Angie M. Court Reporter with sudden hearing lossAngie M, active grandmother and court reporter, will never forget the day that changed her life. The day sudden hearing loss, or sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), took her hearing and began pulling her away from the two favorite aspects of her life, family and career. Frantically looking for a solution to hear again, she found it in the CochlearTM Baha® System:

“The day that changed my life started like any other day. I got up early, drove to work and everything was ‘normal.’ Little did I know, my world was about to be turned upside down.

I’m a busy freelance court reporter. I don’t sit in a courtroom like most people see depicted in movies or television; I take depositions. I use a steno machine to write down every word spoken during the deposition. I sit quietly and listen, very carefully, to every spoken word, utterance, even non-verbal communication, and make a written record for use by the attorneys as they progress through their case. Needless to say, 100 percent accuracy is critical.

As my day progressed, I noticed my ear felt like it was plugged up, like when you fly and need to pop it. Annoying, but nothing too worrisome. Another hour goes by, and I started hearing a loud roaring sound in my right ear. I couldn’t hear through my right earbud that I used to listen through as it was being digitally recorded. I switched ears, thinking my right earbud must be going out, but it sounded fine in my left ear. I felt like I was getting a cold. Maybe it was just that, right? I finished the deposition, and was very upset and concerned, but still thought it must be no big deal! Who has ever heard of losing your hearing, in one ear only, over the course of a couple hours? Not me!

I waited a day or two, and decided I better go to urgent care and get checked out. I was told I had a viral infection, and it was probably just fluid on my ear. Whew!

A few more days, and my ear was no better and I was really starting to panic! The tinnitus was excruciating, but the worst was I really couldn’t hear much of anything, and what little I could hear sounded very off pitch and garbled.

The hearing loss was not getting better, and it was starting to really impact my job. Not every day is in a quiet conference room with two attorneys and a witness. In fact, a lot of my days are in rooms with loud air conditioning, lots of attorneys who all want to talk at once, and a witness who can’t seem to speak above a whisper! This ear thing was not helpful to those conditions, to say the least.

‘I thought I was the only person in the world ever to experience this’

I finally called my ENT. They did a hearing test and told me my hearing loss in my right ear was profound, and my word recognition was abysmal. They put me on antibiotics and started me on oral steroids; the ENT seemed much more concerned about treating my sinus infection than my hearing loss. I, obviously, was much more concerned about my ear.

This was the first day I’d ever heard of SSHL. I dutifully took my meds and came back in ten days. The infection was gone. No fluid in my ear, but I still COULDN’T HEAR!  My ENT seemed stumped, and thankfully referred me to a neurotologist in a larger city an hour and a half away.

Angie M. Grandmother with sudden hearing lossI ended up at the neurotologist exactly three weeks after my sudden hearing loss. I was in tears and explained what was going on and finally I got some answers! No, they still didn’t know what caused my hearing loss, but they did see this frequently and there was a treatment plan. I was relieved. I thought I was the only person in the world ever to experience this.

We significantly increased my steroid dose, and he recommended three intratympanic steroid perfusions over the next five days. I’d have stood on my head in the middle of a busy road if he had told me it might help. I was desperate for some relief.

Well, after weeks and weeks of perfusions, steroids and a medicine to increase blood flow to my ear I finally started feeling some improvement. No more fullness, tinnitus was becoming bearable and I could actually understand what little I could hear!  I went from 32 percent word recognition to 85 percent. Great, but I still couldn’t hear! Three months after my SSHL started, my doctor talked to me about a bone-anchored hearing device, the Baha System.

Finding relief with the Baha System

What in the world? I’d never heard of anything like this before. Because my hearing loss was severely impacting my job performance, my doctor was very proactive in helping me find a solution. I sat down and read everything I could find about Cochlear and the Baha System, then I asked my audiologist to demo it in the office. TA-DA! It worked! I immediately asked for the Baha System and moved forward to insurance approval and scheduling my surgery.

