Sherilyn J. struggled with hearing loss for years, causing her to pull away from the things she loved and the person she had always been. A combination of forces, her CochlearTM Nucleus® Implant System, a Vanderbilt research study and a singer-songwriter’s lyrics, brought Sherilyn back to her biggest passion, music:

“A chance meeting and photo with a talented warm-hearted musician has become a symbol of my season of joy with my cochlear implant (CI)!

One year after my CI, in July 2017, I was grateful to participate for three days in Vanderbilt’s CI research project studying CT guided mapping and bimodal hearing. Excited to be in Music City, Nashville, I explored live music in the evenings and was lucky to find singer-songwriter Mitchell Lee’s show. His music, free spirit, radiant smile, and love of music and people were contagious! (Also, Mitchell is a contestant on this season of NBC’s TV show ‘The Voice.’ See his blind audition here.)

I found his song ‘Already Gone’ on YouTube after his show and sat there in awe! With my new CI mapping from the Vanderbilt research project, I effortlessly heard Mitchell’s song lyrics… for the first time after ten years of exhausting and futile attempts to enjoy music. His Facebook post captures the joyful moment for us!

Music has been a passion for me, but as hearing became more challenging and fragmented, I withdrew from playing the keyboard and singing in various groups. My hobbies adapted to hiking, photography, reading, cooking, traveling, home improvement and quiet social interactions.

Hearing loss has been a humbling and isolating experience for me, missing out on life all around that I longed to be a part of and feeling like a shell of who I had once been.

My hearing journey began in 2003 when I discovered my left ear hearing, lost suddenly during a respiratory illness, was so bad that a hearing aid could not help. My right ear was gradually losing hearing, too.

My hearing loss continued to progress over the years, so much so that it was hard for me to understand speech and I could no longer hear significant sounds like fire alarms, birds and whispering.

Finally, I was excited to be placed on the surgery schedule for a cochlear implant, only to have my insurance deny my requests for 20 months. Success came after my third doctor across the state appealed one more denial!

Keeping my calling as a cardiac RN during my hearing loss and CI rehab has been a major focus, only possible because I didn’t lose my low-pitched hearing, necessary for essential sounds, including blood pressures and heart tones. But I had to face hard questions: Was I safe? Competent? Thirty-seven years of experience, working double speed, lip reading skills, a caring heart, a supportive boss, several kind coworkers, and the grace of God saw me through those uncertain times at work to my current place of improvement with my CI.

In Vanderbilt’s Anechoic Chamber Lab

Enjoying music is becoming easier for me too, and it brings me confidence for new adventures, connecting me with people and life more. I can now hear percussion, high-pitched melodies and some lyrics. Voice lessons are helping me learn to sing with my new CI sounds, and I ventured to play for an enthusiastic memory care unit recently.

Very important to my CI success were the doctors who fought for me to hear, my audiologist, Vanderbilt, Facebook CI groups, Cochlear’s rep, audio training, a journal, God, and those who patiently interacted with me in spite of communication frustrations.

My Nashville adventure energized my spirits in the process of reinventing myself and re-engaging with life. Thank you, Cochlear, for hope reborn, Vanderbilt, for your tireless research and discoveries, Mitchell Lee, for great music, a moment of shared joy and a photo!”

Find more information about cochlear implants as a treatment option for your hearing loss: http://bit.ly/2yCy6n3.  

Renee Oehlerking
Renee Oehlerking is the Public Relations Manager at Cochlear Americas where she is responsible for the region’s public relations and consumer marketing social media. Renee enjoys uncovering, telling and showcasing the inspiring stories of hearing implant recipients. As a recent transplant to Denver, Colorado, Renee enjoys exploring all that the state has to offer outdoors.