Whether you’re born with hearing loss or it develops later in life, the implications can be disorienting and scary. Struggling to hear is exhausting—but it can also be challenging to take the next step toward a solution. Many people wait a long time to address their hearing loss because they assume that nothing can be done to help them.

Cochlear™ Nucleus® 6 bilateral recipient Dennis said he experienced that hesitation firsthand, but he’s glad he took the leap and asked for help.

“I think probably Dennis Stellingthe hardest part of dealing with going deaf is realizing, hey, I need help, in one form or another,” Dennis said. “I’m just thrilled (my doctor) suggested cochlear implants and that I’ve had the results I’ve had with them.”

Dennis’ experience with hearing loss didn’t begin until he was 27 years old. He contracted Meniere’s disease and over the course of three years he lost all the hearing in his left ear.

He said single-sided deafness wasn’t too much of an issue because he had perfect hearing in his right ear, so it didn’t make a huge impact on his life.

However, about ten years later Dennis developed the disease in his right ear and his hearing dropped dramatically.  He said that was when his hearing loss began to affect him day-to-day.

“It became so I couldn’t use the phone and talking with my family became difficult. It was just something I was willing to live with because I didn’t think there was anything that could help me,” he said. “I tried a hearing aid, (but) all I got were environmental sounds. I couldn’t understand anything.”

When Dennis met with his doctor and was told he would be an excellent candidate for a cochlear implant, he said he was surprised and optimistic.

“I was hopeful and thought, ‘If I get some (hearing) back, that would be great, but if I don’t get any back I won’t be worse off,’” he said.

He had the surgery for an implant on his left side in August 2013, just two months after finding out he was eligible. He was implanted on the right side in April 2015.

Dennis said getting the Nucleus 6 transformed his ability to communicate and interact with others.

“For one, I could talk to my family — I didn’t need to have them carry around a pen and paper anymore,” he said. “I feel I’m much more outgoing since I got my implant. It makes me more confident in my everyday life, because I’m not worried about missing something.”

That confidence carried over to the classroom. Dennis was a farmer for thirty years but returned to school after he received his Nucleus 6 processors. He’s now a student at a local community college where he’s aiming to graduate with his associate’s degree in accounting. After that, he plans to continue with a bachelor’s degree.Dennis Stelling

Dennis calls the Nucleus 6 and its accessories his “secret weapon” for functioning in a classroom.

“I don’t struggle in the classroom,” he said. “The professors are very good about wearing the Mini Mic. … My new career is doing tax returns, and every fall we go to a training seminar. I even went up to the people doing the training seminar and asked the three speakers to pass it around and wear it during their presentations. They gladly did it.”

Because his Cochlear implant has made such a difference in his life, Dennis decided to give back and help others going through the same process. He became a Cochlear volunteer two years ago and said he enjoys making connections with people as they embark on an exciting step in their hearing journey.

“If they’re considering (getting a Cochlear Implant), I would strongly advise people to ask their clinic for a mentor,” he said. “Someone who can walk them through the process, tell them what to expect, give them advice, and answer questions along the way.”

Dennis said that becoming a volunteer was an easy decision because he was already doing most of the work.

“Being a volunteer for Cochlear isn’t really much more than you’re already doing, talking to people every day,” he said. “It’s not a huge time commitment, and you can be involved as much or little as you want. It’s just a nice way to be recognized for doing what you’re already doing.”

He said he finds the experience rewarding because it’s a way to help others find the same improvement in hearing that he experiences every day.

“It gives me a good feeling to know that someone in the future may be helped by this,” he said.

To learn more about the Mini Microphone 2+ wireless accessory and to purchase online, click here.

For more information on becoming a Cochlear volunteer, click here.

Skylar Mason
As a journalism student, Baha recipient, and Anders Tjellström Scholarship winner, Skylar is excited to join the team at Cochlear as an intern to tell the stories of other CI and Baha recipients! She attends the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.