After that, I’ll let them know that I have a cochlear implant and that the best way to talk to me is to look at me when they speak. If they seem interested or have questions, I like to talk about my cochlear implant; the way it works and how it’s impacted my life.”
Q: What has your journey with hearing loss looked like?
I lost my hearing at age 44 from an unknown cause. After finding out within just a couple of months that hearing aids were not going to help me, I knew I wanted a cochlear implant. I was told I might not qualify, but I didn’t believe that and actively pursued getting tested. I qualified immediately, and I was implanted six months later.
Q: What was losing your hearing like for you and your family?
For me, it was life altering and very scary. I am a very social person. Losing my hearing took away some of the social activities I was involved in. I had to make adjustments in order to function in everyday life. I was nervous to drive, I couldn’t make phone calls without a CapTel phone, and traveling was frightening for me. Fortunately, that part of my life was short-lived.
For my family, it was much harder. They weren’t used to me not being able to hear them, and it was harder for them to adjust. It seemed as though they would forget that I couldn’t hear them and would continue life in the same manner as before, which caused a lot of frustration for all of us. In time, we all adjusted.
Q: Now that you have cochlear implants, what has been the biggest change for you and your family?
My cochlear implants have given back what was taken away: my hearing. I had hoped to be able to talk on the phone, and I can now do that. Sometimes, it’s difficult and that’s okay because it’s still a lot better than before I got my implant. I can socialize again. Simple things like talking with someone at the grocery store — I could not do that before, at least not without the help of a notepad, which I would carry around with me. My family loves that communicating is easier. No more notepad!
Q: You recently attended Cochlear Celebration 2015 in Orlando, Florida. What was your experience there?
It was the most amazing experience I had since losing my hearing. Being surrounded by people with cochlear implants and their family members gave me a feeling of camaraderie. It was like being in a huge house full of family! Being able to share and talk to so many people who have one thing in common was a testament to how truly powerful and amazing the gift of hearing with a cochlear implant is. It’s the one thing we all like: to talk about, compare notes, learn from and listen to each other. I would definitely recommend attending to everyone.
Q: Did anything surprise you at Celebration or were there any particularly memorable moments with other recipients?
I was astonished by how open and heartfelt everyone was at Celebration. I had several memorable moments with recipients, but the most memorable moments were with those who shared their story with me and those who felt inspired by what I had done. There was so much positive energy in the air!
Q: I understand that you were also able to try some wireless accessories at Celebration. What was your experience with that?
WOW! That was the first word that popped into my head! The wireless accessories are truly amazing! Being able to try them firsthand like that was such a positive experience. The Cochlear staff members that helped us were truly gems! They were so patient in answering our questions and so excited to see our reactions.
Q: What is one thing you wish people knew about cochlear implants or hearing loss?
I would love for people to understand that cochlear implants give us back our hearing, but that our hearing isn’t the same as a hearing person. Sometimes we need a little extra help or patience, but we are people, we have feelings. Don’t discount us, we are still able to communicate and live fully active productive lives.
Q: Some recipients, especially young recipients, are a bit self-conscious about their cochlear implants. You really own who you are. What advice would you give to younger people that might struggle with confidence about wearing their sound processors?
Always be proud! The really cool thing about us is that we are different; we have something that a lot of others don’t have. It can be tough when you’re young and different, but try to let others know what a cochlear implant is and how it works. Let them know you have a computer chip in your head, they will find that amazing. If a child is having a particularly hard time with having a cochlear implant, just sit down and come up with a game plan to turn it into something positive and have fun with it. Sometimes giving a child the words to say when they are asked about it helps more than anything.
Q: Where can people go to learn more about cochlear implants?
You can visit Cochlear.com/US/Survivor to learn more.