Karen W. is an active Cochlear volunteer. Through her own struggles of fear, loneliness and isolation, Karen knows exactly what candidates for hearing implants are going through, and she’s here to help. Find out more about Karen’s volunteer efforts below, and if you’re a cochlear implant candidate looking to connect with a mentor, visit our Cochlear Connections page.  

“I remember several years ago when my otologist first mentioned a cochlear implant. Who me? Never. I could still hear pretty well and quite frankly, the idea freaked me out. But as any of you reading this knows, things change, sometimes rapidly, and now I am a Cochlear implant recipient.

But let me back up.

About one month prior to my cochlear implant surgery, I attended my first Cochlear Implant Support Group Meeting.

I had a friend who had a friend with a cochlear implant named Velda. We connected first through email. She suggested attending one of Cochlear’s support group meetings. We met an hour prior with another recipient named Bill. I had so many questions, and they were both happy to share and were pleased with their implants. We talked about expectations, fears and results. I was beginning to get excited about hearing again.

As people started to stream into the meeting room one by one, I had to fight back the tears. There was something heartbreaking and yet so connecting seeing each person with a hearing implant attached to their head.

I had found my people. I had found my new home. People who could relate. People who understood hearing loss – who knew about talking one at a time, about facing the person when you spoke and moving away from noisy chatter. People there to support one another. People like me.

The meeting was very informative, with an audiologist as the guest speaker. As each person went around the room to share a little about their hearing loss journey, I was struck by how common hearing loss is. Knowing there were others made me feel less alone. Losing one’s hearing is beyond frightening. Having support is beyond huge, it is essential.

After the meeting a woman about my age and with my name, Karen, walked up to me and with the biggest smile said, ‘You are going to love it!’ This was the first time I really truly believed it.

Karen and I met several times prior to my surgery. I still had questions, and she made herself very available. We had similar hearing loss experiences which helped. Karen was there when I had my surgery and continues to be a wonderful support and friend.

I decided to become a Cochlear volunteer and a mentor because I know I can help others by simply sharing my experience. Unless you have lost your hearing and had an implant, you cannot really know what it’s like. There were times I felt very alone. Being deaf can be isolating. We need to support one another.

I have met with others who are either scheduled for a cochlear implant or are considering getting one and continue to learn things.

Another, a woman who lives in my town. She is 84 and a widow and sometimes struggles with technology.

More recently I met a woman in her 60s who is scheduled to get her implant in a couple weeks. She has done so much research on the subject, I think I’ve learned more from her! She has no family, so I plan on being with her on surgery day.

I am in the process of establishing a support group in my county. I am looking forward to connecting others, growing a support team and making new friends.

Losing your hearing is a terrible thing. My hearing friends try to understand, but the only people that really get it are people in the same boat.

I believe we need each other as we navigate this new world of hearing technology. We need to stick together (like the magnets in our head!), share our stories, encourage one another and listen. We are good at that now.”

If you’re interested in hearing implants and connecting with someone who has experienced a personal hearing journey similar to yours, click here.

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.