The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

'Whispers of Innovation: The Cochlear Impact' Patrick & Jen Hoffner

John Carter
October 6, 2023
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'Whispers of Innovation: The Cochlear Impact' Patrick & Jen Hoffner

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In this episode we dive deep into the realm of cochlear implants and the profound impact they've made on the lives of one of the coolest young men that I have ever met, Patrick Hoffner. In this episode we speak with Jen, his Mum, and Patrick and hear about the journey that Patrick has been on since having cochlear implants at aged-1.  We speak about how this incredible technology has impacted his life.

Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] The year is 2013, and I've just flown from Sydney to Denver in the U S and then from Denver to St. Louis. Researching and getting feedback. One of my biggest and first full services I'm projects. And the client was caught here and they produce implantable hearing solutions for the profoundly deaf. This episode is with someone extremely special. Patrick Hoffner now 14 years old, but was four years old at the time when we first met during that research stage. And in this project, we connect with Patrick and his mom, Jen. And talk about the effect that his cochlear implants has had on his life.

[00:00:37] Before we jump in, though, this episode is brought to you by our wonderful friends at Miro. And I wanted to give you four reasons why I believe Miro is truly awesome. So here it goes. Number one. It's visual collaboration. Miro provides a Fertrell canvas. Where teams can brainstorm plan and visualize ideas together from mind maps and flow charts. To wireframes and mockups Miro offers a [00:01:00] wide range of pre-built templates and tools to bring your idea to life. Number two real time and remote collaboration. Number three seamless integration mirror, integrate seamlessly with popular tools like slack and JIRA and Google drive, making it easy to bring all your work into one place. No more switching between apps or losing track of important information and number four, one of the most important ones. Is security and privacy. Now we understand the importance of that Miro of keeping the data safe and mirror employees, industry leading security measures to protect your information, ensuring that your collaboration remains confidential and secure. So don't waste any more time or that data collaboration tools experience the power of Miro. And unlock your team's full potential. Check it out forward slash podcast, where you can sign up for free and get three free canvases for life. Now let's go back to the episode with Patrick and Jen.

[00:01:55] Gerry Scullion: I'm delighted to have you in the podcast. We've known each other for a number of years, maybe over [00:02:00] a decade. I think we were just chatting there beforehand, but for our listeners, maybe start off and tell us a little bit about who you are and where you're from.

[00:02:06] Gerry Scullion: We'll start with Jen first, then we'll go to Patrick.

[00:02:09] Jen Hoffner: Okay, well, I am better known as Patrick's mom, wherever we go, but, we live in the St. Louis area and I found out that Patrick was born deaf right away, like the day he was born, so they had done a, newborn hearing screening test, before we ever left the hospital. So, it's been really quite a journey for us to, to deal with his deafness and to, see where he went in the past 15 years.

[00:02:41] Gerry Scullion: It is. It's been a, it's been a wonderful journey. I'm sure it's been a, an up and down journey like everything, but I connected with Patrick in St. Louis when he was, I think about four and a half. I think it was somewhere around that year. But Patrick were great to have you on the show. First of all, like, for people listening, they will probably be familiar.

[00:02:59] Gerry Scullion: I've [00:03:00] mentioned Cocklear a lot over the years. But Patrick was one of those people that, I met and that really You know, threw me into a million miles into the air and kind of go, wow, this is incredible. This is where all of these worlds combined that we talk about making impacts in human lives.

[00:03:18] Gerry Scullion: So Patrick great to have you on the show. Tell us how old you are now.

[00:03:21] Patrick Hoffner: I'm 14, almost 15 now. So,

[00:03:25] Gerry Scullion: Big age, going from 14 to 15, that is a huge leap. But what year are you in school in the States?

[00:03:33] Patrick Hoffner: I'm just starting 9th grade, so my freshman year of high school.

[00:03:36] Gerry Scullion: One. Okay, so only a couple of years left before you get to fly the nest. And do you have any plans what you'd like to do in the future?

[00:03:44] Patrick Hoffner: Not really haven't really decided on anything that, any like future career path or anything like that.

