Barbara M. knew deafness was in her future as her family had hereditary hearing loss. After her nephew and sister were both succeeding with their Cochlear™ Kanso® Sound Processors, she decided it was time to follow in their footsteps to hear better. Fast forward to now, she is truly enjoying life and all the sounds around her:
“My name is Barbara and I am 66 years old. I knew deafness was in my future since hearing loss is hereditary in my family. Each of us was born with perfect hearing, but if or when the gene manifests itself, usually in our 20s, we gradually lose our hearing until we are profoundly deaf. We have researched back five generations where this gene has robbed various family members of their hearing.
When I was in my mid-20s and before I noticed any loss, I opted to learn sign language. With that skill I found employment at a school, working with hearing-impaired children and I soon became their interpreter. One day, I noticed I could not understand the audio of a video I was interpreting. The volume was adequate, but the words seemed garbled and not at all clear.
Soon after, I obtained my first hearing aids. I wore hearing aids for the next 35 years, with each set getting progressively stronger as my hearing deteriorated. When I could no longer interpret or understand children’s voices, I took a job in clerical work where my hearing impairment was not such a detriment. Despite my coping skills, customer service, telephones, meetings, trainings and working with staff became more and more frustrating. I gave up and retired at age 62.
My family’s success with cochlear implants
In 2014, my nephew Dan was the first in my family to receive a cochlear implant. He encouraged his mother, Pat, to get a cochlear implant which she did in 2017. When I talked with them, I marveled at how well both could understand speech again.
My sister, Pat (Sis), excitedly talked about hearing birds and visiting with friends. Dan told of his experience searching to identify a soft popping sound that turned out to be the fizz of a can of carbonated soda. Sis and Dan both encouraged me to get a cochlear implant. I did not think I was a candidate as I was still receiving some benefit from my hearing aids. At least I thought I was…
I requested an appointment at my local clinic in the spring of 2018. The initial screening included an audiogram along with speech discrimination testing. In the speech discrimination (sentence) portion of my checkup, I scored 1 percent correct. I was shocked as I was really trying! I had my head down, eyes shut and was listening with all of my heart. Without knowing the speaker, topic or being able to lipread, I could only gather 1 percent of what was said. The staff told me I was not only a candidate, but a good one.
Kanso Sound Processors
The events rolled quickly after that initial screening. I had two weeks to make my decisions for brand, model and whether I wanted to get one cochlear implant or go bilateral and get two. Dan and Sis had Kanso Sound Processors and were doing exceptionally well with them. The brand comparison list provided by the clinic also helped with the choice. I really liked the Kanso Sound Processor’s smaller size and that it was off-the-ear. Vanity wise, I liked that there was a variety of colors to match my hair color. Those choices were easy.
I thought long and hard about getting one cochlear implant or going bilateral. Dan had bilateral with separate surgeries, while Sis went with one cochlear implant and was content with that. I decided to do both ears in the same surgery knowing I would be in total silence during the time between surgery and activation.
I got Nucleus® 522 Implants on a Thursday. I was back home on Friday and on Sunday I was out riding my lawnmower. I had only a minimal discomfort. My excitement was tempered with the nagging little voice in my mind that kept asking, ‘what if it doesn’t work,’ but Pat and Dan were encouraging and kept my thoughts positive.
My activation appointment
Several weeks later after the incisions were healed, I had my activation appointment where I received my Kanso Sound Processors and they were turned on. Words will not express my joy when I first hear the audiologist’s voice. Yes it first sounded like Dan said it would (pixies talking into a tin can), but the joy of hearing her speak and understanding the words was overwhelming. On the 7-hour drive back to northern Minnesota, my partner and I talked the entire way. It was such a joy to be able to visit with him again and not have to ask him to repeat.
I was given a list of rehabilitation options to help my brain re-learn to hear. I was to listen using each ear/cochlear implant individually and then together. At Dan’s suggestion I used my computer to access videos and audiobooks so I would also have captions to assist in comprehension. I listened for a minimum of one and a half hours every day. I would often use the True Wireless™ Mini Microphone plugged into my computer to listen while I did household chores. Each day, voices sounded more like I remembered voices to be. Even the rooster, George, started sounding like a rooster again!
New speech discrimination test scores
One month after activation, I returned to the clinic for a checkup. Each professional I had spoken with told me there would be no way of predicting how well I would do with the cochlear implants since everyone’s situation was different. After one month I knew I was doing exceptional, but of course we wanted to see exactly how well. I was excited for the sentence portion of the speech discrimination test and I had a wide grin as I repeated back the sentences. I nailed it! In my initial evaluation three months earlier, I scored 1 percent correct. On this evaluation, I scored 96 percent correct!
The marvel of the cochlear implant is that it is not at all like my hearing aids that only amplified sounds. The cochlear implant makes each sound crisp and clear like my hearing was before I lost it. Busy restaurants and large groups are no longer a painful cacophony that grate my nerves. I can use my Mini Microphone and remote assistant to move between programs and volume for even more control of my listening environment.
I have taken classes; welding and Tai Chi were both a lot of fun. I clipped the Mini Microphone on my instructor’s lapel, and I could hear their every word from anywhere in the room. I took a family history trip and met and visited with members of my extended family that I had never met, something I could not do before.
My new life
Today, a year later, I am truly enjoying life. Each week, I meet with friends to visit over coffee. I am waiting for specific classes to be offered through community education. I still enjoy accessing lectures and information in the form of videos on my computer. I love sitting on the porch swing on summer evenings, quietly visiting with my partner. At night, before I go to sleep, I listen to the night sounds of frogs and crickets before reluctantly taking my sound processors off. The moment I wake up, I put on my sound processors and listen to the birds singing outside of my window.
I find joy walking to the barn in the morning and hearing my horses nickering at me to hurry. I can hear the cat purring and the hens clucking around the yard searching for bugs. I love the sound of hummingbirds making a peeping sound when they are mad, and I have found that salt makes a soft little sound falling out of the shaker and the leaves in the trees rustle. My honeybees are once again buzzing.The world is so full of sounds again.
A friend asked if I was thinking of returning to interpreting. I could if I wanted to, but no. I have so many exciting things to do now that I can hear again.”
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