Chuck Petty, Plano, TX
I had been receiving hearing aid services from small, audiological centers not affiliated with a medical provider. I had been a patient of Dr. Peters who initially prescribed hearing aids for me. I returned to the Ear Institute because I already knew Dr. Peters and his excellent reputation. Add the Hearing Center, its expertise and its highly qualified personnel and all of my ear and hearing needs can be provided at this single location.
My experiences at the Hearing Center have been primarily with Andrea Gerlach who in my opinion deserves the highest praise. After my initial review with Dr. Peters and a hearing test, she was able to evaluate my hearing problems and match them with my needs, personality, etc. She patiently observed all of my concerns, made adjustments and changes when needed and scheduled an appointment for further evaluation of these changes. I believe her recommendations, judgment and patience have been excellent. I am looking forward to future associations with her. Moreover, I am looking forward to improved hearing, probably far better than I have experienced for many years.
Arnett Caviell, Dallas, TX
Dr. Reagan Daniel is one of the best doctors I have ever been seen by. She is thoughtful, kind, and caring. The best part is that she tries her best to understand the pain that the patient is going through and sympathizes with them which gives the patient a lot of hope. She is a doctor I would recommend to anyone and I hope that the doctors I see in the future will take care of me as well as she had.
Colleen Barrett, Dallas, TX
Excellent Customer Service delivery throughout the experience. Listened attentively to my issues; patiently answered questions; cared about my satisfaction; excellent mix of professionalism and creating a personal relationship, caring spirit, and warm exchange–in other words, not just a sterile exchange with numbers, stats, or facts–but a great mix of personal and business attention, yet very efficient and happy to be of service.
Mary Brockman, Sherman, TX
I am very pleased with the service I get from the Hearing Center @ Dallas Ear Institute. When I got my upgrade to the N6 I was having a hard time adjusting after my second mapping and had to schedule an appointment sooner than what I was suppose to go in due to compression problems with the mapping that was making it so I could not hear or understand spoken voices. When I saw my Audiologist and explained what the problems were that I was having she was more than happy to put my old map back on and remove the compression and scan options and that made it better to the point I could again understand peoples voices and background sounds were again at a normal level and not overly loud. I am looking forward to all of my visits to my audiologist as they come up for they are the greatest people to get help from, very understanding of what I need in order to hear the way I need to hear for my type of deafness.
Pattie Hubbard, Garland, TX
I felt like I had a very good evaluation of my hearing loss. Dr. Peters explained it to me and recommended I see an audiologist to further explore my options. My husband and I met with Dr Kristin King who explained which aids would be best for my hearing loss and addressed my concerns about the aids.. She was very professional and answered all my engineer husband’s detailed questions. We were shown different brands as well as different styles. We left with lots of good information to discuss. We decided on the Unique by Widex. I have had them 5 days and I am amazed at the sounds I’d been missing. They are very lightweight and I forget that they are there. My biggest fear now is losing them!
Daniel Milwee, Dallas, TX
I found the entire staff to be friendly and helpful. I came to the center with hearing aids already and made it clear that I felt my last audiologist was more a salesperson than a doctor. The people at the Hearing Center were polar opposite. They did not insist on a new hearing test (my most recent was five months previous) or push for new aids. They helped me service and reprogram mine at a reasonable price and were candid and sincere.
Ruth Cottrell, Irving, TX
I could not be happier with the service I have received from Dr. King. I was just fitted with my second pair of hearing aids. I can’t imagine being see by any one else.
Sondra Wilson, Dallas, TX
I have the hearing aid with Zen tones because I experience tinnitus. They are very helpful in distracting me from the constant ringing in my ears. Dr. Reagan Daniel fitted me with the devises in Oct. 2012. Today I saw Dr. Gerlach and she was very helpful.
Joyce Williams, Garland, TX
All of your staff are greatI have been extremely pleased with the professionalism, knowledge and caring I have received from Leslie.
Phillip Schepok, Terrell, TX
I could not have chosen a better facility and a greater group of people who show me they care about the well being of every individual.