[00:03:52] Gerry Scullion: So, we were chatting beforehand and Patrick unfortunately does not remember me but I remember Patrick. [00:04:00] I remember Jen and I remember everyone talking to me when I arrived in America for, with Cochlear. And they were saying There's one kid you're going to meet. Hopefully you get to meet him.

[00:04:11] Gerry Scullion: I was like, who? They go, Patrick. Patrick is this kid. And it was like amongst the organization. Cockney is huge. And they were all talking about this remarkable child, like, and I think you were late that day. If I'm if I can recall. And I remember there was lots of people in St. Louis saying, oh, hopefully he arrives.

[00:04:29] Gerry Scullion: And I was expecting the lights to dim and, a sparkling glove to appear on stage and a spotlight. And Michael Jackson, if he walked out on stage that day, would have been a second to you because they lifted you up. This is a true story, folks. They lifted Patrick up onto the seat and everyone was holding their breath because you're probably just about four. You got up there with a bag of dinosaurs and started to rattle off every single dinosaur in [00:05:00] that bag. And I started to cry. I was like, this is the most overwhelming thing I'd ever because, it was just so moving.

[00:05:09] Gerry Scullion: So where are you at and where is that dinosaur collection now is what I want to know.

[00:05:14] Patrick Hoffner: I have not seen that dinosaur collection a little bit, but We still have it. We still have it, yes, of course.

[00:05:21] Gerry Scullion: So, what's your first memory then, Patrick, I guess, of cochlear and cochlear implants?

[00:05:28] Patrick Hoffner: I'd say a big one was Cochlear Celebration, probably around the same time it was in San Diego. So, it was just very amazing to see a ton of people with cochlear implants, because that was pretty much all of the people who were there. And that's also where I recorded the video of me when I was,

[00:05:49] Gerry Scullion: Okay, I'll put a link to that video in the show notes so people can click in and look at it and you're still as cute as you were there just as a reference. What I want to talk [00:06:00] a little bit more about is, say right now, for people who are listening how are you able to hear? Okay. Because when I talk about cochlear implants, even to people in Ireland, they look at me like I'm from the future.

[00:06:14] Gerry Scullion: And I said, yeah, the, people see them, but they don't realize what they are. Okay. So maybe talk about, what are the The devices, I guess, that assist you in being able to have this conversation at the moment.

[00:06:29] Patrick Hoffner: Also I can't hear very well with them pretty much as a normal hearing person. So, yeah, they're small devices that just fit on top of my ear. So,

[00:06:41] Gerry Scullion: and they connect to they, they

[00:06:43] Patrick Hoffner: yeah.

[00:06:44] Gerry Scullion: connect into Cochlear.

[00:06:46] Patrick Hoffner: Yep. Yeah. So they go into the they go up into the internal piece and then down into the cochlea and then to the brain. So,

[00:06:56] Gerry Scullion: It is, like, Graeme Clark, who who [00:07:00] discovered the ability to do this. It might have been in the 70s, was it in Australia. It's one of the most groundbreaking technologies that I've ever come across.

[00:07:09] Gerry Scullion: So, as you mentioned there, you've got the two cochlear devices, so you've, in both ears, they're able to assist you hearing this through the speakers on the computer. Presumably, you're interpreting the digital signal coming back off the speakers. Is that right at the moment?

[00:07:23] Jen Hoffner: I did. So, so yeah he's listening the same way I am through the speaker here and can hear you probably just as well as I can. All

[00:07:33] Gerry Scullion: yeah. So how, for listeners out there, how do they differ then to hearing aids? Because that's one of the questions that I get all the time. I said, well they're quite different. But I'm keen to understand, I'm sure you've been asked that question many times before and I'd love to hear your answer.

[00:07:50] Patrick Hoffner: right. So hearing aids amplify the sound making things louder, but cochlear implants. are for people who are deaf, so hearing aids wouldn't work as well [00:08:00] because there is no sound really to make louder. So cochlear implants replicate the hearing process in a way through the external and internal pieces.

[00:08:09] Gerry Scullion: Sure. So, Jen, just going back to the start of the conversation there, where you meant, where you mentioned where Patrick, it was discovered that Patrick was born deaf, what was that journey like at that moment in time? Can you, if you're okay to go back and talk about that? Because I know it was an emotional time.

