Oticon Alta

Libby's Story

I am 56 years old. I lost my hearing at 12 years of age, exactly 2 months after turning 12. One moment I was hearing and the next I was profoundly deaf (110-120 dB) in left ear. The doctors at Mayo Clinic (Minnesota) told my parents a virus had struck my left ear. The doctors instructed my parents not to worry, the right ear would be okay. Two months later, I lost all hearing in the right ear. I won't go into the difficult years between ages 12 and 53!

At age 53, I received a cochlear implant. I had been told by so many people over so many years that I was a perfect candidate for a CI - which raises the question ''How does one know who is a perfect candidate?''

I have a very close friend with a cochlear implant who was always telling me I should look into it. Unfortunately, I had lived for almost 41 years in a world of silence, had adapted (or so I thought) to that world. I married a deaf man and raised 2 normal hearing children and felt that at age 53, my life would be fine without a CI. I also had a younger sister who had a brain tumor. In 1994, she had surgery which resulted in paralysis of the right side of entire body. If nothing else - that was enough to tell me no one was going to touch my head! Therefore, when my friends or anyone else discussed cochlear implants, I politely ''listened'' but I wasn't really interested.

In January 1999, due to changes in my life at the time, I moved to California to complete the remaining year I needed for web design and database management. In March 1999, I was doing programming homework and needed a break turned. I turned the TV on, was flipping channels and landed on a PBS station that was captioned. I realized it was the Irish Tenors.

I'm Irish and I always loved music, even just watching it, so I stayed to watch - one tenor came out (very nice), next tenor came out (very nice too) then the next tenor came out and started singing ''The Town That I Loved So Well.'' Something touched my heart and soul at that very moment and I sat in awe with goosebumps all over me saying over and over again ''I have to hear that man sing.''

And so I started my CI quest. I knew absolutely nothing about cochlear implants. However, I did know that I wanted to hear music again, so I could better understand why I had been so profoundly touched by this particular tenor.

I waited until my graduation in December, 1999. One week later, I had cochlear implant surgery. I was told not to expect much progress for possibly one-two years because I had never worn HA's nor had any auditory stimulation for 41 years. I was told by my audiologist I should not listen to music for a while because she was so afraid I would be disappointed.

I had to choose a cochlear implant, and I chose the Clarion, by Advanced Bionics. Don't laugh when I tell you why! Clarion, at the time, had a photo of a symphony conductor on the cover of their brochure. When I saw that, I thought ''that's going to be my good luck charm.'' Not a great way to choose a cochlear implant, but it worked for me!

I was initially ''stimulated'' in January of 2000. I heard my Irish Tenors sing ''Amazing Grace'' later that night. It wasn't all that clear, but I had gone into the initial hook-up session never believing I would hear anything after 41 years - I just couldn't imagine hearing again.

To hear the melody was incredible. I worked with the music and lyrics, my processor and hooked into the patchcord into a compact disc (CD) player. I listened hour after hour after hour. I progressed so rapidly that within one week after my first ''mapping,'' I needed a new map. I kept progressing so quickly that my audiologist finally said we would have to re-map every 3 to 4 weeks. That went on from the end of January 2000 to August 2000.

By that time, I was hearing on the phone, hearing regular conversation without lipreading, hearing and speaking with my grandchildren, and hearing the radio and CD player in my car and at home. I was very blessed to actually hear and meet all my Irish Tenors in person, and in concert.

It's been an incredible journey for the last 2 years and 10 months and I feel blessed to have been given all of this.

My brother passed away in December of 2000, and I am so thankful I was able to hear his voice again. I also spent 2 beautiful years with my dad before he passed away in February of 2002, and it was he who taught me to hear and recognize many things, but the one moment I treasure above all -- when he taught me to hear the wind in the trees.

Before I moved back to my home in Utah, in late September 2000, I went to see my audiologist to say goodbye. She said to me ''Mary Beth do you remember when I told you it might not be good for you to listen to music?'' and I laughed and said ''Yes, I do.'' She said, ''I'm so thankful you didn't listen to me''.

