Dave Heffner didn't appreciate the value of being able to hear birds chirping or the click of his dog's toenails on the sidewalk as they strolled through the neighborhood - until he was unable to.
The 69-year-old Orangeburg man suffered near-total hearing loss in his right ear after working for years in a noisy Pennsylvania steel mill and soon needed a hearing aid for the other one.
"My left ear was affected, but not as bad as my right," he said. "In 1998, an otolaryngologist told me there was nothing that could help my right ear. He recommended a hearing aid for the left ear, which helped until August 8, 2009."
That's when Heffner lost what hearing he had in his left ear. It wasn't helped by the round of steroids he was given for what was thought to be viral infection, and he didn't have an auditory nerve tumor, as was previously thought.
Heffner was soon referred to a physician who specialized in cochlear implantation, a procedure he said has dramatically changed his life.