By Dennis Stelling
I was born with normal hearing and until my 20’s I heard perfectly from both of my ears. In 1992, at the age of 27, I suffered the first of many vertigo attacks. Along with the vertigo I also experienced fluctuating hearing loss which would return to normal following the attacks. It was like riding a roller coaster without being prepared to. Along with the vertigo I had constant and permanent tinnitus, and varying degrees of aural fullness specific to my left ear. It got to the point that I was sent to a specialist who diagnosed me with having left sided Meniere’s disease. During the next 2 years my hearing got progressively worse, as did the vertigo attacks. It was at an appointment sometime in 1995 that the ENT decided it was time to do something drastic about my vertigo and we decided it was time to use intra-tympanic Gentamicin to attempt to stop the attacks. The good news was it worked! The bad news was the unfortunate side effect that left me profoundly deaf on my left side. I had no usable hearing at all, even with a hearing aide.
As luck would have it, in 2005 I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease in my right ear as well. Fortunately the symptoms were nothing like with the left ear and I continued to have functioning hearing on one side until 2013.
In the summer of 2013, my Meniere’s symptoms returned with vengeance and with it I also experienced a very rapid deterioration in the hearing on my right side. During a visit to my ENT for my Meniere’s disease I asked if there was anything that could be done for my hearing loss. I knew Cochlear implants existed but I honestly knew very little about them. What I did know is that Meniere’s destroys hearing in a different way than typical hearing loss. For that reason, even though I asked, I truthfully expect to hear there was nothing that could be done for my loss and I would need to learn to live with it.
Much to my surprise, Dr. Driscoll immediately said I would be an excellent candidate for an implant.
We decided that it would be best to implant my left side first. What a whirlwind of events! I asked about an implant in June of 2013 and had the implant surgery on August 22, 2013. I was overwhelmed to say the least.
Activation day was amazing! With the push of a button on the keyboard, I was back! I did not cry as so often is seen in the A-day videos, but I certainly had a grin on my face. Pre-implant I was at 0%, yes ZERO, words and sentences in my left ear, and the second day post A-day, I was at 60%.
Dr. Driscoll said he wanted to wait and see where the right ear “bottomed out” before considering going bilateral. It didn’t take long. By December of 2014, after trying a hearing aid, he asked if I thought it was time. I still had some hope of my hearing returning, he was not as optimistic and felt I was there. On April 8th 2015 I was implanted on my right side and activated on April 29th, 2015.
I know my first A-day is not what is typical; to have immediate understanding and comprehension, so I once again wasn’t expecting those kinds of results. I am truly blessed that I did indeed have the exact same response. Even when the audiologist covered her mouth with a paper, I heard and understood her.
I nearly cried at this one. It was the first time in 20+ years that I had 2 fully functioning ears. My doctor is a huge proponent of bilateral implantation. After having two implants for just a short time I can understand why. One is amazing; two put it over the top. My volume is just incredible. I hear better in noise. I hear sounds, IN STEREO!
Due to some of the other effects of Meniere’s disease I decided to change careers in the fall of 2014. I went from being a dairy farmer to being a tax preparer. I would not have been able to even consider doing that type of human interaction work without my first implant. The career change is also why I delayed the second implant until the end of the tax season. I also unsuccessfully ran for a position on a corporate board of directors. Again, something I would not have considered 2 short years ago.
I had the privilege of attending Celebration 2015 and purchased the mini mic while there. I ordered the other wireless accessories with my new kit. The mini mic came in very handy for the rest of the tax season. I would just give it to the client and we could have our own personal conversation. I am, for the first time in a long time, enjoying using the phone again thanks to the phone clip. I even used it, just a bit over a week post A-day number 2, for a call over an hour long, for training to be a Cochlear volunteer. I am not afraid of the phone anymore! The TV streamer also works well. Though I am not much of a TV watcher, it is nice to understand it again.
On the Second A-day I was also given SCAN on both processors. A bit unusual so soon after activation but then so were my results. It is nice to not fiddle with the remote as much.
I am so glad I asked about solutions, and incredibly grateful for the technology to give me back the hearing I had lost!
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