[00:08:27] Gerry Scullion: But what was the process around that in terms of discovering what your options were?

[00:08:33] Jen Hoffner: So when when Patrick was born, they did the screening test and they came back and said that Patrick might be deaf, but because it was a c-section that it may have just been fluid in his ears and to come back for more testing a couple weeks later. So when we did go back for testing at the Children's Hospital, we found out that he had severe to [00:09:00] profound hearing loss.

[00:09:01] Jen Hoffner: Which means really the only sounds that he quote unquote heard were things that he could feel. So, for example a loud jet going by. Well, you can actually feel that rumble. And so, are you really hearing it or are you feeling it at that point? So those are the only types of sounds that he would even...

[00:09:24] Jen Hoffner: be able to respond to are the ones that he could feel. So, we were presented with a couple of different options. One was to go strictly sign language. And the other would be to do, to try the cochlear implants. And so, here in the U. S. at that time you had to be a year old to get cochlear implants.

[00:09:49] Jen Hoffner: So, We had a trial of hearing aids beforehand, but obviously he was deaf and they didn't help him hear speech sounds enough. So they [00:10:00] at the week of his first birthday, he had the surgery to put the internal pieces, the internal devices in, and then a few weeks later they activated them.

[00:10:11] Jen Hoffner: So he was about a year behind normal hearing children in language at that point because he hadn't heard in the womb and he hadn't heard that first year of life. So it was quickly became, how do we catch him up?

[00:10:27] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, and he did that with force. Because I know this story quite well. I remember reading. And when I came back to Australia, I looked into the business of starting Patrick Hoffner t shirts. I was a huge fan and like so much.

[00:10:44] Gerry Scullion: So like myself and Jane are actually friends on Instagram and I have a handful of people on Instagram. I'm always hopefully my friends aren't listening to this. I'm always removing people. So Jane has survived every call since Instagram came. I'm like, no, Jane's [00:11:00] cool. Jane can stay in there and see pictures of my kids.

[00:11:03] Gerry Scullion: So, I feel like this is really probably strange for Patrick, but I've been part of your journey since we met in, St. Louis, and I see photos and going to the zoo and all of these different things in school. And it's been remarkable, like it really has, like, because, technology has given us that benefit of being able to, I guess, look at people's lives as they're growing up.

[00:11:24] Gerry Scullion: But what challenges do you face, or do you face challenges? In, in the current world, what does that look like for you at the moment? With the cochlear implants, Patrick?

[00:11:34] Patrick Hoffner: I don't actually face very many challenges. Yeah, there's just so much technology, even, that can help eliminate all those challenges. So, swimming, I have a waterproof case I can put my implants in so I can still hear when swimming, which is a big part just eliminating challenges. And then there's devices that you can hook up to the computer.

[00:11:56] Patrick Hoffner: For headphones. I can actually wirelessly [00:12:00] stream calls and music and everything from my phone to my implants, which is another just great resource. So,

[00:12:10] Gerry Scullion: I remember when I was doing research, one of the things I kept on coming up was the ability to go swimming and how many problems that caused. And at that time, there was a lot of people working on it. So it's great to see that one has, come to fruition as in the market and stuff.

[00:12:25] Gerry Scullion: But the other one that we were talking about there was the ability to listen to music. Now, I'm always around music. It's so important to me in my own life. But you mentioned there about a technology, about being able to listen to music. Are you okay to talk a little bit more around how that works? What does that look like?

[00:12:45] Gerry Scullion: So who is your favorite band at the moment? Or is it

[00:12:48] Patrick Hoffner: Taylor Swift is my favorite artist.

[00:12:50] Gerry Scullion: Swifties, you're a swifty.

[00:12:52] Patrick Hoffner: I just wanted to talk to her.

[00:12:54] Gerry Scullion: you saw them. I was going to say, have you gone to any concerts? So what's the experience

[00:12:59] Patrick Hoffner: saw Taylor [00:13:00] Swift a couple weeks ago in concert. So, that was. Amazing.

[00:13:05] Gerry Scullion: Yeah, inexpensive. I'm sure as well.