Over the next three weeks, I read and studied every single thing I could find about SSHL, SSD (single-sided deafness) and the Baha System. This was a whole world I had never even heard of, and I was unfortunately thrown into headfirst. I couldn’t wait to hear again!

I continued working over all those months, and I succeeded, but what once was a job I absolutely loved and that came easy to me for the last 30 years suddenly became difficult and exhausting. It’s very hard to concentrate and comprehend through tinnitus and single-sided deafness. In my mind, it should be quieter if you’re deaf, but unfortunately it seems to take all the background noise and amplifies it.

I found myself avoiding social situations, loud restaurants, even family gatherings. I’m a grandmother with four sweet grandchildren under the age of 3. It broke my heart to miss what they were saying to me, and I knew I had to do whatever I could to remedy this situation. I vowed I wasn’t going to let this hearing loss ruin my life. I love my family and I love my job, and these were the two things most affected.

Finally, it was surgery day! I was nervously excited. I had joined lots of forums on social media and had learned this was in no way uncommon. There are so many wonderful people who have been through exactly what I was going through, and they were more than willing to share their experiences, answer my questions and offer encouragement. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, SSHL affects every race, every age, male and female. It does not discriminate.

My doctor recommended the Baha Attract System for me. Surgery was a piece of cake, and I was fully recovered and returned to work after resting over a long weekend. After what seemed like the longest four weeks ever, it was finally THE day! Activation day!

Excited doesn’t begin to describe my feelings on the day I received my device. I spent an hour or so with my audiologist programming my device. I received the Baha 5 Power Sound Processor. This little device is MAGIC!

Angie M. Grandmother with SSDReconnecting to family and career

After leaving the office, while driving home, the first thing I noticed is I was able to turn the radio volume down. Then I made a call through my car’s hands-free system, and I could actually hear and understand what was being said. I also needed to turn the volume down. Wow!

I met my sons for lunch right afterward, and I actually answered appropriately when the waiter asked me a question! Do you know what I’m talking about? Waiter: ‘How’s your lunch?’ Me: ‘I’d love some water, thanks!’ My sons called it my ‘deer in the headlights’ look, and they’d have to interpret for me because I couldn’t comprehend what was being said because of the loud background noises.

The big test came the next day when I went to work. I had figured out how to pair my Baha 5 Power and my CochlearTM True WirelessTM Mini Microphone 2+, and I’d downloaded the app to control it on my iPhone®.  I was ready!

I swore the witness in and set my hands on my machine and waited for the talking to begin. I almost cried with relief! I could hear every breath they took. I could hear every word, every stammer, every stutter, and I could understand it clearly without having to stress and strain. I can’t explain the relief I felt. I love my job, and I was willing to do whatever it took to keep it.

The Baha System has made my job enjoyable again! I was no longer mentally and physically exhausted at the end of the deposition. It was just like it had been before I lost my hearing. Nothing overtly amplified, just crisp, clear sound.

The following weekend I attended a birthday party for my granddaughter, something before the Baha System that would have been excruciating to me due to the loudness and my inability to hear in a crowd. I had become anti-social after my SSD set in, and even though I recognized this, I was unable to make myself get out and about.

I have to say, the party was absolutely wonderful. I was able to join in conversations and felt, once again, a part of the festivities. My sound processor fascinated the grandkids. I told them, ‘The better to hear you with, my dear!’ I was kind enough to warn my daughters-in-law that with the Mini Mic connected to my sound processor, even if I’m not in the room, I can still hear everything being said, so don’t say anything you wouldn’t want me to hear!

Honestly, with the way I wear my hair, you can’t even see my sound processor and wouldn’t know I was wearing it if I didn’t tell you. Nevertheless, I’m so excited by the Baha technology, that I’m always showing it off and tell everyone that will listen about my new ear! I tell them I’m the real bionic woman!”

If you’re experiencing sudden hearing loss like Angie was, stop struggling and find out if the Baha System could be the solution for you at Cochlear.com/US/SSD.

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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.