Kim Barron, Rowlett, TX
Everyone has been so very nice and incredibly helpful. Great customer service and chairside manner. I’ve only had the hearing aids for a few weeks but so far they’ve been great. The hearing test results were explained in detail by Dr. Daniel and Dr. Hahn took time to address my concerns and didn’t make me feel rushed.
Tara Graves, Frisco, TX
The staff is great. They are friendly and easy to talk to. They know their jobs and perform them well with an eye towards patient comfort.
Darla Hill, Garland, TX
I love my cochlear implant! I have had much better hearing in a very short amount of time. Went from 0 percent to 78 percent within a few weeks! Everyone is very nice and helpful. Love Dr Peters!
Tonia Kirkendoll, Allen, TX
Leslie has always been awesome. She listens to me and goes out of her way to help.
Debra Coleman, Frisco, TX
Your staff is efficient, knowledgeable, and friendly. Dr Hahn was wiling to test until he felt satisfied with the results. He is kind and confident. Your audiologist was wonderful. Thanks
From: Bob McCleary, Carrollton, TX
This is my second pair of hearing aids and by far the best to date. They are a huge benefit to me and the people around me, whether they realize it or not. As long as I know, that is the most important.
The new tests that were performed on me today were very impressive because it did more to understand what I had been doing for the past six months. The tests were more comprehensive that ever and that tells me that your team in working to make my life better for me and others around me.
I am very pleased with the progress in the current tests versus the one’s in the past.
Several of my golfing (about 25 of us) buddies wear hearing aids from Costco and I have noticed that they do not have the hearing ability that I have with mine. I can be talking to them and they are riding in the golf cart with me and they do not hear me at all. I know that Costco is cheaper but you get what you pay for and as far as I can tell, you guys win hands down.
Chad Trahan, Dallas, TX
The staff is always friendly, courteous, and reasonably accommodating. For instance, in this case, my aids were malfunctioning. When I initially asked to come in, the receptionist explained that it would be later in the week. As soon as I clarified that I was not able to use my aids, she placed me on hold and found time the very next business day to get me in. The ability to hear a patient’s need, triage that need, and flex accordingly is a major plus, and this is something that is obviously hard-wired in your office.
I have nothing but good things to say about my aids. Staff is very good about listening to my feedback, researching the capabilities of the hearing aids, and working with me to find programming that meets my needs.
Sarah Grant, Wylie, TX
I never had a bad experience there. Everyone was always very nice and professional. Dr. Hahn is the best. He saved my life. I had a Glomous Jugulare Tumor on the left side that had been mis diagnosed for around a year. When I finally saw Dr.Hahn 🙂 he did a MRI and I had a large Tumor in my temperal bone, behind my eardrum and had reached the jugular foramen, scary stuff, It had taken over the jugular vein and started to wrap around the coratid artery. Being in the medical feild I was very nosey and did a lot research, so it was pretty scary to find out the kind of surgery I was facing, although I never was horribly afraid, thanks to Dr.Hahn, I trusted him right away and I’m glad I went with how I felt. He, and his team of Doctors, did a wonderful job, saved my life and it is always a pleasure to see him. I will be getting a Cochlear device soon so I will be able to hear out of that side again. 🙂
Jennifer Abbott, Dallas, TX
I was not thrilled with needing hearing aids. Reagan Daniel patiently explained my choices and told me what she would recommend and why. I am happy with my aids. They have helped tremendously and thankfully are not as obvious as I thought they might be.
TJ Smelko, Richardson, TX
The Hearing Center at Dallas Ear Institute has the best staff ever because they know how to answer questions thoroughly and carefully. They have a vast system of resources to correct any type of hearing loss and they treat patients like family in a professional manner.
Gary Watson, Texarkana, TX
The implant surgery literally changed my life. I can take part in activities that before the surgeries were impossible to participate in. Anyone that has a profound hearing loss should consider this surgery. It is life changing. Perhaps one of the guys I play golf said it best. When I was on the tee, he told the other players,( you guys will have to be quiet now, he can here everything we are saying)
Kimberlee Anna, Plano, TX
Andrea Gerlach is very helpful with my requests and is always available to answer any questions i have. Staff is professional and friendly.