[00:13:08] Patrick Hoffner: Yeah.

[00:13:09] Jen Hoffner: Yeah. So Patrick streams almost all the time when he has a down moment from his phone to his cochlear implants.

[00:13:19] Patrick Hoffner: Right.

[00:13:20] Gerry Scullion: Just pause on that. What does that mean? Because this is my good friend, Victor Rodriguez in Cochlear. I remember when he was and his team were working on that. Okay, when you sing stream music to your cochlear implants, tell me what's happening.

[00:13:35] Patrick Hoffner: So I can just turn Bluetooth on and connect straight to my implants through the cochlear app. So I can then just stream music. It's very similar to listening with AirPods. Or headphones except I don't need any extra equipment.

[00:13:53] Gerry Scullion: Has there been any kind of social bits when you're out and about listening to music and people come up [00:14:00] to you and you've got music playing and usually these devices I'm wearing earphones at the moment or headphones and that's a kind of a nod to people around me that okay I'm You I'm working or I'm listening to music.

[00:14:13] Gerry Scullion: Do you have any stories around what that might be like when you're out and about and you're doing your shopping and you're humming along? Is it Jen's nodding away getting on all the time? You could be doing your homework and maybe Jen is trying to talk to you and you've got like Taylor Swift blaring.

[00:14:28] Gerry Scullion: Does that happen? It does. I find that as amazing, as absolutely amazing. Tell us what it's like.

[00:14:35] Patrick Hoffner: It's just funny because I'll realize, I'll look up and see my mom talking at me, but I'm listening to music if I have the volume up and what not. And she will, yeah, just be talking and I'll miss everything she's saying.

[00:14:50] Gerry Scullion: Sounds brilliant.

[00:14:51] Patrick Hoffner: It's

[00:14:52] Jen Hoffner: like, it's like a regular teenager would, right? Usually you see teenagers with their headphones on or [00:15:00] airpods, and he's doing the same thing as they are, but I just can't always tell.

[00:15:05] Gerry Scullion: It's, it is, it's incredible. Like I remember when I was in school, Patrick, we didn't have air pods or Bluetooth, any of these things. We used to do this, these French lessons and the teacher would go around and put a tape in every one of the boxes on our server screens. And one of my friends would bring a Walkman in and we'd all have our big long leads coming up and down the bottom of our our sleeves, of our jumpers, because this is Ireland, it's, always cold.

[00:15:29] Gerry Scullion: And we'd always lean against, like this, as we're meant to be listening to French, and we'd usually be listening to some stand up comedian, like Eddie Murphy or something like this, and we'd be trying to keep the laughing in. So, I imagine there's probably instances where you're You could be doing this.

[00:15:42] Gerry Scullion: I'm not saying you're probably not going to admit it because there could be a school principal listening, but you could be listening to music when you're in school. Is that fair to say? If

[00:15:52] Patrick Hoffner: I have not done that yet, but,

[00:15:54] Gerry Scullion: a, Oh Pinocchio.

[00:15:57] Jen Hoffner: Technically, he's not supposed to have his cell [00:16:00] phone in the classroom. So

[00:16:02] Gerry Scullion: Right. Okay.

[00:16:03] Jen Hoffner: that's part of it, but we'll see what happens next year.

[00:16:07] Gerry Scullion: It is. So what's it like around the support network? Who is involved in terms of your maintenance and your care regime and what does that look like maybe over the last 10 years? Cause when I met you, I was working on a service. It's now called, I think, my cochlear in my research, it's called something else.

[00:16:27] Gerry Scullion: Is it still active in terms of where you order your parts and bits and pieces like that? Is that how it operates now?

[00:16:35] Jen Hoffner: It is. Yeah there's a website for us to order his equipment if he needs like new microphone covers or a new coil cable or anything like that. But usually mom or dad takes care of that still for him. But

[00:16:51] Patrick Hoffner: What other things do you have? At school I have a deaf itinerant who from the special school district who will stop in usually once a month or [00:17:00] so.

