Rita D. struggled to balance her career and worsening hearing loss, using coping mechanisms to get by. After multiple pairs of hearing aids, she developed an allergic reaction to her ear molds that was so severe, she could not wear them anymore. Facing no other option but retirement, Rita was desperate to find an alternative solution to hearing aids to allow her to continue her career and travels as she wished. Introduced to the Cochlear™ Baha® System, Rita describes it as “life changing”:
“My hearing loss has been both slow and sudden; I have always had a ‘weak’ ear, as my mom used to say. In my late 20s, friends started telling me I was not hearing them. They were right and, if I was honest, I knew it too.
At the time, I was working towards my Masters of Science in counseling. The fieldwork meant working one on one with clients and groups. I was missing a lot in both my field studies and in the lectures. Until this point, I could accommodate my mild hearing loss fairly well. I figured out where to sit, learned some lip reading and became quite adept at ‘faking it’ when I did not hear something. Unfortunately, those coping skills were no longer enough. My ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor performed two stapedectomies. The first surgery was performed on my right ear, my weaker ear, and it was a success. Six months later, the second surgery was done on my stronger ear, my left; unfortunately, it resulted in an almost complete hearing loss. I remember thinking that my life was over. My audiologist, who had been helping me through this process, referred me to vocational rehab services.
Starting to treat my hearing loss
Vocational rehab sent me to lip reading classes, assisted in getting my first hearing aid and helped me find a job. With the hearing aid, I finished my graduate degree, began my professional career, married and started my family. My life was mine again! To me, it was a miracle and, more importantly, I realized that there was technology available to help me live my life fully. I am not saying it was the same as natural hearing, because it definitely was not; however, it was better than the quiet life I had envisioned before.
My first hearing aid was followed by many different newer and stronger hearing aids. Usually, every three to five years, I would need another stronger hearing aid. I wore many different hearing aids in this period of time, including two hearing aids and hearing aids connected by a wire. These hearing aids, with the help of my strong right ear, helped me have some hearing in my weak left ear. Throughout these decades though, my hearing was becoming weaker, and I was not even noticing. I focused on the reality that hearing technology was continually improving, and that ended up being true. The Baha System was proof.
Choice of retiring or finding solution for hearing loss
I was struggling with my hearing aids and had actually developed an allergy to the plastic ear molds. If I wore the hearing aid, the allergic reaction meant missing days of work…I thought my only option at that time was to retire. My ENT referred me to a specific audiologist, and, once again, my life was reclaimed. At what I thought was just another audiology appointment for my hearing aids, I was introduced to the Baha System. This appointment opened up a whole new world of education and possibilities for me.
I had surgery to get my two Baha Implants at the same time. Six weeks later, I had my sounds processors activated, and I was hearing more than I had in years. It was like a miracle! I will admit that I was a bit scared of the surgery, but the alternative, which was retirement and not hearing, was just not an option for me. It certainly helps that I have a very supportive family that keeps me laughing through all of this!
Ability to continue career
My original Baha 5 Sound Processors allowed me to continue my career as a college counselor and professor for five more years. During that final year, I suddenly lost more hearing, and I was fitted with the Baha 5 Power Sound Processors.
After 32 years as an educator, I then chose to retire. I celebrated my retirement by walking the Camino de Santiago and spent my 70th birthday celebrating in Santiago, Spain. Walking the Camino means spending each night in a different albergue (hostel). Each night, I would find an outlet, plug in my Baha Sound Processors for the night, put them on in the morning and continue walking. The Cochlear™ True Wireless™ Mini Microphone 2 was helping with keeping track of my group on the trail too.
At my age (71), I have found that many of my peers do not like technology or the different accessories. I too, at times, find it overwhelming, but I like to take one thing at a time, get comfortable with it, and sometimes get mad at it, but always keep at it.
Accessories at my age
The True Wireless accessories I have used with by Baha 5 Power Sound Processor are awesome! The TV streams directly into my sounds processors! Technology, while sometimes cumbersome, nonetheless, makes it possible to live a fuller life. At my age (71), I have found that many of my peers do not like technology or the different accessories. I too, at times, find it overwhelming, but I like to take one thing at a time, get comfortable with it, and sometimes get mad at it, but always keep at it. Eventually, I always get it. It has taken patience and persistence, and a support team to bring it all together for me. It has been a long journey to where I am today.
I have confidence in the Cochlear product and the support they have provided. Cochlear spent one on one time with me to help me figure out how to stream my television to my Baha device. Learning to use the Baha System has really been a team effort. If I were to give any advice, it is to have a team you can work with and trust. My surgeon works closely with my audiologist and she works closely with Cochlear. Together they have made it possible for me to live my life fully.
So, what is next for me? I plan to walk 500 miles in April 2019 from St. Jean, France, to Santiago, Spain. I will walk in gratitude to the professionals who have given me so much.”