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W.Va. congressman grateful for hearing technology

AR-141219601CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Rep. David McKinley knows from personal experience the challenges faced by people with hearing impairments.

“I enjoy being the poster child for not being defeated by this,” said McKinley, R-W.Va.

McKinley, 67, was 29 when he was diagnosed with audio sclerosis. He said the condition meant calcium deposits on his inner ear led to hearing loss on the left side, a condition that continued for more than three decades.

“For 35 years-plus I heard nothing on the left side,” he said. “They said I would start losing it on the right side.”

He sought advice from topnotch medical professionals and two years ago was advised to have a surgical procedure for a BAHA, an acronym for Bone Anchored Hearing Aid. He said the device takes electrical impulses to the inner ear and provides stimulus to the brain.

“When we did this two years ago, it was odd,” he said. “At first I heard a lot of crackling out of the left ear. It was like someone reaching into a bag for the last potato chip. Then noises started becoming words. I could hear a turn signal and rain on the roof of the car.”

While his hearing is not 100 percent, the difference is phenomenal. He wears a hearing aid on the right side and will likely have the same surgery on that ear in the future.

He said he is thankful to participate in public service and has a strong goal of helping others overcome the challenges of hearing loss.

Throughout the years, he has managed by asking people to repeat what they have said as well as by watching their lips as they speak. He jokes that he knows just enough sign language to be dangerous…

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