[00:17:00] Patrick Hoffner: Just to check in and see if there's any issues that I'm having with hearing in the classroom. But throughout elementary school she was also teaching me how to like advocate for myself with my implants, which was a big help because Now, I do feel confident enough to self advocate but I also go in once every six months or a year for audiology, which is another I'm So,

[00:17:31] Gerry Scullion: So what do you have to do with the audiologist? Tell us what that involves.

[00:17:37] Jen Hoffner: So, during his audiology appointments they do what's called mapping. And they're able to program at an electrode level. And for Patrick, there's 22 electrodes on the internal device, which represent different frequencies.

[00:17:52] Jen Hoffner: And so they can fine tune which frequencies each electrode picks up. But they can also fine [00:18:00] tune the loudness of each electrode to balance it out. So one's not. More, I guess, overpowering the others and making sure that both sides are balanced and making sure that The devices are programmed best for him.

[00:18:15] Jen Hoffner: And it normally doesn't change too much over time, but there are little tweaks as we go. So when he was a child, small child, first starting, if there were sounds that he wasn't saying quite yet we would make sure that he was actually hearing those sounds correctly. So, for example, if he wasn't saying the S sound yet, Then they would check.

[00:18:39] Jen Hoffner: That's I think that's a pretty high frequency. So they would check that frequency to make sure that he was actually hearing that sound so that he could produce it. So there's a lot of tweaking that goes on, especially in the beginning to make sure everything is good. So the first few years, as you can imagine, it's Much harder when you have a one year old than a 14 or [00:19:00] 15 year old who can give you feedback, but you look for different visual cues for a small child, but for an old, an older child or an adult, they can tell you, if they hear those frequencies at all different levels and if things sound too loud, so they definitely adjust for on an individual level,

[00:19:22] Gerry Scullion: okay. I remember at one point reading, this is after I left Cochlear, the ability to do remote diagnostic testing. So the ability to, somebody to look at the configuration setup through the cloud. As they say in technology world. Has that something that has come to the market or is that something that you were able to do to avoid those kind of big long journeys in some instances in the expense of seeing an audiologist every six months?

[00:19:51] Jen Hoffner: We haven't taken advantage of that because our audiologist is not too far from us, but. We do know of other [00:20:00] people who have done that, who do live farther away from an audiologist. It does make it a lot easier for them.

[00:20:05] Gerry Scullion: I love the fact when I was doing so much work with Cochlear, and I still, by the way, I've done work with them over the last number of years as well the connections that people have with each other was really special. So. Are you able to talk a little bit more, it's probably more for Jane, this question, Patrick, whenever Patrick had his implants at the age of one, what happened there?

[00:20:30] Gerry Scullion: Because there was people that probably just came out of the woodwork and introduced themselves and provided support, that human support. What did that look like? And what was that experience like for you and the family?

[00:20:43] Jen Hoffner: Sure. When we were looking first of all to decide whether or not Patrick was going to get cochlear implants and what his future may look like, we met with a few families to meet their children who had cochlear implants. [00:21:00] And were completely blown away. They were around five years old. So not that much different in age from when you first met Patrick.

[00:21:06] Gerry Scullion: They have dinosaurs as well.

[00:21:09] Jen Hoffner: They did not have dinosaurs, . But so knowing how much of an impact those families had on our decision really helped us connect with other people as well. So, we really sought out connections. When we came to St. Louis, there was a big group of people who got together every month. Most of them were actually more of the senior age, senior citizen age who may have lost their hearing later in life or who got their cochlear implants as adults.

[00:21:41] Jen Hoffner: Who, they really they loved seeing Patrick because his journey is so different from theirs because he was born deaf and through groups like that, we have not only helped adults really make the decision to go ahead and get cochlear implants But [00:22:00] we've also reached out to other families.

[00:22:03] Jen Hoffner: It's been really nice for us because we have, we know families who have children who are older than Patrick, so we can ask them for advice. And that's been a big one. Like what kinds of services should we ask for in the school? What kinds of accommodations does your child have? They may not always apply for Patrick, but it's nice to know what kinds of things are available or even simple things like what do you do when he goes to ride a bike?

