N. Las Vegas, Nevada
In the year 2000, my life came to a screeching halt. I was suddenly deaf and could not accomplish my daily living tasks as I had done for 50 some years. The sounds were silent.
In 1997, I noticed a change in my hearing. Doctors were treating me for allergies, sinus infections, inner ear infections and inflammation in my eyes. They couldnt pin point any one thing. None of the treatments solved the gradual hearing loss. In 1998, there was a significant drop in hearing. My left ear was dropping at a rapid pace and required a hearing aid. The right ear was doing okay but hearing loss started to appear in the right ear too, throughout 1998.
In November 1998, the hearing went completely out in the left ear in a matter of seconds. I thought the hearing aid or my cell phone had malfunctioned! That wasnt the case. When I got home, I tried to use the regular telephone and could not hear on that either. I went to see my audiologist - Bad news - the hearing was totally gone in the left ear. I started to wear a hearing aid on the right, and it helped. In March of 2001, I woke up one morning and the right ear was completely gone too. I saw the audiologist, and I was pronounced profoundly deaf. This news was devastating.
People who didnt know about my condition wondered why I seemed different and uncommunicative. I wasnt the outgoing individual I used to be. I didnt feel like I wanted to tell people I couldnt hear, and as a result, I almost lost my best friends. They needed to know so they could also help, but I resisted telling them.
I shut myself off from the world and my family. I sold my business. I was isolated from the world. I couldnt take care of my grandchildren without a hearing person there to help out. My driving was limited and even shopping became a nightmare. Some of the clerks were not receptive to repetitive questions! Fortunately there was e-mail, and that soon became my best friend. My husbands newly extended duties grew to include being my personal secretary, taking phone messages, writing them down for me, and placing my order in restaurants.
I was referred to a famous clinic for a complete work-up and was diagnosed with ''Cogans Syndrome'' an autoimmune disorder that affects ears and eyes. My only option to hear again was to have a cochlear implant. They asked me to think about the cochlear implant, but I was not in a frame of mind to consider it at that time. After being totally deaf for two weeks, not able to communicate except for lip reading and e-mail, not being able to use the phone or hear any normal everyday sounds -- my family encouraged me to get the implant -- ''You need to do this!''
I knew I had to do it, but it was scary. We contacted the clinic and they were able to get me a surgical appointment two weeks later. The 4 hour surgery was completed on August 31, 2001 and I went home the next day. After healing, about a month later, I returned to the clinic to receive the external components and begin my hearing journey again.
I heard my first sounds using the cochlear implant October 1, 2001. It was a very different sound but I could hear! I heard my husbands voice for the first time in months. When he said hear me when I say I love you and I did - it was a very emotional time for all. After that, we did all the cochlear implant programming, and I came home hearing. The sounds I heard were music to my ears.
The audiologists were surprised that I heard so well on the first session. Upon completing the extensive cochlear implant programming that first day, they said I was ready for the real world again. As I left the room I heard my footsteps on the floor. Oh my was my reply.
My first sound experience outside the clinic was from construction site. I heard way too much noise for my first real world listening experience, but it was joyful nonetheless, and it was far better than no sound at all!
The audiologists advised me to experience different situations slowly and carefully, and to really listen carefully to the sounds to determine which sounds were good, which were bad, and which were loud and which were soft. Restaurants, malls, music, washing dishes, the sounds of toilets flushing, phones riningall new to me again!
I went back to the audiologist the next day for any fine tuning. I also went back for reprogramming and additional fine tuning every three months. Each time I left the audiologist, the programming was more and more refined to my particular needs, and I was able to hear better over time.
After the first tune-up, my husband and I went to the car so he could use the cell phone to call our family and let them know how well things had gone. The first call was to our youngest son who lived out of state. I had not heard his voice for over a year. When my son answered, I heard his voice.
Returning home was scary. I felt unprotected. I was essentially on my own, to face the challenges of everyday life, but I could hear! I was afraid to accept challenges at first, such as answering the phone or going to the grocery store. I didnt want to fail.
On my first night home, I received a visit from my son and family. The grand-daughters had been so confused as to why their Grandma couldnt hear anything. They thought screaming louder was the answer. When they walked in the door, they were so excited, they came running to me screaming Grandma, Grandma, we dont have to talk loud to you anymore!
I can recall my early experiences with sounds; birds singing in the trees as I walked down a garden sidewalk, the crackling sound of the curling stone going across the ice, my grandchildren saying I love you Grandma, clerks telling me to have a nice day, and many other wonderful sounds.
I decided to enhance my phone skills and volunteer as a Telecare person to call someone everyday to check on them. This was my biggest challenge-using the phone effectively. This daily phone call has been the highlight of my morning, carrying on a conversation with an elderly lady. We have since become wonderful friends.
My doctors, audiologists, friends and family have supported me as I received an learned to use my cochlear implant. I am grateful for all they have done, and for my cochlear implant too! Through the miracle of the cochlear implant, I can hear again, I have been able to communicate and I have my life back.
N. Las Vegas, Nevada