Whether it’s tumbling across a competition floor or climbing independently on an indoor rock wall, you’d never know Meagan G. suffers from deafblindness. Now a bilateral Cochlear Implant recipient and an active True Wireless accessories user, Meagan finds it easier to achieve her goals and enjoys the sounds along the way:

Deafblind Cochlear Implant Recipient Rock Climbs

“First appearances can be deceiving. If you saw me on the competition floor doing complicated tumbling passes, you would be impressed. If you watch me climbing a rock wall, you may think she has skill. However, when I leave the floor or let go of the wall and reach for my faithful guide dog’s harness to be guided safely home, what would you think?

Many people have told me how amazing I am at doing various sports, but they are often left confused when I do not respond immediately, especially in loud environments. My guide dog, Sandy, and I walk so fast I do not always notice people talking to me. My husband often has to inform me someone is speaking to me. I apologize for not responding, due to being deaf. The standard response is usually, ‘Wow that’s amazing! Does the dog help you with your hearing?’ I inform them that she is my guide dog because I am legally blind too. At this point, they cannot believe I am able to flip and climb, wondering ‘how is it possible when she cannot see where she is going?’

I was born deaf and blind. The lack of these two senses affected me greatly. No one in my family knew I was deaf until we went to an airplane show. All the other little kids cried or covered their ears, but I slept through the performance. I was fitted with hearing aids shortly after. I did not like them and even flushed them down the toilet a few years later. The hearing aids only worked for a few years, then it was time to replace them and that was quite expensive.

At the age of 15, I knew the hearing aids were not working well for me. I struggled to fit in because I had to ask people to repeat themselves to understand conversations. I was often made fun of by my own teammates if I did not hear them. They would become overdramatic, yell and make rude comments.

I remember taking the hearing test, and the doctor told me I failed it. I cried, because he told me directly and I dislike failing. I knew I was deaf, but knowing how bad my hearing had declined was tough to accept. Then he suggested something that would change my life… a cochlear implant.

A few months after making my final decision, I was implanted in 2008. Activation day was rough. Every noise was a beep or whistle. Everyone sounded like R2D2 from Star Wars. I was extremely confused, and had a hard time understanding speech at first. I began to think it was not working. A few weeks later, I knew I made the right decision. My speech understanding increased, I could hear cars, and noises were no longer muffled.

Deafblind Cochlear Implant Recipient with her Guide DogFive years later, I made the decision to get my second ear implanted. I had struggles with the second activation too, but I feel it was easier because I knew what to expect.

It has been four years since I officially became a bilateral recipient, and I love hearing in stereo. My localization has improved, and I find myself naturally looking towards the sounds on either side. This is especially helpful when I am out traveling alone.

My Cochlear Implants have impacted me greatly. I use three of the True Wireless accessories, the Phone Clip, Mini Microphone 2+ and TV Streamer. The Mini Mic 2+ has impacted my life the most. I use it when I’m in class, tandem biking and rock climbing. My second favorite is the TV Streamer. I love to listen to the news and not need to look at the TV. I can even be in the kitchen washing dishes. The Phone Clip is helpful when I want to watch and stream videos on my iPad®, or I need to make a quick phone call. My deafness has never prevented me from participating in sports; however, with my Cochlear Implants some sports are now easier.

Scaling any challenge

 I grew up as a competitive cheerleader, one that does flips and is thrown in the air. I wore my sound processors when we would walk through the routines, but I took them off when it was time to tumble and fly. Due to a shoulder injury, I have not tumbled in two years! I would love to tumble again, but I needed a way to build my shoulder strength up without the impact of tumbling. I decided to try rock climbing and have loved it from day one.

Climbing is a physical and mental challenge. My Cochlear Implants have helped me be able to hear my husband when I am stuck, especially since I cannot see the rocks well due to color and sometimes size. When we first started climbing, he would yell at me while I was 40 feet high. I struggled to hear him over the loud music and children playing in the gym. Then I had a lightbulb moment; I could use the Mini Mic 2+.

Now when my husband is giving me instructions while I am on the wall, people give him weird looks. People are confused as to why he is almost whispering when helping me, and yet I am yelling back answering him. They do not realize that the microphone around his neck connects directly to my sound processors. I love it! Now I always make sure the Mini Mic is charged and in my climbing bag ready to go.

I have several goals to accomplish over the next few years. I hope to eventually become a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) to help deaf people who do not understand English and need more in depth American Sign Language (ASL). A CDI has the role of interpreting for unusual situations, such as tactile ASL, or interpreting for people with limited range of sign.

I also want to help deafblind people use technology. Often, we are given technology but not taught how to use it effectively. I will be going to training to hopefully work with the ‘I Can Connect’ program where I live. I have a few sports related-goals too, including to tumble again and to be able to climb the taller walls to the top without falling. It may take some time to meet these goals, but I will keep trying to reach them, and I encourage you all to do the same!”

If you’re looking for a solution to treat your hearing loss like Meagan did, visit Cochlear.com/US/CochlearImplants to get more information.

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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.