[00:22:29] Jen Hoffner: Like what kind of helmet would you wear? And so they told us, OK, well, get a bike helmet with the dial in the back so you can put it on over the cochlear implant and then snug it up in the back by turning the dial. Little things like that. So we've had a big support network of adults who have cochlear implants and especially when he was really little it was nice knowing like, well, how does this sound to you?

[00:22:55] Jen Hoffner: Really asking those types of questions and then we have you know [00:23:00] children that are a year or five years older than Patrick to ask those types of questions like, how What kinds of services should we ask for, or what kinds of things do you not allow your child to do, or do you allow your child to do with cochlear implants?

[00:23:16] Jen Hoffner: And then families who are who have kids Patrick's age, because you're going through that journey together. Right. And we know several families who went to the same oral deaf school as Patrick, who we are still in contact with. As a matter of fact, one went to the Taylor Swift concert with us a couple weekends ago.

[00:23:37] Jen Hoffner: And then again, families with younger children who were able to Either help ask questions of support or if their children are just starting out on the journey give them some hope

[00:23:50] Gerry Scullion: So, how do you keep in touch with those people? Is it something that's through the ecosystem of Cochlear, or is that something that is just through friends at this [00:24:00] stage?

[00:24:01] Jen Hoffner: A little of everything really We have friends that we see through, like, Cochlear meetings, we have friends that we see through social media, and just about every direction that you can come from. We sometimes get emails, can you talk to a family, or Facebook group because somebody has a question that you might be able to answer.

[00:24:26] Gerry Scullion: Going back to when Patrick was, probably two, three, four years of age, the connection between the ears and the mouth is really strong. I have a sister who is a speech therapist. So what was the access to speech therapy? Was that an issue whenever Patrick was growing up trying to catch up in that first year of of hearing and speech development?

[00:24:47] Jen Hoffner: So we made a decision when... Patrick was a pretty young age. He was almost two to move to St. Louis for the MOOC Center, which is an oral deaf school that focused on [00:25:00] teaching children with cochlear implants or hearing aids or other hearing devices to to listen. And speak. So it was very intensive but it was able, they were able to help catch Patrick up to his, to normal hearing children and then he's to pass them at a very young age, which I'm sure when you saw him at four, that was the case.

[00:25:26] Jen Hoffner: And that's why he could talk about all those dinosaurs. But I think it was a very deliberate. Decision on our part to get Patrick to a school that could help him do the best that he could with his devices. So they were really integral in, in his journey because it was not only speech therapy, but it was very deliberately teaching him language.

[00:25:52] Jen Hoffner: For example, when One lesson they did was, they had a little toy couch and a family and they were teaching,[00:26:00] the boy is on the couch, the mommy is behind the couch, the daddy is in front of the couch. It was a very deliberate way of teaching language, almost as if you were learning a foreign language.

[00:26:12] Jen Hoffner: But it was the best way to catch him up. And then they also did, fun things. They mixed in like normal preschool activities. With speech and language and all those types of activity. Yeah. But. They're, they then send you home with kind of homework and the homework, especially for moms, and it's been, it's a strange fact that the language that a child learns is usually associated with how many words a mother talks to their child

[00:26:46] Gerry Scullion: Right.

[00:26:47] Jen Hoffner: at a very early age.

[00:26:48] Jen Hoffner: So my homework then was say as much as you can to Patrick.

[00:26:54] Gerry Scullion: That's not a problem for you, Jen.

[00:26:57] Jen Hoffner: I mean, you had to really narrate your life. Like you're [00:27:00] going through the supermarket and you're talking about, Oh, where are the bananas? The bananas are a fruit. The bananas are yellow. There are six bananas. And it was really honestly narrating every single thing about what your day was.

[00:27:18] Jen Hoffner: But it was both for for me and Patrick's dad, it was really talking to him as much as possible and and really just trying to get that language input because you can't catch up child who didn't hear that first year of life unless they have a lot of language input.

[00:27:37] Gerry Scullion: It's pretty amazing, Patrick, in terms of all the support that you've had over the years, technology has been obviously a huge enabler, the technology that Cochlear created has been a huge enabler, should I say, but there's also a huge amount of human Cochlear?

[00:27:55] Patrick Hoffner: for sure.

