Penny F. experienced bouts of sudden and surprising drops in her hearing over a course of many years and sought several treatments for what was thought to be a virus at the time. Because of her worsening hearing loss, Penny began isolating herself. Poor hearing aid performance and the embarrassment of not being able to hear drove Penny to find a different treatment for hearing loss. See how a cochlear implant and the Cochlear™ Nucleus® Kanso® Sound Processor turned Penny’s life around:
“My hearing journey, or should I say hearing loss journey, began in June 2005 when I awoke to what I thought was just a ‘plugged’ feeling in my left ear. I did everything I could think of to try to unplug my ear, including flying to Las Vegas! Nothing was working, so I visited urgent care, where the doctor gave me oral steroids for a possible virus, still resulting in no relief.
The next stop was to an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) for hearing and blood tests, an MRI to eliminate the potential for any brain or temporal bone tumors, and lastly an ultrasound of the carotid vertebral arteries. All tests came back negative. Two months later, my right ear felt like I had a bad head cold, which was a different feeling than what I had on the left.
At this point, I went to see a specialist, and for the next few years, my specialist only monitored my condition, as there was no explanation for the hearing loss (my doctor identified it as a ‘stroke of the ear’). The loss was minimal enough (my left was worse than my right ear) that I was still able to function, and initially, there was no suggestion or recommendation for hearing aids.
My minimal hearing loss quickly changed overnight in 2009, when I woke up one morning and found the remaining hearing on the left side had completely disappeared. I was now profoundly deaf with no explanation. My doctor recommended hearing aids for both sides; however, we never found an adequate solution for the left ear, so I only wore one on the right. To this day, I still wonder why no one ever suggested a cochlear implant…
Personality change from hearing frustration
The full loss of hearing on the left side and reduced hearing on the right (with hearing aid assistance) is when my personality began to change. I would isolate myself socially, looking for excuses not to attend events. I actually announced at a department staff meeting at work that I was very hard of hearing, explaining that I was not purposely ignoring people or being snooty – I honestly could not hear them. I was even approached to run for a public office (city clerk) in my hometown, but I had to turn it down. How could I possibly function in that position when I could not hear?
I was always fearful, in the back of my mind, that I would lose the balance of the hearing on my right. The two audiologists who had been doing my hearing aid adjustments had assured me that it was unusual to lose hearing in the other ear after the unexplained loss of one. I hung onto the hope that they were correct.
Fast forward to Christmas Eve 2016, when I woke up knowing something was wrong. The last of the hearing on the right ear was almost gone. I contacted my ENT and he met me in his office the Monday after Christmas and immediately started oral steroids, a steroid shot, aspirin and a diuretic. We were both hoping this was a virus. Three days later, it was apparent this was probably not a virus, so I went back to my hearing clinic. After another round of inner ear steroid shots, and with no change in my hearing, it was determined that the hearing loss was permanent. I had bilateral severe to profound hearing loss.
To say I was devastated was an understatement. How would I function without being able to hear? I retired in 2014 and enjoyed lunching with friends, going to movies, watching television, working out at the gym with my trainer and friends, was hoping to travel and was looking into volunteer opportunities. I was not able to enjoy any of these things like I wanted to before my hearing loss. The irony in all of this is my daughter is an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, but I never learned ASL, even though she tried to teach me many years ago.
My journey back to hearing
I had now been profoundly deaf on both sides for four months, but I had struggled for years only using the hearing aid on the right. Finally, my treatment for hearing loss came when my doctor suggested a cochlear implant; the candidacy process began immediately. We decided we would implant the left side first, hoping to maintain the remaining hearing on the right.
There was no doubt I would be a cochlear implant candidate, and my medical insurance approved my case almost immediately. I brought my son with me to the appointment for selection of the implant manufacturer, not only because he would be able to hear the full explanations of the equipment, but also for his tech savviness.
Once the audiologist completed her thorough explanation of all of the options, I knew I wanted to go with Cochlear. I was so excited to see the Kanso Sound Processor, as I had no idea there was an off the ear, discreet option. Cochlear allowed me to pick two processors, and I decided I would also try the Nucleus® 6 Sound Processor. My surgery was April 13 and my activation was shortly afterwards. The Cochlear™ Nucleus 6 was activated first, and the Kanso was activated second. Once I wore the Kanso, I realized I preferred the off-the-ear option, and I exchanged my Nucleus 6 for another Kanso Sound Processor.
Grateful for my Kanso and my new ‘ear’
I am so thankful for my new ‘ear’; the entire process has been amazing. I enjoy posting my love of Kanso Sound Processors on the various Cochlear Implant Facebook groups, as I hope my experiences will help others going through this process.
I now enter social situations with a new confidence, without the need for backup ‘ears’ (someone to translate the conversation). I initiate conversations everywhere I go, and I am no longer an introvert. The water resistance* of the Kanso Sound Processor means I do not have to worry about sweating at the gym, and now I can actually hear my trainer.
I love the CochlearTM True WirelessTM Phone Clip that allows me to have conversations on my cell phone, especially with my 91-year-old mother. I am still a work in progress and continue to have ‘wow’ moments every day. I cannot wait to see what the future holds…possibly going bilateral, but definitely with a Kanso Sound Processor.”