By Kathy Walsh

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A grandfather of five says he’s gotten his life back now that he can hear again. Darrel Thomas, 77, credits a cochlear implant he got last summer.

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Darrel Thomas (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Health Specialist Kathy Walsh was there when Thomas came back for a checkup at UCHealth Hearing and Balance Clinic at University of Colorado Hospital.

Thomas worked with Audiologist Darcy Strong on mapping or programming the device to his specifications and needs. He was able to understand Strong without seeing her lips.

When Thomas first came to UCHealth, he could understand just 24 percent of words spoken. His hearing had been failing for years.

“I grew up on a farm in southwestern Kansas,” he told Walsh.

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(credit: Darrel Thomas)

He remembered playing the sousaphone in his high school marching band. And he remembered how loud the tractor was.

“A lot of tractors have the muffler right in front of you, and you’re going 10 to 12 hours a day,” Thomas said.

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(credit: Darrel Thomas)

He first noticed hearing loss in his 60s. He had two sets of hearing aids, but things got worse, and Thomas became isolated and lonely.

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(credit: CBS)

“People turn away from you. They don’t turn away because they don’t like you, you’re just too difficult to talk to,” he said.

In the summer of 2017, Thomas got a cochlear implant, a device surgically placed in his inner ear to electrically stimulate the cochlear nerve, the nerve for hearing.

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(credit: CBS)

He got emotional the day it was turned on.

And now, he said, “I try to convince people now that need is the difference between life with it or life without it.”

Thomas has gone from 24 percent to understanding 83 percent of words — and while the implant isn’t perfect, Thomas says it sounds good to him.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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