Allen Gibson, Henderson, TX
Received Cochlear implant about 7 years ago and Dr Peters preformed the implant surgery.it has done a tremendous job allowing me to hear again. The service I have received from Dallas Hearing and the Cochlear company have been outstanding.. If I have a problem they will overnight a replacement . Leslie Lionas has taken care of all my needs and done a tremendous job.
Kelley Kirkland, Grapevine, TX
Every appt was very informative. There was never a wait over 10 minutes. I felt very comfortable and felt like my concerns were taken seriously, never felt like ‘just a number’. The devices for my tinnitus are helping me coop with the ringing and giving me some piece of mind also. Reagan Daniel was very helpful and answered any questions I had.
Shirley Stevenson, Sherman, TX
I was impressed by how through the examinations were and the caring attitudes of Dr. Hahn, Andrea Gerlach and Kristin King. Very professional! They scheduled my appointments early afternoon so I would not have to drive in early morning or late afternoon traffic coming in or going home to Sherman.
Parent of Jillian Liebert, Coppell, TX
From the front ofc pleasant greeting to our personal & longstanding relationship with Ms. Lianos is is a pleasure to have the appt. My daughter Jillian, (11) can now speak for herself & Leslie works very well with her. It is great having others either observing or helping Leslie out too, that are professional and polite. Leslie always goes above & beyond to make sure her clients which are really family to her have what they need to succeed with their equipment.
James Moore, Frisco, TX
Staff and doctors are always friendly, courteous and helpful. Appointment times are always kept in a prompt manner. All matters of concern are addressed in a timely and professional manner. Clear and concise communications regarding procedures and expected outcomes are always the standard of operations. Very pleased to be a patient taken care of by your doctors and staff. You are highly recommended.
Mylissa Parham, Stephenville, TX
I was recommended by a dear friend to come visit after his successful visit with your clinic. I recently upgraded my processor to a new one after years of adoration for my old processor and was having a very difficult time adjusting to the new processor (analog to digital). I honestly was very hesitant to come and visit your office due to an unpleasant experience at another location. I am truly very happy to report that my experience was AMAZING with your office, the staff and the Programmer was wonderful, they were very kind and very attentive to my needs and took the time to understand what was going on with my processor and my implant. The Programmer was extremely thorough, patient, and understanding of what I needed help with and thanks to her, I now LOVE my processor.I am no longer stressed out or frustrated with my processor. I am definitely coming back to this location!
Elizabeth Cavanaugh, Burleson, TX
I have single sided deafness. My bicross hearing system makes life so much easier and more enjoyable. One of the first things I do everyday is don my heading aids. I feel lost without then! Than you all so much for the remarkable job everyone of you does everyday.
Yasemi Oxley, Carrollton, TX
Everything has been fantastic. From the pre-op appointments, the counseling appointment, the surgery and recovery, the activation, the programming and the follow-ups have been wonderful. I especially get strong support from Leslie Lianos. She has been a tremendous help in making sure my hearing journey was successful.
Evelyn Holt, Dallas, TX
I am very satisfied with my hearing aids. It has certainly been a good investment in to my hearing. I do recommend Dr. Peters and the Hearing
Center to people that tell me they are having trouble hearing.
Alyssa Mills, Wylie, TX
The service and staff has always been great. Very pleasant experience every visit. My hearing device works very well. The audiologist is very pleasant and thorough. She is always considerate and concerned, making sure I am not having any problems.
Rhonda Walton, Waxahachie, TX
I have always had a very good experience with Dr. Peters and with Andrea Gerlach. Andrea is very thorough and professional. I have already referred others to her.
Joe Hood, Dallas, TX
There could not be any improvement. Responsiveness, service and concern are above reproach.
Carole Trout, Richardson, TX
My experience with the Hearing Center has been’ a great one from the beginning. The implant works wells; and the follow up visits have been an enormous help. The people in the office who work with me are most helpful and encouraging. I highly recommend The Hearing Center of Dallas to anyone who needs help with hearing problems.
Joanna Gallegos, Ennis, TX
I find working with this office to be the easiest and most efficient experience. I always get my questions answered quickly and thoroughly. They are helpful in coordinating visits with the Audiologist and ENT as well.
