Every April during National Volunteer Month, we celebrate and honor our Cochlear volunteers who give their time to help increase awareness and educate people on the severity and impact of hearing loss. Volunteering strikes at the altruistic nerve to do something good for someone else. That seems to be especially true for Cochlear volunteers.
Paying it forward
When asked why she became a Cochlear volunteer, Suzy H., a Cochlear recipient and volunteer from Portland, OR responded, “I would like to pay it forward. Being available to help others who are feeling stuck or just starting out on their hearing journey can make a real difference. I think it is important to listen and provide resources that can aid others in making informed decisions on their own.” This Volunteer Appreciation Month we celebrate and honor Suzy and other Cochlear volunteers.
“When I was trying to decide which brand of implant to choose, I happened to be on a family trip to Sarasota. I met a Cochlear volunteer, Richard P., online through a cochlear users Facebook group, and learned that he lived near Sarasota. He graciously agreed to meet with me in person and I found that conversation very helpful,” Suzy said.
Jan J., a bi-lateral Cochlear implant recipient and volunteer from St. Clair, MI, enthusiastically stated, “I love helping others! I never realized how much until I became a Cochlear Volunteer. Being a volunteer has made me a better person. I am more positive in life. Due to my own awesome journey, I want others in need to realize an amazing journey is possible. I get to encourage others and be there to answer questions and empathize with them. I was ashamed of wearing hearing aids, but with my Kanso® Sound Processors I am proud to show them off and explain how implants have changed my life. I love sharing and opening up about the insecurities I once felt. My goal is to show others with hearing loss it is nothing to be ashamed of – face it head on and NEVER give up!”
Why volunteering matters
Beyond the obvious personal satisfaction that comes from volunteering, people want to feel needed and when they see the impact that volunteerism has on others, it inspires them to look for ways that they too can give their time and help. The feel-good factor has volunteers coming back for more. Likewise, people that benefit from volunteerism are driven and inspired by the help that they received in time of need and are likely to become volunteers themselves. That is certainly the case when it comes to Cochlear volunteers.
“Before being implanted, I realized I was missing out on so much and becoming so anxiety-filled during those years. I found myself dreading the thought of seeing a neighbor or anyone else when I was out or when taking walks. Now I truly enjoy seeing my neighbors and others and striking up a conversation. I don’t hesitate to speak to people in a store. Often, I take the opportunity to bring up my own hearing loss and hearing journey,” said Jan.
Jan is making up for lost time with the things and people that she loves the most. When not traveling with her husband in their 5th wheel or volunteering, she stays busy enjoying their grandchildren and Dachshunds and attending community events.
Connecting through volunteerism
Volunteering is simply a dedication of one’s time and a desire to create a positive impact on a cause, person or group. If you have time to give and a passion for giving, then you possess the magic combination of qualities that make a good volunteer. What makes a Cochlear volunteer stand out is their ability to connect with a candidate on a personal level. They are not only able to help others seeking answers to questions about living with hearing loss or hearing solutions available to them, but they can deeply relate to what the person is feeling. A Cochlear volunteer may have experienced a similar journey the candidate is going through. They may connect through shared hobbies, careers, or other interests as well.
Suzy recalls getting her first hearing aids in her mid-20’s while in law school. She was struggling to hear in the classroom. “I had a stapedectomy on my right ear about 25 years ago which allowed me to continue to get some minimal benefit from a hearing aid in that ear. My hearing gradually declined over the years. At work as a lawyer, I was constantly worried I would miss some critical piece of information. At home, even basic conversations became difficult. When I took off my hearing aids, I could not hear much of anything. I found my world was shrinking smaller and smaller,” Suzy said.
“After I retired, I volunteered for a reading intervention program at a neighborhood school and realized that I was just faking being able to hear the kids when they said anything to me that was off topic. That was the tipping point – I wanted to be able to hear children’s voices again. I was exhausted from the effort of trying to hear,” she said.
Suzy serves on a local non-profit board that sometimes holds virtual meetings. “With bilateral hearing aids I struggled to hear the virtual meetings,” she said. “I also used to dread making phone calls, even for simple things like making appointments and frequently misheard details like date or time. I couldn’t talk with someone on the phone who was calling from their car. And more complicated conversations were out of the question.
Now, talking on the phone or joining a virtual meeting is not a problem with bimodal streaming to my iPhone® with my Cochlear Nucleus® 7 Sound Processor and my GN ReSound™ hearing aid in my other ear. ” Volunteers bring different capabilities, skills and knowledge to the table. Each of us possess a specific background and characteristics and abilities that can be helpful in certain situations. Cochlear volunteers not only share in the difficult times, but they celebrate successes too!
Like Jan, after Suzy received her Cochlear implant in 2018, she has attended lots of community functions that she would never have attempted before. “I attended a panel discussion at the Portland Book Festival and have gone to readings where I wasn’t sure what the amplification would be like. I have joined a writing critique group that meets in a coffee and pie shop that can get quite noisy and I just turn my Nucleus® 7 Sound Processor to ‘café’ setting. I’m no longer worried about noisy restaurants and when I’m driving I can now hear the passenger and also the folks in the back seat,” said Suzy.
Hats off to our Cochlear Volunteers
As we wrap up National Volunteer Month, we tip our hats to all volunteers everywhere who are making a positive difference in the lives of others. We especially celebrate the dedication and passion that drives our Cochlear volunteers to selflessly offer their time to others who can benefit from their experiences.
Cochlear volunteers are living examples who serve as evangelists sharing their personal stories of how Cochlear has changed their lives for the better. Sometimes people are apprehensive about getting hearing implants. Through knowledge-sharing and real-life examples, people seeking answers for their hearing loss find this type of support critical and they sometimes get the encouragement they need to move forward on their own hearing loss journey.
Is someone you love struggling to hear? Have them take a hearing quiz today!
* The Cochlear Nucleus 7 Sound Processor is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. For compatibility information visit www.cochlear.com/compatibility
** Apple, the Apple logo, FaceTime, Made for iPad logo, Made for iPhone logo, Made for iPod logo, iPhone, iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPad and iPod touch are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
*** ReSound is a trademark of GN Hearing A/S.
Views expressed are those of the individual. Consult your health professional to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology.