Heather T. was a hearing aid user nearly her whole life, finding success with them for many years. After surprising drops in her hearing, she had to find a solution to save her career, family life and more importantly, hear her daughter’s name called when she walked across the stage at graduation. Although she was hesitant of a cochlear implant, Heather made the decision to take a chance at a new life of hearing. See how she is doing today:
“My hearing loss journey began on May 1, 1974. The cause of my bilateral sensorineural hearing loss was never formally identified, but the doctors believed it was from when my mother contracted fifth disease while pregnant with me, coupled with two severe ear infections when I was a toddler. At the time of diagnosis, my loss was around 55 dB. I received my first hearing aid at the age of 4, and the second one around my 5th birthday. When I first heard with the hearing aids, I remember hearing birds singing! I would always ask what the sound was when I heard something new and unfamiliar. It was amazing and a new breath in life after not hearing for four years!
Due to the age of my diagnosis and the need to catch up on vocabulary and language acquisition, I was enrolled at a pre-school program for hearing impaired and cleft palate children, as well as a public school. At the age of 7, we moved to Ohio, and I was mainstreamed in public school with a resource teacher (the school district was only one of two in the area that catered to students with hearing loss at the time).
Post high school, I attended college in Kentucky, but failed due to lack of accommodations for my hearing needs. I returned home and attended school part time at University of Cincinnati, while working full time. I completed my associate’s degree at Cincinnati Technical College, with accommodations, and I made the Dean’s List a few times! I then left Ohio to live in Louisville, Kentucky, where I married and became a mother to a hearing daughter.
When my daughter was 2, I returned to University of Cincinnati (UC) to obtain my bachelor’s degree in political science with international studies and a minor in business. Again, I had great success and made the Dean’s List. During my time at UC, I became a single mom with a daughter to raise, was going to school full time, working part time and managing my hearing loss. Today, I am an employment specialist helping individuals with disabilities seek viable employment through means of job search skills training, resume development and interviewing skills.
Time to try a new hearing solution
Sometime after my daughter was born, my hearing started to drop more often than it should, losing around five to 10 dB at a time. In 2016, I was having issues with my ear molds, and the struggle to hear had become a frustrating hardship. The audiologist suggested cochlear implants, and I adamantly shut the idea down because I had ‘heard’ for 40+ years with hearing aids. I did not want to change to something that I had no idea what the outcome would be. However, I owed it to family and myself to do some research on this topic.
In the summer of 2017, after discouraging news about my ear molds and not hearing well for so long, I wanted to re-explore the possibility of cochlear implants. The audiologist decided to run another hearing test, and discovered I was within the cochlear implant candidacy range and I qualified for a cochlear implant. Once I was approved, I realized I had a fighting chance to try to save my career, family life and more importantly, a chance to hear my daughter’s name at her high school graduation. What an exciting and anxious time for my family and myself.
Before the cochlear implant surgery, I had to decide between the three main brands, including Cochlear. I knew in my heart that Cochlear would be the good choice for me. Clarity and ability to hear in noise were two things I needed to make this a success for my hearing journey. I chose to go with Cochlear™ Nucleus® 7 Sound Processor. When I found out Cochlear’s Nucleus 7 Sound Processor was compatible with iPhone, and I would be able to control sounds and adjust settings according to my hearing needs all from my phone, I just had to go this route. In short, I can manipulate the volume and sounds to my liking.
On December 13, 2017, I had my surgery for my Cochlear™ Nucleus® Implant. My sound processor was activated a couple weeks later. At first, I could hear nothing but chimes. I struggled to hear anything, but the fact I could hear chimes was beautiful. A month later, I started to hear some sounds and words. At the second mapping session, the sounds were improved, which allowed me to hear someone talking for the first time!! What an emotional day that was!
Important new hearing moments
Fast forward to my first implanted hearing opportunity in March 2018; I attended my stepdaughter’s choir concert. This concert was a performance by a special group of students who were selected to be part of the regional choir in our area. As I attended the concert, I was amazed by the loudness of the crowd and yet, I was able to get the gist of the songs sung by the group. It was such a joy to hear music again!
My second opportunity came in April 2018 when my family and I attended The Phantom of the Opera at our local theatre. Can I say, AWESOMENESS to the ‘Nth’ power! It was an amazing show. I got about 75 percent of the show; I did struggle with the accents, as well as any changes to the script from what I remembered.
My third opportunity came in May 26, 2018 when I heard my daughter’s name being called to receive her high school diploma. I HEARD her name just as she received her diploma. Just to hear those words was incredible and surreal!
Since being implanted, it has been quite a journey to get where I am today. The clarity is amazing, and I simply love music more than anything I have heard to date. My goals are to start listening to classical music, understanding telephone conversations, possibly have my second ear implanted before the year is out and to continue to improve the quality of my life by enjoying life again! Side note: I have been approved for the second implant and I will not hesitate on which processor to go with—I will use Cochlear Nucleus 7 for the other ear!
I truly thank my ENT and hospital staff (they are rock stars!), Cochlear Americas for their awesome product and the opportunity to share my good fortune in hopes it helps someone else with their decision to be implanted.”
Is your hearing aid not cutting it? Take a look at a new solution that, like Heather experienced, could bring back the joy of sound in your life.