As a young adult in the middle of her college career, Rachel thought that her hearing was the best it was going to be. Born with severe to profound bilateral hearing loss, she dealt with hearing aids and the struggles from earmolds, tubes, feedback noise, etc. throughout the majority of her life. She often felt like communication was a giant puzzle that she had to put together day after day, but when her audiologist mentioned that she was a cochlear implant candidate, she realized that cochlear implant surgery was the puzzle piece she was missing all along.
“Having a hearing loss is like a roller coaster. You have your ups and downs in many situations, whether it’s going to a restaurant, sitting in the classroom or simply having a conversation with a friend. I have faced adversity due to my hearing loss ever since I was born with severe to profound bilateral hearing loss. I wasn’t officially diagnosed until I was about 2 years old as hearing tests for babies weren’t standard then, plus, I was the first in my family to even have hearing loss.
The cause of my hearing loss is still unknown, but it’s most likely due to a lack of hair cells in my cochlea since all my MRI scans were clear. Every second of each day, I was constantly filling in the missing words like a puzzle. But that all changed after making the decision to opt for cochlear implants.
The beginning of my journey
A year ago, my audiologist finally said the words ‘You are most likely a candidate for cochlear implants.’ I was shocked as I didn’t think I could ever get them because, although my hearing loss was steady for two decades, out of nowhere, my speech discrimination declined vastly in both ears within 12 months.
I knew I wasn’t hearing as well as I used to, and I was getting more confused and frustrated by not being able to understand others. Hearing I was a candidate for cochlear implants was great news! After processing a bit, I remember feeling a range of emotions; I was upset, confused, excited and I didn’t know what to expect. But then, I thought of having a better quality of life and being able to hear all the sounds in this beautiful world. It would be very different (in a good way) as I was only understanding about 10 to 20 percent with my hearing aids at that point. When I saw those numbers and realized how poorly I was hearing, I knew right then something needed to change. That was the moment I made the decision to move forward with the cochlear implants.
After doing all my research about the different products and companies, I was 100 percent certain that I had to go with Cochlear. I loved Cochlear’s reputation of great customer service, their wide variety of products for off and on-the-ear processors and their new-age accessories. I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to the earmolds, tubes and the constant feedback noise. Anyone who has hearing aids knows how annoying those are! The fact that I could even have nothing sitting on my ear and still hear was beyond amazing. To say that I was excited would be an understatement.
A magical turning point
My surgery was easy and went by in the blink of an eye. I kind of couldn’t believe that was it. Then, just a week after getting activated, I went to a country concert and I’ll never forget that moment; I could finally hear and understand every lyric, guitar strum, applause and shout from the audience. My ears finally felt free and I couldn’t help but cry from my overwhelming happiness. I just couldn’t believe how quickly I was adapting to my cochlear implants.
I knew I was on the right path in my hearing journey. After three months of working hard on my new way of hearing, I went from 20 to 80 percent speech understanding, just like that. Plus, with more time and effort, I knew I would still be progressing and eventually would reach 100 percent. My cochlear implants gave me that confidence and self-esteem that I needed. Actually, I felt so confident that I even went for my other ear to be implanted within three months of my first one.
My accessories give me freedom
I had no idea how many sounds I was missing from all the years in my hearing aids. My Nucleus® 7 and Kanso® Sound Processors pick up all those sounds and have given me hope that I can succeed in life. What’s even better than having just processors is having accessories to further enhance my hearing experience. Cochlear offers a wide range of True Wireless™ accessories that I use all the time, like the Phone Clip, TV Streamer, Mini Microphone 2+, and the Aqua+1.
My Phone Clip helped me so much during my online class sessions and it has been a huge lifesaver, especially in this pandemic. Changing from a big, bulky FM system to the Mini Mic has been astounding. I love how literally nobody can see it from a distance and having direct streaming is such a huge plus for me2. It’s basically a cooler version than AirPods®3, or should I say, EarPods. Being a young adult who utilizes technology often, it’s important to stream music, make calls and watch shows right from my phone. It creates that high quality of sound for me and allows me to lower the environmental sounds while streaming. I can finally say goodbye to those headphones and telecoil that I had with hearing aids.
Lastly, the Aqua+ kit, which is a silicone sleeve that makes my sound processor waterproof. I recently tried this and couldn’t stop smiling. I got so excited to try it at the pool that I almost forgot my sunscreen. I had my first opportunity to hear while in the water and be worry-free around pools. It feels so good to leave behind isolating myself or depending on reading lips while being near water.
Ready for whatever comes next
Cochlear has given me all these opportunities and choices that have allowed me to feel confident about my future. My entire junior year of college was adjusting to cochlear implants bilaterally and I don’t regret one second of it. It has been an amazing ride. Now that I don’t feel held back, I’m excited about my future. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to open up and begin advocating for myself, and now I have more confidence in being independent and teaching my future students as I begin my career in teaching.
I’m so grateful to be able hear all of the world’s wonderful sounds. I used to always view hearing loss negatively and struggled to accept it. Now, thanks to Cochlear, I view my hearing loss as a positive part of me. It’s what gives me strength. It’s what makes me unique. I can’t wait to see what is next in my hearing journey.”
Are you interested in transitioning from hearing aids to bilateral cochlear implants like Rachel? Learn more about cochlear implants here.
- The Nucleus 7 Sound Processor with Aqua+ is water resistant to level IP68 of the International Standard IEC60529. This water protection means that the sound processor with the Aqua+ can be continuously submerged under water to a depth of 3 meters (9 ft and 9 in) for up to 2 hours. This water protection only applies when you use a Cochlear Standard Rechargeable Battery Module or Cochlear Compact Rechargeable Battery Module. The Kanso Sound Processor with the Aqua+ is water resistant to level IP68 of the International Standard IEC60529. This water protection rating means that the sound processor with the Aqua+ can be continuously submerged under water to a depth of 3 meters (9 feet and 9 inches) for up to 2 hours. This water protection only applies when you use the Aqua+ and LR44 alkaline or nickel metal hydride disposable batteries.
- For compatibility information, visit www.cochlear.com/compatibility.
- AirPods is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.