AO/Beck: Hi Allison, thanks for joining me today. Wilson: Hi Dr. Beck. Thank you for having me. AO/Beck: Allison, would you please give us a little overview regarding your hearing history and your experience with hearing aids? Wilson: Sure. I am 24 years old and Ive had profoundhearing loss most of my life. My hearing loss was first detected at age 22 months, after I was diagnosed with spinalmeningitis. I grew up using oral communication and I was mainstreamed in Kindergarten, so I was very much a part of the hearing world growing up. I never learned sign language. I wore hearing aids for about 20 years, from the time of my initial hearing loss diagnosis until my cochlear implant surgery. Of course my hearing aids were helpful for me and as a child, that was my only option. However, the only benefit I received from hearing aids was noise, or sound awareness, without a clear understanding or recognition of speech. In other words, I could tell that there were sounds, but I could not identify individual words or sounds. Nonetheless, I got through of all of those challenges, developed speech and language skills, but then as an adult, I started to seriously consider and thoroughly investigate cochlear implants. AO/Beck: Looking back, what was the best thing about hearing aids? Wilson: The hearing aids were very valuable. As I mentioned, hearing aids allowed me to develop speech and language, and without them, I would not have been able to develop the speech and language skills that I have. Additionally, the hearing aids kept my hearing nerve and the hearing section of my brain active through two decades of hearing aid use. Hearing aids gave me a sensation of sound and were also good for safety reasons, such as horns honking, or sirens going off around me. AO/Beck: Allison, what can you tell me about the types of hearing aids you wore? Wilson: I had several different hearing aids. I started out with a body worn aid when I was a little child, and then I probably had 3 different brands of hearing aids over the course of 20 years. AO/Beck: When did you first become aware of cochlear implants? Wilson: I first heard about them a few years ago, maybe 7 or 8 years ago. At that time I was told informally that I wasnt a candidate because I had performed so well in the classroom and socially, so I dismissed it and didnt look into cochlear implants for quite a while. During my senior year of college at Baylor University, I decided to research cochlear implants again, on my own this time, and I was evaluated and declared a cochlear implant candidate in 2000. AO/Beck: Why did you decide to get a cochlear implant? Wilson: I simply felt it was the next step for me regarding technology. Considering that I am profoundly deaf, and that my hearing loss is 100 dB, which is a profound hearing loss, hearing aids can only offer limited benefit, and I felt it was time to go to the next level of technology. Now that cochlear implants have been proven to greatly help those with severe to profound loss, I felt that I needed to take advantage of the best technology that was out there. It seems to me that most people with physical ailments such as cancer, handicaps, even broken bones often seek new technology, or ways to help or minimize their handicap, so I naturally felt that after wearing high powered hearing aids for so long, that a cochlear implant was the next step. In fact, I even checked multiple sources to see if I could eventually pursue other options and forms of technology, such as hair cell regeneration, genetic therapy, totally implantable cochlear implants and other options down the road. When I found out that those options would likely still be open, even after having an implant, I decided to go ahead with it. It was not an easy decision, though. AO/Beck: When did you receive your implant? Wilson: I was implanted on March 19, 2001 in Dallas, Texas. AO/Beck: And when was the implant programmed? Wilson: I was fitted with the external portion of the device and was programmed on April 12, 2001. AO/Beck: What's the best thing about your cochlear implant? Wilson: How can I put this into words? My cochlear implant gives such a depth to what used to be just noise and makes it into soundsounds of music, voices, laughter, nature sounds. The cochlear implant makes sounds enjoyable. I can now talk on the phone to my parents and other friends. I dont rely on lip-reading as much anymore, but rather, I am learning to listen and understand speech without lip-reading. The cochlear implant was not a major life change for me in terms of lifestyle, because I previously used lip-reading as my primary mode of communication. It has made hearing more fun, and a lot easier! AO/Beck: What's the worst thing about your cochlear implant? Wilson: Not being able to swim and shower with the implant on. AO/Beck: What is the single most important thing you can tell me about wearing a cochlear implant, and the thing you want other hearing impaired and deaf people to know? Wilson: One cannot simply compare this patient to that patient, or this implant to that implant. There are differences in people, their history, their abilities, their hearing, and their implants too. There are so many differences and a wide variety of factors and variables that contribute to good performance. One must have reasonable expectations before having a CI. Someone who has had good hearing for 30 years and then suddenly loses their hearing over a short period of time will probably do much better with cochlear implantation than someone who has not heard for 40 years and then decides to have a cochlear implant. Confidence, personality, family support and communication methods such as lip-reading, signing, total communication are only a few of the many factors that determine how someone will perform with their cochlear implant. AO/Beck: If you could go back in time with the knowledge and experience you currently have, would you do it again? Wilson: I am thrilled and wish I had done it earlier in life! AO/Beck: What does your family think about your cochlear implant and your progress? Wilson: They have had so much fun with me on this journey! While I had surgery and was going through the first few mappings, I moved back home for a semester. My family was incredibly supportive and they were very excited for me. I think they would agree that it has not changed my lifestyle, but it has made it much easier for me to understand others. The cochlear implant does not correct deafness. When the external processor is removed, it is completely silent. But the cochlear implant allows me to hear and I am very grateful that is does, because I can easily participate in the life I choose. My family is very happy about the whole thing and they are wonderful and supportive too. AO/Beck: Thanks Allison. For people who may want to contact you, is it OK for them to send you an email? Wilson: Of course! They can write to me at email@example.com. AO/Beck: Thanks very much for sharing your story with us. Wilson: Youre welcome. Thank you too, Dr. Beck, for your help in getting so much information out to the hearing impaired and deaf people about hearing loss, hearing aids and cochlear implants. For more information on cochlear implants, CLICK HERE.