Our audiologists teach us so much and in return we teach them even more - they learn from us in so many ways. Using the phone with my cochlear implant was never a part of my expectation, nor was it my audiologists'. However, by March 2000, my audiologist was telling me I should go ahead and try the phone.

I had relied on others to phone for me, or used TDD and ''Deaf Relay'' for more than four decades, so I had no idea how to even pick up a phone and use it. I had no real desire to even try it. Then I went back home to visit my family and my younger sister called and my Mom said, ''Do you want to talk to Martha?'' I said ''Okay.'' I thought I would just put the phone to my head microphone, say ''Hi'' and give the phone back to Mom.

To my surprise, I heard Martha so clearly, it was fantastic! I sat there holding a conversation with her and across the table my dad was sitting there with tears streaming down his face. I was so thrilled with my success I called my older sister, Margay, and even though I asked for some repeats I heard her!

The next day my mom called my daughter and said ''I have someone here who wants to talk to you'' and she thought it was her grandfather - but Mom handed me the phone. I said ''Hi Lorri. How are you?'' (long, long pause) Then a voice came back saying ''Mom is that you?'' I said ''Yes.'' Truly an incredibly emotional moment for both of us to experience hearing so clearly over a phone for the first time in her 25 years of life.

Success with my cochlear implant has been incredible - to this day I still can't believe I have come this far in just 2 years and 10 months. Can you imagine the wonder of hearing car horns, normal car tire sounds and realize you can still clearly hear the music?

I still cannot get over my amazement regarding my new T-Mic. I sat at a stop light just listening to all the sounds and hearing Elvis sing 'Loving You' and I knew at that moment my T-Mic and I were on the path to a wonderful and loving relationship. I have not used my regular ear hook since I got the T-Mic. The T-Mic offers me the freedom of actually being just like a hearing person in so many ways. I can have the radio on, my stereo system on, the TV or my grandkids talking in the background, and I can put my cell phone or any phone to my ear and amazingly -- I can hold a perfectly normal conversation.

One of the wonderful things about this new T-Mic is that the microphone is where it should be - resting within the ear. With the previous head-microphone there was distortion. My audiologist in California did provide me with a program for my original system that suppressed many background sounds. However, the microphone is very sensitive and one simply had to adjust to the times when sounds would be louder.

In August, 2002 my audiologist, during yet another mapping session, showed me a T-Mic sample Advanced Bionics had sent. My audiologist set the T-Mic at 0/100% meaning all sound would come in via the T-Mic for all programs. Almost from the time we placed the T-Mic in my ear, I could tell the difference.

Importantly, it's common knowledge that what one hears in the audiologist's office where it's very quiet, is not the same as what one hears outside in the ''real world.'' I was actually expecting the outside noises would be louder. So you can imagine my surprise when I got outside the University of Utah, was confronted with car sounds, people talking and other noises, and I realized I didn't even have to touch the volume controls on the new BTE. I got into car, called my daughter on cell phone and was thrilled with the clarity.

I am now the proud owner of headphones that I can use with my portable CD player, or at home with my stereo or computer. I purchased a ''hands-free'' set for my cell phone and there are just so many positives about this T-Mic I could go on and on proclaiming the wonder of it. I can hear people calling me in stores or from the next room at home, and I can understand what they're saying. The clarity is incredible. Even with headphones on, I can hear as clearly with them as I did with the original system and the patchcord. The new BTE has given me so much freedom. I no longer need the many accessories I used to carry around or hook up as needed.

And the miracle of sound will continue as long as companies like Advanced Bionics strive along with our audiologists to meet our needs.

I love my cochlear implant. I love what it has given me, what it has done for me in changing who and what I am in these 2 short years. To me it is incredible that I am no longer dependant on others. I can do for me so many things I could never do for 41 very long years.

If you asked me what is the best thing about my CI - I honestly would have to say ''everything'' and, I think my children, family and grandchildren would give the same response.

It has truly been an incredible journey and dreams fulfilled beyond my wildest expectations.

Visit www.bionicear for more information about Advanced Bionics.

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