Cathy S. lived a full life with hearing aids before she went in for a hearing check and learned she was a candidate for cochlear implants. Struggling with the decision, she got a sign from her father, who’d passed, that gave her the added encouragement to go forward in her journey. Reflecting now, she’s very happy with her decision; read why:

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“My name is Cathy, and I am 58 years old living in Colorado. I was born and raised in Southern California and have been married to my lovely husband for the past 32 years (and still counting). We have two grown daughters and one son-in-law, all living in Colorado too. It is so nice to have them only a few hours away, where we make an effort to visit often.

Cathy, who used to wear hearing aids, as a childI come from a family of 15 children, and I am the only one with hearing loss. I am the fourth out of 15 children, and my parents thought I was just a slow or late learner. When I was almost 3 years old my uncle, who was a paralytic, noticed that I was not responding to the sounds or clapping that he was making behind my back. He then told my grandmother, whom he was living with at the time, and they both tried, again, with different sounds just to make sure.

Sure enough, their instincts were true, and they told my parents. My parents were stunned. My mother said that was the very first time she ever saw my father cry. Within the next few days, my parents got to work and sought help from their doctors. One doctor recommended that they take me to the John Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles, California. The John Tracy Clinic is a private, nonprofit education center for infants and preschool children with hearing loss. It was founded by Louise Treadwell Tracy, wife of actor Spencer Tracy, in 1942. It provides free, parent-centered services worldwide.

My parents wanted nothing but the best for me to succeed in life in the hearing world, so they went to John Tracy Clinic, and they were a tremendous help to my parents! They helped my parents seek the best hearing aids for me, the best schooling and education California could offer, and the best help my family and teachers could provide. It sure was a struggle growing up, though I managed to do well. There was no history of any deafness or hearing loss in our family before me that we are aware of. However, I now have a nephew who is deaf; he has cochlear implants as well and is thriving.

Doing well with hearing aids for years

Cathy, who used to wear hearing aids, with her DadGrowing up, I wore hearing aids on both ears and read lips very well. I worked very hard in everything I did whether it was in school, sports, social gatherings, church or family events…but it wasn’t always easy. I hated being deaf as a child. I always wondered why I had to be different than my 14 brothers and sisters. I thought I was cursed! It was hard watching my siblings to do well on many things, such as talking on the phone freely with no complications, getting good grades, easily getting jobs, swimming and talking and laughing with friends, easily understanding while watching TV shows or movies, etc. For me, it was much harder.

Little did I know, later in life, that the word ‘struggle’ would become part of me and part of my life forever. As hard as it was for me at the time, I didn’t realize that growing up with my 14 siblings would be very beneficial for me later in life. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my parents, siblings, and my educators. They were my role models, my warriors, my teachers, my support systems and my friends for life. I still recall my father reminding me constantly when I was struggling and feeling helpless, saying, ‘Cathy, with your deafness you need to be proud and prove to everyone what you can do! There’s nothing that you cannot do!’ Hearing that, I would roll my eyes. Sure, sure! Today, as an adult, I now believe it, and I’m happy to say that I am proud of who I am, especially with my deafness, and I do walk proudly! Wholeheartedly! I have embraced the word ‘struggle’ and made it part of my life. There is nothing that I cannot do! Well…maybe…but that’s not stopping me!

Cathy, who used to wear hearing aids, with her familyMy father and I became very close growing up. He was always there when I needed him. Not to say that my mother wasn’t, but she was just so busy tending to my younger siblings. However, she always supported my father’s decisions on what he thought would be best for me. When I was 18, I moved out and went off to college. I completed only two years before deciding to quit school to work full time to support myself. I met my husband and we got married in the year of 1988. A year later, my husband got a job in Texas, so we moved.

During the six years living in Texas, I bore two beautiful daughters. I went back to school and worked very hard and succeeded. We moved a few more times and finally settled in Colorado for good…I hope! In the middle of all of this, sadly, my father passed away in the year of 2008 at the age of 77 from the most awful disease out there…pancreatic cancer. My mother passed away a year later at the age of 77 to pulmonary embolism. It was such a tough year for my family and I, and we miss them so very much.

