Chris G. started to lose her hearing as a young, professional woman striving to achieve her dreams. After years of declining hearing, causing frustration, uncomfortable situations and ultimately forcing her to isolate herself, Chris learned a cochlear implant could be a treatment option; however, fear of surgery provided her an excuse to procrastinate. Attending a Cochlear Hearing Health Seminar finally helped Chris move forward. See how much her world has opened up now:
“As a little girl in Washington, D.C., I had three dreams: to travel, be a ballerina, and become a writer. I pretended that the playground sliding board was an airplane, twirled in a yellow tutu around the living room, and wrote fairy stories complete with illustrations.
After college, my first dream was achieved when I landed a job in an airline sales office and could fly free to exotic destinations. As the years went on, I worked as a marketing representative in the cruise industry.
One morning, I noticed a stopped-up feeling in my left ear. After developing dizziness, I saw a specialist and realized that my hearing had declined. But I was busy, happily settling into married life, and my other ear seemed fine – for a while.
My career path led to the world of special events and fundraising at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Though I never became a ballet dancer, I could attend performances by the world’s finest dance companies, orchestras, and actors. It was another dream fulfilled.
Eventually, though, reality intruded: I needed a hearing aid for my ‘good’ ear, but had severe hearing loss in my left ear which no hearing aid could help. After a blood test, my otolaryngologist said the likely problem was Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease.
Finding ways to cope with hearing loss and procrastinating treatment
Effective fundraising required the same skill I had learned in travel industry sales, the ability to listen carefully to people. One on one, I could still cope. But one evening, as I joined potential donors at a banquet in a huge, high-ceilinged room, I panicked when I could barely understand a word the man on my left was saying.
Somehow, I faked it through that uncomfortable night, but such episodes made it easier to leave a great career behind when my husband Bob retired. We moved to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where I became a magazine editor and travel writer, spending most of my days at my computer. It was satisfying to fulfill my third dream, but I worked alone and avoided the telephone.
After eight years, we moved back to the continental United States for access to better health care options. I knew about cochlear implants, but I was nervous about having surgery and told myself that technology was continuing to advance – as a way to justify procrastinating.
I discovered that I was relying heavily on lip-reading one night in the car, completely disconnected from conversations when I couldn’t see the lips of the person next to me. Flying alone became impossible – I couldn’t understand announcements in the airport. I applied for a hearing dog from Dogs for the Deaf (now known as Dogs for Better Lives), and received a wonderful black Labrador named Raylene. She helped by alerting me to sounds in my home and environment. But my hearing got worse.
How attending a Cochlear Hearing Health Seminar eased my fears
Last winter, I saw a newspaper ad for a Cochlear Hearing Health Seminar and knew I had nothing to lose. I sat in the front row and listened, with the help of CART captions, to different speakers, including two audiologists and a man who had a Cochlear Implant himself. After a surgeon spoke, I realized the outpatient surgery might not be as scary as I had feared.
Then Katie Figueroa from Cochlear explained something that helped shoot down my procrastination. Yes, Cochlear’s technology definitely continues to advance, but I learned that changes are made mostly to external processors, which are adapted to work with the existing implanted units.
I made an appointment before leaving the building for an evaluation. Within a few weeks, we knew I was a candidate for a cochlear implant, and I set a date for surgery on my most-deaf ear to be implanted. I chose the Kanso® Sound Processor, the off-the-ear processor, because I wear glasses that I pull on and off frequently. I also liked the option of wearing it beneath my hair if I felt like it.
Experiencing life renewed with my Cochlear Implant
The surgery went very well, and ever since my implant was activated three months ago, I have enjoyed countless, thrilling ‘Cochlear Implant moments.’ On the morning after activation day, I was reading the newspaper and was startled to hear a TV announcer say, so clearly, ‘Live! It’s Suncoast News. We’re here for you!’
While walking the dog that morning, I heard a sound: ‘buzz, buzz, buzz,’ which Bob said was a bird. The next day, I heard ‘chirp, chirp, chirp.’ Soon I could hear the distinctive calls Sandhill Cranes make when they fly overhead, even before Bob did.
I was so lucky that my three childhood dreams really did come true and now, wearing my Kanso, I am reclaiming them. I traveled alone two months after activation, and I was relieved I could understand airport and in-flight announcements again. A flight attendant stopped at my seat and quietly said, ‘Would you mind moving up to first class?’ I never would have heard his question before getting my Cochlear Implant!
Music I loved at the Kennedy Center became flat and metallic-sounding as my hearing declined. Now, I pause every week at 9 a.m. when the theme music for ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ comes on – Wynton Marsalis’s majestic trumpet tones just keep sounding better and better. I can’t wait to try my telecoil setting when Bob and I attend ‘Evita’ next month, the first performance in our new season subscription.
I’ll always love being a writer, but I’ve been delivered from enforced isolation. The week after activation, four friends came to visit and, for the first time in years, I could follow a group conversation. At the neighborhood Halloween party, I could understand the jokes even when it became too dark to read lips. I’ve had coffee with four new friends – all cochlear implant recipients or candidates – and haven’t laughed and talked so much in ages. I feel so energized lately that I’ve been thinking that it might be time to explore some new dreams.”