[00:27:56] Gerry Scullion: people going out on the journey at the moment[00:28:00] and what advice do you give to people who are going on that journey? Maybe they've got children who who are thinking about taking that first step. What does that service look like and how important is the human aspect to it?

[00:28:14] Patrick Hoffner: I think the human aspect is incredibly important. Not only, and obviously we talked about catching me up with language, but also just knowing that you're not alone in it at all. So things like the cochlear meetings and just knowing other people with cochlear implants was a huge thing for me because I knew in the back of my head you're not the only one with cochlear implants. A ton of other people are going through very similar things to you. That was a really big part. And then obviously just having the continued support system with my deaf eye tenor and then my parents and people at Cochlear and everything was really just helpful for shooting down any problems that might arise [00:29:00] throughout the way.

[00:29:01] Gerry Scullion: So during the pandemic, Patrick, what was that like whenever restrictions happened? The human aspect was suddenly Digitized and technology became the sole access to that service. What was that experience like for you?

[00:29:16] Patrick Hoffner: it, I imagine it was very similar to a lot of other people, with just suddenly a huge change, but in some ways it was nice to be able to have a lot more video chatting apps, be Like come into existence then talk to more people further away a lot easier. But yeah, I imagine it had a lot of the very same impacts as most of the rest of the world, just trying to adjust to new, to like no school in person.

[00:29:51] Patrick Hoffner: And Online classes and all that.

[00:29:55] Gerry Scullion: On that point, for the future, there must be bits that you when you [00:30:00] put your head on the pillow at night, can you go, someday it'd be great if they had that. If they did this, that would be even better. What are those things that you would wish for that would improve everything that you have at the moment as regards your hearing?

[00:30:16] Patrick Hoffner: Trying to think. There's a lot of things out there. Not really sure there is anything, any huge thing that would drastically improve it. Just, I guess, improving awareness both my implants. And just making sure everybody knows what they are. It's a big thing to be able to my mom came into my kindergarten and first grade classes to, like, Educate the class about my cochlear implants.

[00:30:45] Patrick Hoffner: And from there on, when new people come to the school and everything, I've been, yeah, talking about my cochlear implants, but the people who were educated during those first years have also been able to [00:31:00] go and tell others about them. And that's been amazing, even at cutting down, like, bullying, even.

[00:31:05] Patrick Hoffner: That's not been an issue for me because of the awareness and everything. It helps. It just hasn't been some strange new thing. It's just, oh yeah, there's Patrick and he happens to be deaf.

[00:31:17] Gerry Scullion: yeah. It's amazing to hear that because like, even when I asked you that question around what bits would you wish and it's like, I'm not really sure if there's anything. It just shows how far society has come that, you're able to lead a relatively Normal, if you want to use that word existence.

[00:31:33] Gerry Scullion: And it's perfect. That's exactly what everyone is hoping for, like, jen, what does the future look like for Patrick when he flies the nest in a couple of years and he moves to Ireland to hang out with all the cool Uncle Jerry's that he has floating around the world? That's a joke, by the way.

[00:31:49] Gerry Scullion: You're always welcome in Ireland, by the way. But what does it look like when that support network has been taken away somewhat? But when he's away from home and the ability to be able to [00:32:00] check in and see what they're doing, I remember speaking to you about that when I was a cop here all the time.

[00:32:06] Gerry Scullion: Patrick's at school, you're at work, you've got this anxiety that lives there going, Oh, I hope he's OK. Like, what does that look like when he's a bit older? And what are the bits that you're pondering about that?

[00:32:18] Jen Hoffner: I know that a lot of the colleges have departments that would help him with any accommodations. For example a fire alarm system that has a strobe light, those types of things. But... He is so used to advocating for himself on his own now, and I feel like if there are situations that he needs help with, he'll speak up, but otherwise he's got it under control, because he has. Been we've worked on that very consciously with him as far as if he can't hear something [00:33:00] that somebody saying, because he's really far away. Cochlear implants are really good about picking up speech that's nearby and blocking out background noise. But if you actually wanted to hear something that was more in that background area, there are things that he can set with his cochlear implants to help him hear different, differently different situations.

