Cochlear implants prove life-changing for teacher

Life went silent for GBS special education teacher and coach Terry Harris about four years ago.

Harris, who had never been able to hear out of his left ear in his life, suddenly lost all hearing in his right ear as well. It was then that he consulted with NorthShore Otolaryngologist Dr. Michael Shinners who recommended cochlear implants.

At the time, Harris just wanted to recover the hearing he lost. Now, with the help of implants, he hears in the normal range in both ears – something he’s never been able to do.

“It’s definitely been a life changer,” Harris said of the implants. “You never know what you’re missing until you get it back… Things are so much more relaxed now – so much easier.”

Harris spent majority of his life compensating for his hearing impairment. 

“I would read lips or decode body language,” Harris said. “If someone was walking with me, I would have to make sure they were to my right so that I could hear them talk.” 

Teaching at GBS for 18 years, Harris always aims to show his students that they can do anything they set their minds to. He coached football for 14 years, girls basketball for two years, boys lacrosse for two years, and has been coaching baseball since 2007. He is currently the head junior-varsity baseball coach.

The implants have greatly improved Harris’ experience in the classroom and on the baseball field.

“As a coach, I can now hear from a distance,” he said. “When the ball makes contact with the bat, I can tell how it’s being hit and what we might need to improve on. I can understand what the umpire is saying from home plate to the dugout, and players can communicate with me from any part of the field.”

In the classroom, Harris said he has more freedom to walk around the room and give students a greater voice.

“Some of my students struggle with communication and speaking loudly, so my implants allow me to hear them better.”

Harris continues to discover noises he’s never heard before. He calls these beautiful moments his “CI” or cochlear implant moments. 

“I’m hearing things that I never even knew made sounds,” he said. “I can hear my turn signal in my car, birds, wind chimes, the clicking of a clock… the humming of lights.”

When Harris isn’t teaching, coaching or keeping up with his own children, he enjoys mentoring others.

“If sharing my story helps even just one other person who’s experiencing hearing loss, it’s worth it,” he said. 

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Cochlear implants prove life-changing for teacher