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I Was Deaf: Now I Am Learning to Hear Again

How often have you sat in meetings, and even though you didnt hear the joke, laughed because everyone else did? How often have you pretended to hear, when reallythe sounds were not loud enough, and they were not clear enough? Sometimes, the sounds are too far away, too quiet, and sometimes they are out of range for your ears. Many people have high frequency hearing loss and the most important sounds are the high frequencies these are necessary to translate the sounds you do hear into meaningful words and sentences.

Another example of high frequency sounds and problems occurred several years ago when I sang a solo at a church in Lorain. The organist played a hymn based on This is my Fathers World. From where I was sitting, I could see her hands on the keyboard. I was familiar with this hymn. The music was being played at the upper end of the keyboard, also high frequency sounds, and although I could see her fingers moving -- I heard nothing. My solo was not a problem because the accompaniment was in a lower range, which I could hear and follow.

Degradation of hearing is usually so slow, youre not aware the problem is occurring. You have a problem, but you dont recognize it for quite a while. It impacts your ability to converse at work, home and while socializing, the radio, the TV, the telephone, and your entire quality of life.

I can trace my problem back at least 30 years. I never admitted I had a hearing problem. My wife noticed I rarely talked in the car. From my perspective, there was just too much background noise to separate and understand what people were saying while driving in a car! It didnt occur to me that driving in a car was a different experience for me than it was for others!

About 8 years ago, I went to an ear, nose and throat doctor. I thought my ears were plugged. After an examination, he urged me to have my hearing tested. At that point, I could hear many sounds, but I was losing the high frequency tones. I was able to recognize most words and sentences but my right ear was beginning to show a loss in word comprehension. It was strongly recommended that I get hearing aids.
The In-The-Ear (ITE) devices helped, but 3 years later my speech discrimination had fallen to less than 50% in each ear and my audiologist suggested digital Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aids. Those helped for a few years too.

In February of 2002, I needed new ear molds for my hearing aids. While I was there, my audiologist suggested I have my hearing re-tested. My speech discrimination had gone to zero. I couldnt understand a thing in either ear, even though I was aware of low frequency sounds, I could not understand the words. My wife and I reached the point where we were using note pads for communication. It was not the best period of my life.

The audiologist said it was time to investigate cochlear implants.

I made an appointment at the cochlear implant clinic. My test results were sent to the clinic and reviewed before I arrived. We spoke with the audiologist and the surgeon at the clinic, they did their own tests, and it was recommended that I obtain a cochlear implant.

I had my initial visit to the clinic in April, and it was June before I was scheduled for the operation. I arrived at the clinic for surgery about 10:30 AM and was dressed for surgery and given preliminary medication. I was wheeled up the ramp to a holding room. About 11:45 AM a nurse came in, asked my name and confirmed why I was there, and then he wheeled me into the operating room. I was given general anesthesia. About 3:15 PM, I woke up in the recovery room. By 5:00 PM, I was on my way home to supper.
The bandage came off the next morning and was never replaced. The only treatment was to wash the incision with peroxide and apply bacitracin. There were no stitches to be removed. Recovery was fast after the first day home. About a month after the operation, the incision had healed. I went back to the audiologist to be turned on.

The first thing the audiologist checked was comfort levels, meaning the quietest sound you can hear on each electrode, and the maximum sound you can tolerate. After the adjustments in the program were made, I was turned on.

I recognized voices at once, but many people sounded like Donald Duck at first. As an interesting aside, while driving away from the clinic, I said to my wife I hear my heart beat. After we turned the corner, I didnt hear it any more. I realized the sound was actually the directional signals on the car!

The brain is a remarkable device. It adapts rapidly. The sounds you hear on the first day quickly lose intensity as the brain becomes accustomed to the new sounds from the processor. New perceptions require new mappings (changing of program parameters). I have had many mappings since my implant. Each one has made life better!

I now wear a new cochlear implant external unit called the Cochlear 3G, everything is behind the ear. This device holds 2 programs and has a volume or sensitivity control and uses 3 hearing aid batteries which last about 3 4 days more or less depending on the program and the sound levels in the environment (very noisy places requires more power to process the signal). The manufacturer supplies 300 batteries with the device, intended to be a one year supply. The 3G has a whisper control which can be used to minimize background noise and a telecoil for use with the phone. The manufacturer also supplies a set of 12 different covers for the 3G, so the color can be changed if desired. The 3G has a microphone located on top of the ear, facing the front. This makes the 3G great for one on one conversations or sitting in church or lectures.

With my cochlear implant.I dont have to make my wife write notes, I can converse in a crowd, I can hear the full range of the piano, I can understand most TV and radio programs with trained announcers. The quality of my life has improved dramatically, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to hear again!

I get asked a lot.Would you do it again? YES!

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For more information on cochlear implants, visit www.cochlear.com.

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