Cochlear Implants

The MED-EL Spotlight: Patient Perspectives with Joe Duarte

In the latest episode of the MED-EL Spotlight series, we sat down with Joe Duarte, a passionate music lover and bilateral cochlear implant recipient from Virginia. This installment focused on the transformative impact of music on rehabilitation and Joe's profound journey back to the world of sound.

Joe Duarte’s Inspiring Story with MED-EL Cochlear Implants

Join us as Johanna Boyer, a musicologist and research associate at MED-EL, delves into Joe’s unique journey and explores the critical role that music has played in his rehabilitation and daily life. Read the interview highlights below. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Johanna Boyer (JB): Did music influence your decision to get a cochlear implant, particularly a MED-EL cochlear implant?

Joe Duarte (JD): Oh, definitely. The delay in getting a cochlear implant was primarily because I had heard that music quality was not great with them. It wasn’t until I found MED-EL and learned about their electrode design with deeper insertion that I became convinced it could give me the access to music I desired. As a biomedical engineer myself, studying cochlear implants, I knew I wanted access to the low-end frequencies in music. MED-EL’s design promised that.

JB: How often do you listen to music now?

JD: At least 2 or 3 hours a day. Right after activation, the first thing I did was buy HiFi speakers for my computer. I started listening to music from day one, and I haven’t missed a day since. It felt like a rehabilitation project, initially overwhelming but eventually rewarding as I started hearing individual, discrete sounds.

JB: How would you describe the sound quality when you listen to music now?

JD: It’s amazing; it’s very natural. In the beginning, it was a little harsh because my brain wasn’t used to getting so much sound information. But after six months, it became miraculous. The fine details in the music improved progressively, making it a motivating experience to continue listening and practicing.

JB: I understand that you’re a bilateral cochlear implant user. How did getting your second implant change how music sounded to you?

JD: It improved dramatically. I was enjoying music with my first cochlear implant and a hearing aid on the other side, but the hearing aid was not helping much. After two years, I decided to go for the second implant. Initially, I expected it to take a while to adjust, but I was shocked by the immediate improvement. It took only a month to experience a significant improvement in the dimension of sound, making music even more phenomenal.

JB: What was easier to pick up and what was more challenging in your music journey?

JD: The lyrics were the most challenging aspect. I could hear the music and the vocals but not the lyrics. Over time, as I became more experienced, I started capturing more words in the lyrics. This was a significant breakthrough for me as I had never understood lyrics before.

Joe continues to explore the vast landscape of sound, discovering new favorites, and reconnecting with old melodies—each note adding a richer hue to his vibrant world of sound.

Want to hear the full interview?

Watch the whole conversation between Johanna Boyer and Joe Duarte.

Watch Here


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