One of the best parts of being a member of the Cochlear community is that there are a variety of ways to get involved. You can be a recipient, a volunteer or a Cochlear staff member.
Meet Carly, a Nucleus® 6 and Kanso® recipient whose Cochlear journey didn’t stop after activation. Her joy upon realizing how a cochlear implant could enhance her hearing led to a career where she can help others find their own hearing solutions.
Diagnosed with hearing loss
Carly said her parents found out she had hearing loss when she was 2 years old.
“When I was learning how to talk, I wasn’t doing as well as my friends, so my parents took me in for a hearing test,” she said. “It was discovered that I have sensorineural hearing loss in both ears.”
When she was 16, doctors determined that her hearing loss was due to malformed cochleas, which prevented her auditory nerves and hairs from fully functioning.
Carly first met the criteria to qualify for a cochlear implant in 2014, but she decided to wait until she graduated college to undergo the procedure.
She said she chose Cochlear because it was easy to find all the information she needed to make the best decision for her hearing. In June 2017, shortly after graduating college, she was implanted on the left side and received both the Nucleus 6 and Kanso processors.
The beginning of better sound
As her activation day approached, well-meaning friends and family members kept sending Carly videos of babies whose eyes lit up as soon as their processor was activated.
“I was watching all of those right before, then I stopped because I knew my experience wouldn’t be the same,” she said. “(I knew) when I got activated it would be the start of me teaching my brain how to hear and relearn the sounds.”
“There were so many sounds and my brain was overwhelmed by all the different noises I could hear,” Carly said. “My activation experience was the start of something that has been absolutely life-changing.”
When she returned to the audiologist a day later, she said she was surprised at how quickly her brain had adjusted to hearing with a Cochlear Implant.
“I exceeded my audiologist’s expectations on how well I adjusted,” she said. “In just one day, my brain had learned so much … and I had made so much progress. I was hearing so many things, like the sound of myself chewing, silverware scraping on a plate, and water running from the facet.”
Carly added that while her activation experience was exciting, the best part came afterwards. On the day after her activation, she had a three-hour car ride and put on a playlist of songs she already knew. The first song that came into clarity for her was, “I Go Back,” by Kenny Chesney.
“The songs clicked in my brain and I was already recognizing them,” she said. “That’s when I realized, ‘Wow, I’m going to make progress fast.’ The activation was cool, but it was everything that happened after it that was even better.”
After activation, Carly focused on exposing herself to as much sound as possible in order to teach her brain to adjust. At the time, she was living at the beach, and she said it was just the right place to learn to hear again.
“Living at the beach for this time and adjustment in my life was perfect, because that’s my favorite place in the world. Being able to hear the ocean, so clearly, the clarity was really awesome,” she said. “I loved keeping track of all of my new sounds every day.”
Carly also listened to the Harry Potter series on audiobooks, struck up conversations with strangers in different environments, and practiced talking to her mom and best friend without reading their lips.
“If you train every day, you’ll reach your goal faster,” she said.
Carly said that receiving a Cochlear Implant has brought new sounds and joys to her life.
“I was already a very confident person, so it’s hard to say how it’s changed my life,” she said. “I will say that in every aspect, my life has been enhanced. Every single thing that I do is better. I can go out with friends, do the same exact things I did before, but everything is so much better. Every part of it makes me so much happier.”
A passion for helping others
Carly’s journey with Cochlear didn’t stop there. A month after her activation, she applied to be a Cochlear volunteer. Soon afterwards, her cousin sent her a link to a job opening at the Cochlear office in Colorado, where Carly was already planning to live.
Carly ended up applying for the job, and was offered the position of Events and Online Engagement Coordinator at Cochlear Americas, which she accepted.
“The volunteer program is something I’m really passionate about,” Carly said. “It all worked out.”
Her advice for others considering a cochlear implant is to do research and ask questions, but also understand that everyone has a different experience.
“You can ask questions and a lot of recipients will give you their insights, but in the end you just have to set your attitude and mindset in the right way,” she said. “Stop focusing on what could possibly go wrong, and (instead focus on) the things that will change and how your life will improve.”