Carissa B. started her hearing loss journey just before she graduated college. A young woman, finding herself and growing up, struggled with her diagnosis and what it meant to her to be hard of hearing. When conducting a routine hearing check, Carissa’s audiologist suggested a cochlear implant because her hearing loss had declined further. Carissa initially struggled with the diagnosis, but see how she feels about her cochlear implant and being hard of hearing now:
“Hearing loss is journey. A path you stumble upon that takes every dubious turn, every steep incline, every dark tunnel… the insecurities, failures, embarrassments, self-doubts, all slowly creep into your inner core of who you perceive yourself to be. And that was my stigma of hearing loss.
I was fitted with my first pair of hearing aids a month before I graduated college. During college, I struggled to say the least. I developed huge insecurities in my academic life and felt restricted by my disability, but I hadn’t a clue in the world how to deal with it or even put a label on it. Then came my IN-THE-EAR hearing aids. I remember wearing them to my college job the first time. I was mortified. Of course, I didn’t tell anyone; they saw for themselves.
To this day I can still see their faces, their reactions. I immediately was filled with despair and feelings of less than, inadequate, stupid, slow, the list is long. How insane is that? I remember feeling helpless and asking my audiologist, are there any groups I can join? People I can talk too? He had no answers – just handed me my hearing aids and I was on my way. I most definitely should have seen a counselor. I should have felt brave enough to walk into my job and say, ‘hey guys, look at my huge hearing aids! Ya, that’s right! I’m hard of hearing,’ but I didn’t and that is what the rest of my 20s looked like. Hiding, ashamed and really not knowing what these feelings were or meant.
Suggesting a cochlear implant
I know many hard of hearing and deaf individuals don’t struggle with these feelings or the stigma of hearing loss, but I certainly did, and it had a huge impact on so many parts of my life. I jumped around from audiologist to audiologist throughout my 20s trying to find one that ‘understood.’ And luckily, I did! And I’ve been with her for years. She met me at my issues and was empathic with each roadblock I encountered. In 2015, I went to see her about possibly getting new hearing aids and to see if my hearing had gotten any worse. After time in the sound booth, she sat me down and said it might be time to consider a cochlear implant. I completely lost myself, bawled in her office and quickly tucked that suggestion away on a dark shelf way in the background of my life. This reaction was solely based on ignorance; I didn’t understand what a cochlear implant could offer, and I only perceived it as a huge negative in my life.
After having my second son, I lost more hearing and things started to change in my life. Every day was a struggle. I was barely getting by in the hearing world. That’s when I decided it was time to venture down the road to a cochlear implant. Before that decision no one, not even my family, knew what I struggled with on a daily basis.
Moving forward with a cochlear implant
Once I started the process of cochlear implantation, I began to slowly open up and share about my experiences and how the stigma had become my personal demon. After years of hiding and isolating, I finally began to learn more about myself. Besides the better hearing, which has been a life changer in itself, the biggest victory that my beloved cochlear implant has offered me was self-healing. I was able to identify this inner struggle and got a grasp on this stigma that I was harboring. I started seeing a counselor and becoming more vocal and a lot braver. This void inside of me slowly transformed into peace. I never thought in a million years I would be someone who is capable present, worthy, sociable and ok in my own hard of hearing skin. And it’s all thanks to this cochlear implant.
I also recently had a speech recognition test and I went from 18 percent word recognizing (pre-cochlear implant) to 94 percent!
My life changed for the better
I have gained so much from this cochlear implant and am thankful I can be a hearing mommy for my boys. I don’t struggle as much as I did before; I’m hearing things that I forgot even made sounds. My life opens up more each day, and I find courage to leave my comfort zone more and more as I slowly gain my confidence back. I still struggle from time to time but that’s life, and I have the skills and this wonderful cochlear implant community to find my way through each obstacle. This cochlear implant community is so strong and caring, and I want to thank all of them for the support and rooting me on through this process. Cheers to a new me!”
If you want to hear more from Carissa about her hard of hearing and cochlear implant experiences, check out her Instagram account: @blob_mom.
If your audiologist suggests a cochlear implant, get more of your questions answered here.