Waking up one morning, Cassandra realized that she was having difficulty hearing out of one ear. Her hearing continued to decline, so she saw a specialist who diagnosed her with sudden hearing loss. After an insurance denial for a cochlear implant, her family and friends helped establish a GoFundMe and benefit event, so that Cassandra could self-pay for the technology. Now she experiences the benefits of the advanced technology. Read more below:

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“In June 2022, my alarm went off for what I thought would be a typical day. I quickly realized, however, that something with my right ear felt off. I was experiencing a lot of pressure and could not hear as I normally did. I went to Urgent Care later that day, was told there was nothing wrong and that it was potentially Eustachian tube dysfunction. They recommended Flonase, and that if it didn’t clear up in a few days to see an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT).

One week later, I was sitting in the ENT’s office taking a hearing test and was diagnosed with profound hearing loss on my right side. My doctor recommended blood work and an MRI to rule out any viral infections, Multiple sclerosis (MS) or a tumor.

Cassandra, who self-paid for her cochlear implant, shown from a side profile, pulling back her hair to reveal her sound processor on her ear. Testing for hearing loss solutions

My blood work came back normal and there were no signs of MS. However, there were findings of a vestibular schwannoma on my left auditory nerve, which was ruled as unrelated to my right-side hearing loss. I was then diagnosed with right-sided sudden sensorineural hearing loss, with an incidental finding of a left sided vestibular schwannoma. After being told my hearing in my right side wasn’t coming back, there was now also a possibility that as the schwannoma grows, I would lose my hearing on my left side as well.

At this time, I was referred to an ENT, who specializes in Neurotology, to discuss a new treatment plan. The neurotologist provided me with multiple scenarios for moving forward, one of which was a cochlear implant. I cannot thank my specialist enough for all of his care and support and for ultimately helping me decide on a life-changing cochlear implant (CI).

As a typical-hearing individual for 30 years, the thought of not hearing my family and friends was unimaginable. After losing hearing in my right side and the potential of losing hearing in my left, I was scared and full of uncertainty.

Preventing potential future bilateral deafness was certainly a huge factor in receiving a CI. But even still, the quality-of-life impact from being able to hear only on one side became reason enough. In some settings, I was able to adapt and reposition myself so my ‘good’ ear could hear. However, more often than not, I was missing parts of conversation and was frequently told ‘never mind’ or ‘I’ll tell you later.’ This became terribly frustrating.

I also developed severe tinnitus and hyperacusis in my right ear, so I was often very uncomfortable. Any sudden loud noise would cause extreme pain. I began to avoid situations that could be loud given the pain it would cause – going out to a restaurant with my family, getting drinks with friends, seeing a concert, etc. When my doctor told me a CI would likely greatly improve these quality-of-life impacts, the more and more I realized that a CI was right for me.

Seeking an improved quality-of-life

It was November 2022 when I decided to move forward with a cochlear implant and was scheduled for surgery shortly thereafter in 2023. Excited and anxious with one week before my scheduled date, I was told my insurance would not cover the surgery. I spent weeks attempting every type of appeal and request for re-consideration, in addition to working with outside organizations to receive partial funding, however all were denied and were consistently unsuccessful.

If I wanted to move forward with the procedure my only option was the self-pay price, which was out of reach. After months of trying with no success, I was completely defeated. But my hope was restored. My amazing co-workers created a GoFundMe so I could receive the gift of sound. Through the power of social media, I reached over 50% of the cost of surgery in a matter of days. My family then put together a benefit at their pizzeria, called Crust for a Cause, where hundreds of individuals came out to help me achieve the rest of my goal. All thanks to my family, friends, co-workers and community, I was able to re-schedule a surgery date in late 2023 to receive my cochlear implant.

At first, navigating this new world of hearing loss was very challenging. When I started to learn more about Cochlear, however, I loved the wide range of community and support that Cochlear had to offer. Reading other individual’s journeys gave me the confidence I needed. I also loved the easy lifestyle connectivity Cochlear offers. Listening to music is a big part of my everyday life, so the ability to stream1 to my device was appealing. Not to mention, Cochlear came highly recommended from my trusted audiologist. After reviewing all options, I was confident that Cochlear was the brand I wanted to move forward with, and I’m so glad I did.

Cassandra, who self-paid for her cochlear implant, shown from behind so the sound processor is visible on her ear, looking out over a dock and body of water. Using all the technology and features

Living with an implant has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I use both the Cochlear Nucleus® 8 Sound Processor and Cochlear Kanso® 2 Sound Processor’s. A major benefit I’ve experienced is not having to properly position myself when someone is talking to me. On my Nucleus Smart App2, I’ve started getting into ForwardFocus3. I love using it when out to dinner with someone, as it ‘dials in,’ making one-on-one conversations much easier. I also used the Aqua+ waterproof accessory4, which I love and can’t wait to use it again come summer.

I love creating content for social media about my hearing journey. I plan to continue to do so by raising awareness for the hard of hearing community and CIs. I hope to get further involved however I can.

This past October, I participated in the Pennsylvania Walk4Hearing with Hearing Loss Association of America and recently attended Deaf Awareness Night at the Philadelphia 76ers vs New York Knicks in February. My goal for 2024 is to host another Crust for a Cause at my family’s pizzeria and donate all proceeds to the Hearing Loss Association of America. I hope to support the deaf community in whatever capacity I can, just like the community did for me when I needed it the most.”

Invest in your hearing today, and learn if you may be a candidate for a cochlear implant based on hearing loss you may be experiencing.

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  1. For a full list of smartphone and app compatible devices, visit: www.cochlear.com/compatibility.
  2. Nucleus Smart App is available on App Store and Google Play. For compatibility information, visit www.Cochlear.com/compatibility.
  3. ForwardFocus is a clinician-enabled, user-controlled feature within Custom Sound Pro Fitting Software. ForwardFocus can only be enabled by a hearing implant specialist. It should only be activated for users 12 years and older who are able to reliably provide feedback on sound quality and understand how to use the feature when moving to different or changing environments. It may be possible to have decreased speech understanding when using ForwardFocus in a quiet environment.
  4. The Nucleus 8 Sound Processor with Aqua+ is dust and water resistant to level of IP68 of the International Standard IEC60529 when you use a Cochlear Power Extend Rechargeable Battery Module or Cochlear Compact Rechargeable Battery Module. The Nucleus 8 Sound Processor with Aqua+ can be continuously submerged under water to a depth of up to 3 meters for up to 2 hours. The Aqua+ accessory should be used when participating in prolonged water activities. Refer to the relevant user guide for more information. The Kanso 2 Sound Processor is dust and water resistant to level of IP68 of the International Standard IEC60529. The Kanso 2 Sound Processor with Aqua+ is dust and water resistant to level of IP68 of the International Standard IEC60529. This water protection rating means that the sound processor with the Aqua+ can be continuously submerged under water to a depth of up to 3 meters (9 feet and 9 inches) for up to 2 hours. The Aqua+ accessory should be used when participating in prolonged water activities.
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  6. Copyright © Hearing Loss Association of America®. All Rights Reserved. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is a tax-exempt, charitable organization and is eligible to receive tax deductible contributions under the IRS Code 501(c)(3). Mention of products or services on this website does not imply HLAA endorsement, nor does exclusion suggest disapproval.
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Jesse Griego
Jesse Griego is the Social Media Specialist at Cochlear Americas. Jesse finds inspiration daily in the resiliency of our recipients and their hearing journeys. Jesse was born and raised in Colorado and in his free time enjoys being a wrestling and lacrosse coach, playing guitar and being with his hound dog.