I think as far as the hearing aids go, they do a great job of explaining them and keeping them serviced. It is clear to that each person there enjoys their job which speaks well of the management and doctors.
Over all I am pleased with my services and would highly recommend this office to friends or strangers.
Donald Spring, Bovina, TX
I live about 400 miles from Dallas and so have a long commute to Dallas. The entire staff went out of their way to accommodate me in every way. Appointments were made for me and instructions were e-mailed to me so that the experience was very pleasant. Dr Peters was helpful and informative so I understood every step of the procedure and follow ups. I have never dealt with a group of people more helpful, friendly and anxious to help me and see that the experience was very pleasant. I thank every one there for the success of my implant.
Mary Anderwald, Dallas, TX
It has been a completely positive experience. I fully trust Dr. Peters evaluation and recommendation on the type of device that is best for my situation. Andrea was very professional in explaining the hearing aid devices and in programming them for my ears.
Lydia Lugo, Plano, TX
I received my first cochlear implant from another institute. I was totally traumatized and experienced much pain afterwards. I received very little counseling. Once I lost the hearing in the second ear. I was recommended to The Dallas Hearing Institute. Even though it was explained to me by both the audiologist and the doctor that the surgery would be very simple My fear of the first surgery set in. When I lost my job due to the loss of hearing I realized I would benefit greatly if I became bilateral. The surgery was very easy. I experienced little pain if any. Dr.Peters and his team have been awesome! I have received a lot of counseling and support. I hear so much better. My life has improved and I have more confident in myself.
Larry Hoover, Carrollton, TX
A very nice office. Pleasing. Receptionist very friendly. Appointment time was adhered to closely. I like that everyone smiles. Audiologist was very helpful and knowledgeable. I was worried that I might have a moisture issue with my hearing aids. She listened and then discussed my concerns. She arranged to help me further. She really went beyond my expectations.
Thank you very much.
Terry Clark, Denton, TX
It has been the greatest. Far better than I anticipated. I think this must be one of the best teams in the country. Dr. Hahn did a wonderful job on the surgery. I had very little pain after surgery. The audiology dept. has been excellent to work with. All a very nice experience.
Julia Roberts, Dallas, TX.
“My Med El C.I. was activated August 26, 2013. I remember activation vividly; I heard the first sound loud and clear. I had my back to the audiologist and realized I could hear words and conversation between she and her intern. I turned around and was, I realize now, in shock to be able to have a conversation. There were bells, chirps, and whistles but they didn’t interfere with communication. Two hours later, I stopped to get an oil change and ran next door to Potbelly’s for a soda. I was looking down, not paying attention and realized the cashier was talking to me! I asked him to repeat the question and he said, “has anything special happened today?”. I replied, “Yes, I woke up deaf and now I can hear”. You could have heard a pin drop and then everyone in the restaurant cheered. Within two weeks I was at almost 100% word recognition. Radio and TV were a little tougher but I refused to give up. Within 4-6 weeks, I was able to have word recognition with the TV. Music took me a little longer but I’m able to enjoy music and movies without closed caption. The clarity is incredible. The bells, chirps, and whistles were just for the first few weeks. When I heard my children’s voices for the first time, I cried and cried. I never thought I would hear their voices again. I am completely satisfied with Med El. In fact, I am scheduling my second C.I. and am definitely choosing Med El. The Rondo is light weight and comfortable. I can wear glasses without any discomfort. The manufacturer has been extremely helpful. I would recommend Med El to all C.I. candidates.”
Jeanne Costanzo, Garland, TX
My son is autistic and has Down syndrome. The battle with his hearing has been long and challenging. I have received advice form all sorts of resources and found in time for the advice to be just plain wrong. Dr. King is wonderful. She is so kind and patient with my son (and with me too). For a while we went to the another center because of insurance reasons, but I am so glad to be back to be able to come to her. I trust her, plain and simple. Doctor Peters is straight forward, tells me what I need to do and know and does not sugar coat, which is very refreshing. And we just love his staff- Verena is so nice! Though my son’s hearing and ear issues have been many, the care we recieve here is constant. That is comforting to a mom that faces so many decisions in her son’s care. I really feel truly blessed to get to come to this office and for my son to receive such professional care. I highly recommend this office to any parent that has a special needs child.
