Born in New York, Suellen B. was born hearing to two hearing parents and was a talkative bilingual child. Unfortunately, she started to lose her hearing at age 8, forcing her to rely heavily on lip-reading for most of her life. After the most powerful hearing aids were no longer providing her benefit, Suellen had not even realized she had a forgotten sense. Find out what sounds Suellen was happily reminded of what she was able to hear with a cochlear implant:

Suellen and son - hear with a cochlear implant
Suellen and son on vacation 3 months after her implant surgery

“I would like to introduce myself: my name is Suellen, and I was born hearing. I am bilingual in Russian and English and I speak well. If you met me, you would not know I am deaf, as my speech is clear for the most part (though I do have an ‘accent’). I would like to tell you about my journey from hearing to deafness, and then my journey back to hearing.

I was born and raised in New York by two hearing parents who emigrated from Ukraine. I was born hearing and learned how to speak at an early age. I started speaking Russian at the age of 1, and as my mother states, ‘I would not stop speaking.’ At the age of 4, I was enrolled into public school and I began speaking English then. Unfortunately, at approximately the age of 8, I began losing my hearing.

My parents monitored my hearing and hoped I would not be like my older sister (seven years my senior), who began losing her hearing around the same age as me. We did numerous tests, and the doctors could never figure out why we could not hear. They could only tell my parents that our hearing loss was due to something with genetics.

Completely deaf by 30

By the time I was 30 years old, I was completely deaf. It is not something that happened overnight; it took years for me to become deaf. As a result, I assimilated to being deaf through mastering lip-reading and using hearing aids; honestly, I believed I could still hear with my hearing aids. However, my audiologist informed me that I was wearing the most powerful hearing aids on the market, and there was nothing more they could do to help my hearing.

I began my career as a retention specialist at a community college in 2015, and I noticed how difficult it was for me to function in the hearing world. Simple things such as making a phone call at work would cause me anxiety and stress. My husband told me half the time that he spoke to me I could not hear him. That is when I realized it was time to hear, so I decided to get a cochlear implant. Throughout my entire decision process, my husband was by my side, providing support and encouragement. I had my surgery at NYU Hospital in New York City, and I was back at work within a week.

My journey had just begun. I wanted the smallest sound processor on the market, so I chose the Cochlear Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor, since it was the smallest model at the time in 2016. I selected a black coil to match my hair and a beige processor to match my skin color. My favorite accessory is the Cochlear True WirelessTM Phone Clip, which I keep in my bag and can switch from hearing mode to phone mode. Additionally, I can adjust the volume with my remote; it is very convenient and comfortable.

High activation hopes
Suellen and husband - hear with cochlear implant
3 months post-surgery, Suellen and her husband enjoy dinner at a NYC restaurant

On the day I was activated with a Cochlear Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor, I had high-hopes. I thought it would be like all those videos I saw on the internet where people can hear right away! Unfortunately, all I heard was whistling. I was extremely disappointed, but I did not give up.

After a few weeks, those whistles turned to sounds! After my one year post-up, I am able to talk to my students on the phone and can even hear operators on the phone. I can hear people clearly, even when I am not facing them. Oddly enough, after all those years of lip-reading, I can no longer lip read. One time I came out of the shower and did not have my sound processor on, while my mother was speaking to me; I tried to read her lips, but it was so difficult that I ran to put my sound processor on. I now depend completely on my cochlear implant. I regret not being implanted sooner!

Was it an easy experience? No! Was it worth it? 100 percent. I did not know what I was missing until I was implanted; I forgot what it was like to hear! My cochlear implant makes it easy to hear every day now!”

Are you struggling to hear with hearing aids like Suellen? Learn about different treatment options today.

Cara Lippitt
Cara Lippitt is the Senior Manager, Social Media Strategy at Cochlear Americas. Cara is inspired by the stories of the recipients that she is able to tell and the incredible journeys they have taken. Cara was born and raised in Colorado and adores the mountains, snow and the world of musical theatre.