I agree...what the heck is up with this "dissing" malarkey??? We are all in this together.

  11. That s real disaster oppression toward those innocent Deaf babies/children who are/were forced to or being pressured to hear and listen the spoken language by hearing -> Audism/Medical/AGBell. Are you being discriminated their own being deaf or disrespected their own Deaf child's true inner soul of being deaf? Also, I must remind you, no one can compare between Deaf babies/children and hearing adults. It is too obviously that there are something seriously wrong going on and betraying us by those Medical companies/AGBell associates for the purpose of moneymaker off of us.

    Don't even bother to give us a false Hope that can lead into a serious problem for not able to learn how to accept yourself or who you are from a start. That is horrible treatment for any human beings to learn how to hate their own being deaf or forgot our being deaf by Medical and AGBell associations who doesn't even care about your own mental health from the beginning. How dare they are doing this to us, Deaf people. So think about it seriously before you can speak with me gently. They are not very nice people that I will never bargaining with them to make it combination with their own AUDISM.

    Stop misusing our Deaf babies and Deaf children s lives that are having their own rights to be protected for their own health s sakes to be natural. The reason is no one can fix our being deaf at all since from the way old past years and years that has never succeeded, You must know the fact that we are not gonna to be hearing at all. Sorry pal!

    So therefore the reason is for us to be protection for our Deafs own of being human beings' sake of their own whole human being's soul. No one has the right to destroy or conform on any individual who born or became.

    Deaf will be always deaf that must remind you again. Keep that in your mind since music or speech have nothing to do with our ASL education that is the most important to have their life to begin with. It will following up to speech-reading plus ASL after a child understand a real language of ASL plus English.

    Also,I must emphasized that the parents or anyone have no right to invade their mind, body, and soul in the first place that ticks me off completely. It doesn't belong to any people however it s belonging to it's own individuals. I don't agree with anyone or parents who decide for their wishes for their child is gonna to be like them that is very wrongful doing. Let them feel free for her/himself first and let her/himself flow by natural that is the most beautiful Deaf human beings in our souls. It doesn't cost our damage health or monies for us to have ASL without hearing devices. It s annoyance noise that doesn't help us brain to think. The reason is it causes children to have their confusion by hearing disorder that doesn't fit between brain and ears. Thanks again.

    I must say this again, Hearing aid and Cochlear Implant are no difference because I know the truths. Don't even try to manipulate me for your own disagreement because I will stick to it what I found many facts that harms to Human beings in a long run especially Deaf babies/children s body property that should not mess around with by Medical/AGBell from a start.

    After you read this, your child is tripled disabilities in their future. Think about this, too. Sadly I have had to express this from the bottom of my heart.

    Thank you!

    1. And what about all those people who have worked hard to achieve the cochlear implant hearing? Being natural is beautiful, but don't disregard the people's personal decisions. If they want to get a cochlear implant, fine. If they don't want to, fine. I have a cochlear implant, and my social life is pretty moderate, but I am not extremely unhappy about my cochlear implant. In fact, it's a part of my identity since I was three. So please, please, please don't disregard the hard work that the children have made in cochlear implant despite not being able to make their own decision themselves.

  12. I am deaf since I was 4 or maybe younger. My right ear is stone deaf and my left ear is profoundly deaf. For this reason I have always worn hearing aid in the left ear only. I never knew sign language until I started college by age 19. By then I took ASL classes and became inmersed into the Deaf Community and Deaf Culture. This is now at the core of my being.

    I recently developed tinnitus in the left ear, last November, before Thanksgiving. I can't wear my hearing aid now because it makes the tinnitus much worse. I went to see a Dr. and he suggested Cochlear Implant right away without sharing with us about other options, not until my spouse asked him about other alternatives to cure/treat tinnitus. Here, he told us something about mindfulness. Anyway, I was skeptical about the implant. Why?

    First of all I am aware that every surgery is risky, and specially risky when it is in the brain. I I didn't want to go under the knife knowing that Doctors can make mistakes. Secondly,even if the surgery is a success, it scares me to lose my identity. I have become so attached and have a strong sense of belonging to the Deaf Community. I use ASL, have Deaf friends, and I am about to become a Pastor's Assistant (The Pastor, by the way is a CODA [Child of Deaf Parents] Soon she is about to open a Deaf Church.

    I LOVE being DEAF even though I had to overcome great challenges in life. But now I find myself in a dilema. See, since I developed tinnitus, these noises have bothered me a lot and have changed me in some ways, and sometimes have difficulty concentrating.

    My spouse did a research on the computer and found good information about a Tinnitus Center in NJ. We went there and the specialist was a bit surprised to hear when I said that I was rejecting the idea of going with the Cochlear Implant(CI), but she also said that the other altnernative is a type of hearing aid that is more powerful than the one I have with a part that helps control the tinnitus (waiting for it at the moment).

    Then she asked me that if the hearing aid doesn't work, am I willing to consider the CI. I said yes... but in the back of my mind I don't want to. Reason? I am afraid not only of the risks that every surgery comes with, but I am mostly afraid to lose my identity. "If CI helps with tinnitus why not go for it", they say.

    But if CI does help, I am thinking now that I prefer to learn to get used to the tinnitus rather than losing my Deaf identity and my sense of belonging to the Deaf Communuty. This is my thinking now, but we will see how things go and where God leads my heart. I find myself standing in the middle of two worlds: Deaf and hearing. I do belong to two worlds (grew up as the only deaf child in the family and having a hearing spouse and child), but I have a stronger connecction with the Deaf. With CI where Will I go? I don't know. I just pray that the hearing aid works otherwise I will have to either go for the CI or just live with the tinnitus and hope for Divine Intervention to get rid of these annoying noises.

  13. All I did was take my implant off, gently place it on the ground, and total silence

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