Michele Richardson, Cedar Hill, TX
I have never had any issues or concerns with the staff. I can definitely say that I enjoy going to this location. Everyone in the office is helpful and down right amazing.
Wendy Rickmers, Plano, TX
My experience has been great. I would not have known about alternative assistance to obtain hearing devices (DARS program) otherwise and would not have been able to purchase on my own. Everyone is extremely friendly, compassionate, and knowledgeable. My audiologist went above and beyond to find a program to meet my needs with a Bi-CROS device.
Lyntaniere Arnold, Dallas, TX
I have only go to this place since ’08 with my first cochlear implant. I have never, not even once, received an unpleasant service from any staffs. They were very friendly, so helpful, and willingly to work with me. I would highly recommends this place to ANYONE that need a hearing service.
Karyn Choi, Dallas, TX
Going from deaf to having my left ear activated (Cochlear Implant) as been amazing! This device has changed my life & that life is also a good life. I really like how I can now hear things I have never heard before whether in dry environments or wet environments. It’s a huge learning curve but what has surprised me is the support from not just friends & family but also Advanced Bionics & Dallas Hearing Center.
Dr. Peter: I would recommend him to anyone pursuing surgical hearing enhancement options. He is kind, courteous, & patient. Although he is an advocate for everyone to have the opportunity to hear, he presents all information available & gives time to consider this important decision.
Leslie Lianos: Excellent audiologist. While being very professional, she is also very personable. She explains options & procedures very clearly, & gives time to make informed decisions. During activation & mapping she has been kind, compassionate, & fastidious in getting it done right.
From Linda Criswell, Lewisville, TX
(Why she came to The Hearing Center) Strong recommendation from a friend because the hearing aids I had were not effective. They were both so positive about their experience at the Hearing Center with the doctors and the hearing devices they wear. They convinced me that I owed it to myself to see for myself that there was a better solution for me. I was very impressed with the professionalism and the technology at the Hearing Center. I had not previously been to a medical doctor, so the testing and the medical evaluation I had were more extensive than what I received at another evaluation. I then had an appt. with the audiologist who explained very thoroughly the types of hearing aids available and asked lots of questions about my lifestyle to determine the level of hearing aid I needed. She’s very knowledgable and helpful, and I am so glad that my friends referred me to The Hearing Center. The Phonak hearing aids that I now have made such a difference in my hearing, and it’s wonderful not to be missing so much of what is being said. The technology is amazing! I’m also very appreciative of the fact that I do not have to wait when I arrive for my appointment. I’m seen at the time the appt. is scheduled. The only thing that would be an improvement for me is if you were closer. But that’s OK – the drive is worth it! I’m telling other friends about the Hearing Center and have brochures to give to a couple of them. Thank you so much!
From William Tenney, Dallas, TX
Prompt, polite, courteous, informative, professional.
From Nelda McAnally, Plano, TX
I have been please with the efforts to make sure my hearing aids are operating correctly to combat my hearing loss. When I was having trouble hearing well after I first received my hearing aids, my audiologist quickly made changes and adjustments to my devices. I am very pleased with my hearing now.
From Floyd Brigman, Calera, OK
I am completely satisfied in every respect. My hearing with the cochlear implant has exceeded my expectations and I am very pleased.
From Diamantina Barrientos
I had really bad hearing, even with my hearing aid. It was like I couldn’t hear things right. I would I heard one thing, and it was something else. So I would always be feeling bad because people would look at me like I was crazy, because I would respond with the wrong thing. I received the Cochlear Implant from the Dallas Ear Institute. It has changed my life for the better. I feel like I have started a new life entirely. I can now actually hold a conversation with my children and grandchildren, and I can hear music and birds and it is just amazing. I love it. I would like people like me with hearing problems to know that there is helpful for them out there, and not have to go through life like I did. It’s so sad and it’s possible to get help through the Dallas Ear Institute. I owe them so much for helping change my life.
From Sydney Hammond
I recommend the testing and very professional service with the Dallas Ear Insitute. Appointments are always on time. My hearing has gotten worse over the years and this is due to the aging process. I received a pair of hearing aids, and my family has the benefit of not having to repeat. Also, when in a group setting, I can partipate more. I recommend the Dallas Ear Institute for their excellent service.
