Patient stories

Tim’s remarkable story of hearing lost & regained

Dr. Joseph Chen and Tim Gibson

A state-of-the-art cochlear implant gave Tim Gibson sound.

Tim’s story of hearing lost and regained is a remarkable one. And Sunnybrook has been with him every step of the way.

In 1993, he was hit by lightning while camping with his girlfriend (now his wife) in Algonquin Park. The strike sent him flying through the air, into the woods.

Among other injuries he sustained, Tim lost the hearing in one ear completely. The other ear lost almost 90 per cent of its hearing ability.

Over the ensuing 22 years, Tim has been a patient of Dr. Joseph Chen, chief of the Department of Otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) at Sunnybrook. He received treatment for chronic ear infections that were a result of a hole in his eardrum, as well as multiple surgeries attempting to close the hole. Tim never let profound hearing loss stop him from living life to the fullest: This Milton, Ont., resident learned to lip read, got married, had two kids, developed many diverse interests and rose to become a vice president at Siemens.

In 2013, an infection spread to his inner ear and left him completely deaf.

When Dr. Chen found out his long-time patient had become totally deaf, he cancelled plans to attend a conference in order to perform cochlear implant surgery on Tim. Tim was in good hands. Dr. Chen is director of the Cochlear Implant Program at Sunnybrook, the largest program in Canada, and one that plays an important role in research globally.

As soon as Tim’s implant was turned on, he could hear. “I didn’t realize how deaf I was until I got the implant,” he says. “Now, I can hear the birds outside my house. I can hear my kids. I can hear during meetings at work. This makes such a difference to me.”

Sunnybrook’s otolaryngology specialists have done approximately 1,500 cochlear implants since the program began in 1984. They have also contributed a number of Canadian firsts, such as the first-ever cochlear implant in a patient with single-sided deafness and the first-ever auditory brain stem implant. “Cochlear implants are not just a medical marvel,” says Dr. Chen, “they give people a new lease on life, enabling them to be productive members of society.”

Tim is thrilled with his new-found hearing. In fact, he just renovated his basement to include a music room.

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