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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:

Chris G. - Travel Writer with Cochlear Implant“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

Chris G. - Kanso Cochlear Implant RecipientLast 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.”

You don’t need to isolate yourself and procrastinate seeking help for your hearing loss anymore. Learn how Cochlear Implants may help at Cochlear.com/US/CochlearImplants, and find a Cochlear Hearing Health Seminar near you today: Cochlear.com/US/Events.

Renee Oehlerking
Renee Oehlerking is the Public Relations Manager at Cochlear Americas where she is responsible for the region’s public relations and consumer marketing social media. Renee enjoys uncovering, telling and showcasing the inspiring stories of hearing implant recipients. As a recent transplant to Denver, Colorado, Renee enjoys exploring all that the state has to offer outdoors.