From Lynn Berstien
Hearing aids have changed my life and that of my family! The audiologist at The Hearing Center at the Dallas Ear Institute selected the best hearing aids for my hearing loss and daily living needs. I did not have to cull through the vast amount of literature trying to decide which hearing aids to get. My audiologist programmed the aids expertly, and I only needed one minor adjustment. My hearing aids are so comfortable I forget I am wearing them. Proud to be wearing hearing aids—I show them to people who tell me they hear poorly. There is not a day that goes by that I am not thankful for my enhanced hearing and how easy it was to solve my hearing problems.
From Olivia Pettus
Our experience with The Hearing Center at the Dallas Ear Institute has been excellent. Our audiologist is very knowledgeable, patient and professional. She has made our daughter, Olivia, feel comfortable. Every time we walk into Dallas Ear, we are met with smiles. Our testing is very reliable and child-friendly. I have not had to question results or ever left the office in doubt.
Our products have proven to be very successful. Our daughter has a severe high-frequency loss, which is often difficult to aid. We have not had one problem with either the aids or earmolds. That is rare with a child starting from the age of 2. I am proud of the success she has made with the advance hearing tools Dallas Ear has recommended for her.
Having a child with a hearing loss can be a very difficult challenge. You need a great team in place to provide every possible success for your child. My family has found that at the Dallas Ear Institute. I put my faith in the center to provide the best quality of hearing for my daughter, so she may grow to be the amazing woman I know she will be.
Working in the hospital setting, I use the stethoscope daily. My audiologist at The Hearing Center at the Dallas Ear Institute has been of tremendous help to me. Her knowledge of hearing loss and hearing correction options is excellent. With minimal adjustments, she was able to fit me with hearing aids that enable me to feel confident in my environment. Aside from introducing me to very advanced hearing aids, she also introduced me to the Bluetooth streamer that remotely transmits stethoscope sounds from my patients into my hearing aids with only one push of a button. I definitely recommend The Hearing Center at Dallas Ear Institute!
Hi Family and Friends:
We just returned from Dallas and I have been wearing my newly activated processor for 5 hours now. It works beautifully! I had prepared myself for a long learning experience, as many people at first report they only hear buzzing, non discernible sounds and it takes many weeks for the brain to retrain itself. I am so blessed and fortunate that I immediately could understand speech.
On the way home, I turned on the radio to my favorite FM station and listened to some beautiful classical music. It has been so long—years—oh what a joy. Before Christmas, I played my most beloved Christmas music of all, Mille Cherubini In Coro, by Franz Schubert, with Luciano Pavarotti and the Vienna Choir accompanying him. I could not hear the choir at all and could only remember what their absolutely angelic voices sounded like. I nearly wept and felt resigned to my fate. Now I can once again feel a part of the hearing world, no longer having to read lips or simply having to miss so much of what is being said. I am anxious to see if I can turn off the closed captioning on the TV. It seems like a miracle!
Things sound a little different from natural. If you ever spoke into a long pipe and heard the way your voice sounded, or that of someone speaking at the other end, this is perhaps my best description of the difference. It will not be long before this passess and I will hear sounds the same as all of you who have good hearing acuity. Wow, what a relief and a joy. The kind folks at Dallas Ear have been fantastic. If you need them, I highly recommend them to you. And, thank each of you for the interest and concerns you have expressed to me. Many prayers have been lifted up to heaven. That all means more than words can say.
Blessings! Henry Brigman
Michael Coren holds a bachelor’s degree in music from the Eastman School of Music and a master’s degree from Indiana University. Among his teachers are Ronald Leonard, Janos Starker, Claus Adam and Lev Aronson. A native of York, Pennsylvania, Coren has served as faculty at AIMS in Graz, Austria and TIFS in Dallas. Coren served for 15 years on the conducting staff of the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra and was the founding director of its summer program. He is currently the music director of the Monday Night Orchestra and adjunct professor of cello at Southern Methodist University.