[00:33:20] Jen Hoffner: But also, I know that he knows to ask. So he, so I think it's less Less a situation where he can't hear, but more socially when you get out of certain areas, like, for example, St. Louis has a large number of people with cochlear implants because there are a few schools that specialize in oral deaf education, and then people move here and then they stay.

[00:33:49] Jen Hoffner: So there, there is an awareness in general in the community here. And in big cities, you'll see that too. But depending on where Patrick goes, he might have to really work [00:34:00] on awareness and education of others. And I would say that's probably just probably the biggest worry. But other than that, I feel like we have, we've been dealing with this for just about 15 years now.

[00:34:17] Jen Hoffner: So, hopefully we've given him the tools that he needs in, in a few years to be able to handle things for himself.

[00:34:25] Gerry Scullion: one of the pieces that I remember, as only as you're talking, it's lighting my brain up and remembering lots of stuff. When you say buy a car, okay, you know that you're going to drive that car for a number of years. And at some point, you might be driving a Chrysler if you're an American, then in a couple of years, you might end up driving a Toyota or whatever it is.

[00:34:45] Gerry Scullion: With cochlear, when you have the implants, it's still probably the same, whereas you're with cochlear. And you're with Cochlear forever. Is that still the same as regards, like, if Cochlear, the organization, stop innovating[00:35:00] you're locked in that sense, is that right?

[00:35:03] Jen Hoffner: That is true. So it was important for us to really look at the company itself because there are a few of them that make cochlear implants, but but Cochlear, their tagline is here now and always. And so we had a lot of faith that the company will continue to innovate and.

[00:35:25] Jen Hoffner: And innovate with quality, which is a big one as well. So, I mean, most likely Patrick will need an internal upgrade or he'll have a device failure, possibly at some point in his life, I'm guessing. They're, they are made to last for a long time, but, that is something that at some point in his life, technology may change enough that we. May have to have a surgery or an upgrade or things like that. So

[00:35:58] Jen Hoffner: are locked

[00:35:58] Jen Hoffner: into that

[00:35:59] Gerry Scullion: I've trained [00:36:00] them, I've worked with them, I've done all this work, and The quality of the people in Cochlear, I can say firsthand, they are unbelievable. There are great people and I don't think I've met a bad person in Cochlear in terms of as a person and as a practitioner, they're always remarkable and they always have the person at the center of everything that they're designing for.

[00:36:23] Gerry Scullion: So it's, it really is a, it's a beacon that I hold up in terms of who does it really well, like, and that's Cochlear, like, but look, I promised I'd get everything done in an hour and, I'm like a Rolls Royce car here. I'm going to bring this conversation into a close. If there's anyone you want to give a special shout out and thanks to, like, for people who might be listening in to hear Patrick and Jen's conversation.

[00:36:45] Gerry Scullion: Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to? Any links that you want to push people to? Put the video up there of Patrick and his dinosaurs. That's definitely going to get included.

[00:36:55] Patrick Hoffner: Yeah, I'd say probably the biggest shout out is really to [00:37:00] everyone who has helped me through this journey. Cochlear, My parents, obviously people in the schools, even my teachers have been incredibly supportive and just making sure any issues that arise are taken care of.

[00:37:14] Gerry Scullion: Nice. Listen, look, thank you, both of you, for giving me your morning time. I know the listeners are going to love this episode because it's a really it's a personal episode, but it's also a really heartwarming one to be able to see how all these different worlds connected to provide such an incredible outcome for the likes of Patrick and his dinosaurs.

[00:37:32] Gerry Scullion: thousands and thousands of other people in America and beyond. Thank you so much for giving me your time, folks.

[00:37:38] Patrick Hoffner: Thank you. Thank you.

[00:37:38] I hope you enjoyed that episode folks. Another great story for us as Changemakers to take stock of and reflect on. Now, if you like what we do, be sure to explore, becoming a premium subscriber of the podcast by visiting this as forward slash premium, running this as ATD takes a huge amount of effort and every little [00:38:00] helps us continue on that journey, if not be sure to like, and subscribe our content wherever you're listening.

[00:38:06] And until next time, thank you so much for your time and see you soon.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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