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Katarina Velazquez
For The Greeley Tribune

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Sounds new to me

Who does it help?

According to Cochlear, implants can help those who:

» Have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears.

» Have profound hearing loss in one ear with normal hearing in the other ear.

» Receive little or no benefit from hearing aids.

» Score 65 percent or less on sentence recognition tests done by hearing professionals in the ear to be implanted.

Cervi Championship Rodeo

For more information on the Cervi family’s business and the rodeos they take on, go to http://cervirodeo.com/.

Cervi Championship Rodeo

For more information on the Cervi family’s business and the rodeos they take on, go to www.cervirodeo.com/

ROGGEN, Colo. — Binion Cervi remembers being really confused the first time he heard birds chirping on his ranch.

"I looked around everywhere, and thought, 'What the heck is that noise and where is it coming from?'" he said laughing. "I had never heard anything like that before."

He literally hadn't. It was only a few months ago the 32-year-old rodeo producer, an exuberant Roggen native who still lives on his family's 42,000-acre-ranch where he grew up, received a cochlear implant.

His family owns and operates Cervi Championship Rodeo, the rodeo company that has provided rodeo livestock for the National Western Stock Show for 50 years.

“If you couldn’t hear your own child, that would be hard. I just knew that was something I didn’t want to be missing out on, you know?”

A cochlear implant offers the ability to hear for those who need it, but it's different than a hearing aid in that it entirely replaces the function of the damaged inner ear. It doesn't just amplify sounds like a hearing aid.

"The implant converts sound that comes into the microphone into electrical impulses that the (ear's) nerve can understand," said Cervi's audiologist Jennifer Torres, with Denver Ear Associates. "It's a much more efficient way to give someone access to sound at normal hearing levels than to blast sound through a hearing aid. For someone like Binion with severe hearing loss, the technology is nothing short of a miracle."

Cervi was born deaf. He said as a kid, his parents used to think he was just ignoring them until a doctor diagnosed his condition. Cervi tried other hearing implants, but those didn't work. And he doesn't want to sound vain, but he didn't want to have hearing aids his whole life because of the way they looked — people might assume he was much older than he was.

But now, three months into receiving his implant, Cervi can hear 70 percent of all spoken language, according to Torres. That's without the advantage of reading lips, too — he's gotten really good at that. He knows he'll probably never hear at 100 percent, but hopefully within a year of the implant surgery, he'll get as close as he can. That's how long it usually takes for people with cochlear implants to fully adjust, he said.

ADJUSTMENT PERIOD

The first few things he remembers hearing are the beeping noises of the medical machines and the sound of the air vents in his audiologist's office — noises people with hearing naturally tend to tune out. It took him a while to adjust to all the things he was hearing after years of silence.

"I didn't really know what I was missing," Cervi said. "I worked twice as hard every day just to try to understand people, and I was exhausted every night. Now it's not as much of a challenge. I don't have to ask people to repeat themselves all the time. It's really a relief."

Cervi has two device models he uses, both magnetic that stick to the back of his head of black hair. He can stick one on the back of his head for everyday wear, and he has another that can wrap around his ear when he wants to sport his cowboy hat.

"Watch this," he said with a grin as he took the device off his head and stuck it on a gate at his ranch, showing the metal poles were the same as the magnetic plate implanted in his skill. "That never gets old."

Cervi Championship Rodeo is one of the largest rodeo producers in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and it helps produce rodeos for the National Western Stock Show each year. This year's show was the first Cervi attended where he could hear, and he said that experience was incredible. After all, he has worked at the show since he was 7 years old, where he shined boots. He does a bit more than that now.

Cervi and his brother, Chase, took over the family business 12 years ago from his dad, Mike. Cervi said he handles the "public relations and paperwork" part of the job, while his brother serves as the pick-up man — the one who swoops in when contestants are bucked off their horses at rodeos or when their rides are finished.

ADDED CONFIDENCE

Chuck Kite, livestock superintendent for the rodeo company, noticed a remarkable difference after Cervi received his implant. Cervi can talk on the phone, for one thing, and Kite no longer has to yell for Cervi to hear him. Kite said the implant has made Cervi a more confident and efficient businessman.

"It's been really good for him," Kite said. "Really, really good."

Cervi's wife, Hannah, agrees. They got married in November after they were together on-and-off for three years. Before his implant, she said they couldn't talk to each other when they went on dates because Cervi couldn't hear her. She said he would always fall asleep first at night from being exhausted trying to hear and understand people all day. It never really bothered her, but she, like Cervi, didn't really know what she was missing.

She said she cried the day the couple discovered Cervi's hearing was at 70 percent after only three months.

"I feel like I was even more excited about it than he was," she said with a laugh. "We can have real and fully involved conversations now."

Cervi said his marriage was actually part of the reason he decided to pursue the cochlear implant. He knows he wants to be able to hear the voices of his children one day.

"If you couldn't hear your own child, that would be hard," he said. "I just knew that was something I didn't want to be missing out on, you know?" ❖