I first noticed my hearing loss on a Friday morning in early April, 2010. I did not take it too seriously, thinking my hearing would be back at any moment. We found our way to Dr. Peters, whose diagnosis was Sudden Hearing Loss, an attack of my immune system upon my body. He began a regimen of heavy doses of steroids taken orally and also injected directly into my ears through the longest needle I had ever seen. My hearing loss was profound–I was effectively deaf. The fallout upon all aspects of my life has been ubiquitous, though our lives are filled with laughter. I will tonight limit my remarks specifically to my loss of hearing and its impact upon my understanding of music and the story of finding my way back into the Dallas Symphony.
At the time of my loss I held the position of Personnel Manager as well as Cellist with the Dallas Symphony, so I continued to go to work without actually playing in the orchestra. As I walked backstage for that first rehearsal I came in contact with the “new” sound of music. The cacophony of sounds was shockingly painful. More surprising was the incredible distortion of sound. The tuba was like a wild animal shrieking, the trombones brakes on a train, and the violins like the whining of power tools. No instrument sounded as I had known it. It was all noise, unintelligible, and painful. Away from the orchestra all of nature was either too soft to hear, like the night sounds of crickets or the wind in the trees, or distorted beyond recognition, like the clanging of dishes in the kitchen. The only sounds that were clear, pure, and recognizable were songs of birds. Something about that frequency allowed me to enjoy what might be the most beautiful sound in all of nature, and I was so grateful. This limited expression of beauty was of enormous comfort.
Curiously, I did not miss playing. It was in many ways liberating to be free of the pressures of symphony life. My favorite cellist, Pablo Casals, told a story in his autobiography Joys and Sorrows about a hike he took one summer in the mountains of Vermont where one day he found himself in a precarious position by wandering onto a rocky ledge with a steep fall below. For a brief moment he considered purposely letting go and thus freeing himself of what he called “the tyranny of the cello.” My first reactions were not dissimilar.
I used to tell colleagues or friends, when asked how my hearing is doing and what my hopes for the future were, that I am far more concerned with the 25% I still have than the 75% I have lost. Fear of total silence lurked behind every moment. Two weeks after the onset of my hearing loss I was awakened in the early morning hours by a sort of vibration in my whole body. It emanated from deep inside like a giant tuning fork set to an undefined frequency. I could feel it in every part of my body, my system shook as I came in and out of focus. I was locked within myself, surrounded by an imaginary force field. I was convinced that this was the moment I had feared the most, the end of all understanding— the beginning of a life of silence. With the morning I went to my cello for what I truly believed was my last chance to hear its precious sounds. This would be my last song—my desperation was tangible. I felt as if my ears had tiny pinholes into which I could squeeze the sound of cello before they closed forever. I played the Bach Arioso and sang this dear friend with all my heart, understanding nothing of the actual sound. Afterwards Sara took me to see Dr. Peters. It was, after the loss of my parents, the saddest moment of my life.
But life is curious. This episode was not the end, but the beginning of my road back. The vibrating stopped as I stepped into the audio booth. My tests that morning showed a marked improvement, and finally I had enough hearing for amplification to be effective. On May 1st I practiced my cello for the first time. The notes made no sense; the pitches were distorted and unrecognizable. I put my fingers where they were supposed to be on the cello, but the sounds were not true. Although I could not understand the pitch of a single note, I could understand the relationship of the vibrations between two notes and the subsequent harmony. From these two notes I could now play just one of them and trust what I heard. I now had something concrete to work with.
In early May I took my daughter to hear the orchestra play two works: one a Romantic piece for strings by Tchaikovsky and the other an Impressionist piece for full orchestra by Maurice Ravel. The works could not be more different, yet I could not tell the sound of one from the other. This was discouraging! However, for the first time I could recognize the sound of the oboe and the trumpet. That was one baby step on the road back. Two weeks later the great young violinist Hillary Hahn performed. She played solo Bach for an encore and I listened through the stage door. The luxuriant sound of the opening long note played on her Stradivarius was breathtaking, and low and behold, I understood the pitch and the beauty of that sound. To my surprise, I broke into hysterical sobbing, much to my embarrassment. After this one note her music was again chaotic and unintelligible, but I had now heard one beautiful note in all its purity and simplicity. It awakened within me desperation to make music again. That note became for me both the inspiration and the goal for the endless hours I would spend in search of that of recreating that beauty.