Learning I was a candidate for cochlear implants

Cathy, who used to wear hearing aids, with her familyFour years later, after I moved to Colorado with my family at the age of 51, I was told that I would be a good candidate to have cochlear implants after a routine hearing test. I was stunned, confused and very upset! I thought I was doing OK with my hearing aids and never thought I would consider cochlear implants because I didn’t need them. I left the doctor’s office crying! I became very depressed for three months. During that three months, I did lots of research, meeting and talking with people who have implants, talking it over with my husband and family, and yet I still could not make that final decision to do it or not. Something was holding me back, and I couldn’t figure out what that was. I kept wondering why I was so upset and scared! I’ve always been a ‘toughie,’ and I just couldn’t shake this off. I knew something was troubling me.

Then, one morning as I was sitting on my front porch with my coffee looking out our beautiful countryside, something came over me… and told me to, ‘do it.’ I looked up, and I felt the presence of my father. I then started to visualize that my father was standing in front of me telling me to shake it off and to go for it. I stared out for a while and started sobbing! I then realized that I was holding myself back because my father wasn’t alive to share this experience with me, since I knew this would have been the biggest highlight of his life to see this happen. I wanted my father to be here to cheer me on, to hold my hand, and to experience this whole process with me, but he couldn’t. Finally, I felt calmed and relieved. Alright, Dad…I am going to do it! I got up and called my doctor and made the appointment. I told myself that there was no going back. I knew that my father would be there guiding, comforting, rooting, and cheering me on during my surgeries in ‘spirit.’ In my heart I know he still does.

Moving forward with cochlear implants

Cathy, who had hearing aids, with her husbandI was first implanted on my left ear on January 2013 and received the CochlearTM Nucleus® 5 Sound Processor at activation. My second implant was performed on my right ear in October 2013 (9 months later), and I received the new (at the time) Nucleus 6 Sound Processor.

Last year (after five years) I received the new Nucleus 7 Sound Processors, which I love! I used to depend on my husband and my two daughters for most of my phone calls if I didn’t understand the person whom I was talking to, which was hard at times for years before my cochlear implants. I remember how it was embarrassing depending on my children and how frustrating it was for them as well. It was taking a toll on our relationship. Now, thanks to Cochlear, my life has truly changed for the better in many ways! I find myself talking on the phone without any help, listening to music and understanding words more clearly, having more confidence in social gatherings, and so much more! I love the ForwardFocus1 feature, which really helps eliminate background noise, as well as the True WirelessTM Mini Microphone, the direct streaming on my iPhone®23 so I can use GPS in my car, and so much more!

I am a board member on the Colorado Chapter of AG Bell, a nonprofit organization that I’ve been involved with for the past four years. I also volunteer with Cochlear Americas and have for the past six years, talking and helping many soon to be or post-implantation Cochlear recipients! I truly do enjoy being involved and helping out in everything that I am passionate about. It gives me more confidence to do better in everything that I have worked so hard for.

My cochlear implants gave me the freedom to live my life the way it was meant to be lived! With hearing aids, I heard in black and white, whereas with cochlear implants, I hear colors! True colors are beautiful, like a rainbow (just like Cyndi Lauper said)! Today… I am happy to say that I am very proud, very blessed, and there is nothing that I cannot do!”

If don’t think your hearing aids are letting you hear enough anymore, consider cochlear implants.

  1. ForwardFocus can only be enabled by a hearing implant specialist. It should only be activated for users 12 years and older who are able to reliably provide feedback on sound quality and understand how to use the feature when moving to different or changing environments. It may be possible to have decreased speech understanding when using ForwardFocus in a quiet environment.
  2. For sound processor compatibility information, visit https://www.cochlear.com/compatibility.
  3. iPhone is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries
Cara Lippitt
Cara Lippitt is the Public Relations and Marketing Manager at Cochlear Americas. She is responsible for consumer marketing social media and blog content. Cara is inspired by the stories of the recipients that she is able to tell and the incredible journeys they have taken. Cara was born and raised in Colorado and adores the mountains, snow and the world of musical theatre.