Success CI Stories : The case of Bartosz Chotkowski

15 years old Bartosz Chotkowski, is a talented swimmer and has won 55 medals. 

At the swimming pool he overtakes other competitors despite that he does not hear the whistle. How does he manage to do that? Bartosz (born in 1999) suffers from congenital deafness. 

15 years ago there was no Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) in Poland. At that time, nobody suspected that Bartosz has health issues. 

Only when he is 8–9 months old his mom noticed that her son did not respond to her voice. Exams performed at the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing, where Bartosz was admitted at the age of 10 months, confirmed her suspicion that the boy cannot hear. The resulted diagnosis was: profound sensorineural hearing loss. 

The boy received hearing aids and begun an intensive rehabilitation. – Together with specialists we worked really hard, but there were no results – recalls his mother. 

A hearing aid which amplifies sounds gives satisfying benefits only when there are enough receptors in the ear. In the case of profound sensorineural hearing loss, the cochlea is lacking hair cells which are responsible for receiving sound stimuli from the surroundings. To picture it – in Bartosz’s case, it is like that the acoustic information he received via the hearing aid was going to a black whole. 

That is why, when the boy was 1 year old, the physicians proposed a Medel cochlear implant. The cochlear implant was to replace the damaged section of the auditory path, and transmit sound information to his cortex. This could create the basis for hearing and speech development. Having the cochlear implant, Bartosz begun making fast progress. 

– When he was using hearing aids, rehabilitation process was a hopeless effort, but after the cochlear implantation each session finished with an applause for my son, as he was developing his hearing and speech skills so well. – recalls the mother. – We have supported him strongly, but mostly it was his own success, the success he owed to his own intelligence, pertinacity and eagerness to learn. 

His determination to pursue a goal has been very helpful also at the swimming pool. While practicing at trainings, he had a problem with the moment of start, but still he didn’t give up and looked for a solution to be able to develop his swimming career. 

In 2011 Bartosz begun to participate in contests for deaf swimmers. Repeatedly he set national records in the age categories of 14 and 15-17. In 2013, he participated in the Championship for Deaf in Poland and won 3 races – 50, 100 and 200 meters, in classic style. His success was widely noticed and Bartosz received an invitation to the Olympic Team. 

For Bartosz, participation in international contests was not only a competition to win a medal - it was also a motivation to learn foreign languages. He started studying English and German. Lately, while preparing for the European Swimming Championships for the Deaf, which took place in Russia, he started learning Russian. 

– If I had to make a decision about cochlear implantation once again, I would make it even earlier and regarding both ears – said Bartosz’s mother. 

And the boy is simply enjoying the fact that he can hear, and even though while swimming he is surrounded by silence, he does not feel as a deaf person.