I began the process of reclaiming music by scheduling a mini-recital in Dr. Peter’s office for the end of June. It was to be my last performance, and I understood within that if I failed I would accept my fate. It was a “more personal than flowers” way to say thank you to Dr. Peters and his remarkable staff for their medical expertise and their unbounded kindness. It was a performance for which I held no expectations beyond the joy of giving. This concert became the springboard I had hoped for, and from that day I committed my energies to returning not just to music, but to the orchestra.
I bought an electronic tuner and used it to compare a scientific reading of pitch with what my ears told me. I could see if I was in tune even if my hearing was deceiving. I taught my fingers to drop in exactly the same way every time and compared the results with the tuner. Over the next couple of months I sat onstage in various sections of the orchestra, especially the cellos, and tried to reconcile what I heard with what was on the page of music or in my memory.
In September I received my state of the art hearing aids thanks to the efforts of Stephanie and the other audiologists on Dr. Peter’s staff. As I learned how to use them the distortion began to recede, though slightly at first, and my pitch recognition improved. I would sit for hours playing one or two notes, and find the pitch one day, only to lose it the next. The tuner told me that I was still wild with my intonation. I would play a passage and stop to check my tuning and find that I was way sharp in certain registers and flat in others. I had no confidence.
In planning my return to the orchestra I had three distinct tasks. First, I had to find my own sound. It was a little like “where’s Waldo?” I had to learn to trust my playing. After all, one can be correct and still lack confidence, in the same way that one can be mistaken and believe absolutely in his error. Secondly, I would have to find the cello section sound and learn how to join that sound. That’s a little like sitting in a crowded restaurant at a table for ten and picking out one voice for conversation. Thirdly, I would have to find a way to block out the distortion caused by the full sound of the orchestra. My hearing aids enhanced the clarity in my own playing, but they also amplified the total sound of the orchestra, especially the brass. The last thing Dr. Peters told me as we concluded our regular sessions was to stay away from loud noises. I have only partly complied. I returned to the orchestra on December 1st, eight months after my loss, and exactly two years ago to this day. I chose that date because it was the beginning of our holiday concerts so the music was less demanding than our classical concerts, and I was thus less exposed.
The orchestra was so loud; the amplification overwhelming. I was frightened but tried to act as if all was normal. It was then that I realized that no one around me was aware of my problems or my insecurities. I felt completely alone and was consumed by the thought, by the fear, that everyone was listening to me in judgment. Of course, they were not.
The next challenge was our New Years concert where we played the delicate and transparent music of Johann Strauss and his Viennese waltzes. I was knocked flat as stage fright, my old nemesis, reared its ugly head. The coupling of this fear with my already sensitized insecurity was intolerable. It occurred to me then that if I could learn to understand music differently, I could also expunge this lifelong antagonist. The next day I began an investigation into the nature of my fright and concluded that it was physiological and not psychological. Over the next year I reworked my entire bow arm, like a beginning student. My hearing loss had taught me to think outside the box and here was one of many opportunities to use it. Those opportunities were not limited to music.
Each week in the orchestra presented new difficulties. It took a full year to begin to feel even a little confident. Using my thespian skills to project confidence and security, few colleagues ever stepped forward to say “you’re doing great!” But then, how could they know that I was desperate for some measure of reassurance?
My understanding of music continues to grow, even though my numbers in the auditory booth are unchanged. Continued practice has sharpened my sense of pitch. I am confident in my playing, and even Maestro von Zweden recently told me that my playing in the orchestra is excellent.
It has taken fully these two years to relearn the cello and find my sound in the orchestra. The process is ongoing. In working to reclaim that which I once took for granted, I have found richness in music I had never known. The pleasure of singing through my cello gives me a greater satisfaction than ever. It is really a lot like young love. I am joyous each time I sit down to play, and grateful for the opportunity. In fact, I would have to conclude that in hindsight, I have learned to embrace my disability and the opportunities is has provided. It has become a point of origin for personal development in every arena of my life, and I am the richer for it.