Susan dealt with hearing loss since she was a child. By the end of high school, she began wearing hearing aids, which became her normal way of life for the next several decades. After a few serious wake up calls and fearing the danger of hearing loss, Susan decided it was time to take control. A lucky internet search led her to the jackpot: a friend, a support system and cochlear implants.
“Based on my mom’s recollection of what the pediatrician said and things that happened in my childhood, doctors believe I was born with hearing loss. Like a chameleon, I was an expert at blending in with my surroundings, hiding from the conversation, being silent in school and compensating to avoid attention. Unfortunately, my hearing loss was not detected until 10th grade and that’s when I began wearing hearing aids. I did not like them because they were bulky, and I could not wear them anywhere near water. This was a problem because I was on the swim team.
Over the years, I gradually lost the rest of my meager hearing. I tried to fit in with my hearing peers, did my best to keep up with others and make the most of my situation, with my parents nudging me along, but it was a never-ending struggle. It was also exhausting because, despite my hearing aids, I could not get the amplification I needed.
The danger of hearing loss
Then in my 40s, I began to discover the seriousness of hearing loss and how it can become dangerous to myself or others. A particular incident at school, involving a fire drill, prompted me to seek help when I thought my hearing aids were broken. That is really when it hit me that it wasn’t the hearing aids that were broken, my ears were. I was scared, confused and lost. I realized I was very close to being deaf. Everything in my life continued to deteriorate until one night, after a particularly sad incident with my granddaughter, I decided I had had enough.
I searched for information about what to do when you are losing your hearing. Hearing aids, hearing aids, hearing aids, hearing aids…and then, something different. I saw an article about a person who had cochlear implants. It was late, but I didn’t care, I emailed the author asking for information, guidance, anything. I needed help. Less than 5 minutes later, I received a reply! To this day, I still call her ‘Jackpot’ because I felt like I hit the jackpot when I came across her name amid the hundreds of searches that night. That is when my understanding of cochlear implants, insurance, audiologists and Cochlear began. That author became my role model for how life could be for me and for the first time, I was hopeful.
The impact of Cochlear
Support and technology drove my decision to select the Cochlear™ Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor with my first implant. I also met a Cochlear representative who explained the cochlear implant surgery process, parts and support in detail. She was articulate, well-spoken and knowledgeable. I was particularly wowed to discover she was a bilateral cochlear implant recipient herself!
Another very important aspect of my decision was the support offered online through Cochlear Support groups and the chat option when I went to Cochlear’s website because, at that time, I had not spoken on the phone for at least 10 years. Cochlear implant technology was something that I didn’t realize was cutting edge, but now I do.
After I decided to have my second implant and become bilateral in 2019, I selected the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor for its direct streaming capabilities1. For the first time in two decades, I began talking on the telephone successfully. I called my husband to see if it really worked. It did! Then I called my mom, sisters, my kids and grandkids. It was incredible! I will laugh about it for a long time because once we said our ‘hellos,’ there were a few seconds of disbelief as they processed that YES, it was me on the phone. Because it is now easier to connect, my stress and fatigue have been significantly reduced. I am grateful to be living a life of purpose and meaning, all made easier because I can hear and connect.
Doors opened; rainbows crossed
I am much more productive as a bilateral implant recipient, even as a retiree. I tutor in school, write books, make author visits, do charity work, spend time with family and go on outdoor adventures. My life is still full, just not full of stress and sadness from hearing loss like it was before my cochlear implants. Doors were opened because of my cochlear implants and rainbows were crossed because of the technology. That’s what I tell people who ask me about the true impact of my cochlear implants.
My dream of offering hope to adults and children through books continues to gain momentum. My book on overcoming hearing loss/deafness and the subsequent cochlear implant journey has been well received, especially by the families and friends of cochlear implant recipients who exclaim they had no idea of our struggle and are happy to finally understand. I hear from parents of children with cochlear implants who are excited to find that one of my books has a supporting character with bilateral implants, beautifully characterized in colorful illustrations. That little girl could be any of us with cochlear implants. I enjoy knowing that we have representation in a children’s picture book, and it’s exciting to know that it is a book I wrote because of the confidence I gained with my cochlear implants!
Doors opened, rainbows crossed – onward and upward I go.”
Are you concerned about the potential danger of hearing loss? Click here to learn more about cochlear implants.
- For sound processor compatibility information, visit https://www.cochlear.com/compatibility.