Working to overcome hearing loss is as much a mental journey as a physical one. A positive attitude can mean the difference between quiet isolation and a full life of sound.
Nucleus® 5 recipient Arlene is proof that it’s never too late to take a step toward better hearing. She’s 90 years young and says her Cochlear Implant has given her back a renewed sense of confidence and independence.
“I’m no longer isolated and I feel a part of humanity again,” she said. “I feel like I can participate in anything that I want to these days. (My Cochlear Implant) has opened up the world to me.”
Arlene said she first noticed she had difficulty hearing when she was 40 years old. She believes it’s hereditary because her father also dealt with hearing loss.
She got a hearing aid in her left ear, and then her right ear, but as the years went by she found that hearing aids weren’t strong enough for her to feel comfortable engaging with others.
“It was difficult to socialize with people or groups of people,” Arlene said. “It was impossible to be in any crowds of people. I couldn’t follow the conversations at all. So I avoided going out to any events with other people.”
She said it was disheartening to have no choice but to depend on others.
“It was just so difficult and embarrassing not to be able to hear properly,” she said. “It was very isolating and I was very dependent on my family and husband.”
Her husband passed away in 2007, and at that point her inability to communicate started to concern her daughter, Janet.
“She told me I could no longer live alone if I couldn’t hear,” Arlene explained. “Janet was very concerned that she wouldn’t be able to communicate with me at short notice for important events that happen in life.”
They met with an audiologist, who told Arlene she would be a good candidate for a Cochlear Implant. After meeting with the surgeon and receiving a positive evaluation they scheduled the surgery for the spring. She was implanted on the left side in May 2008 and her processor was activated a month later.
Arlene said her activation day brought a new depth of sound into her life.
“I loved the sound. It was amazing that I could understand words again. I accepted what it gave me and adapted quickly to it,” she said. “It was like sailing into sunshine. I was determined to hear and understand what people were saying.”
She started with the Freedom processor and upgraded to the Nucleus 5 in 2013. She said her processors have allowed her to do the things she couldn’t before.
“I can now use the phone and talk to my daughter Janet (who lives) in Melbourne, Australia,” she said. “We talk on the phone almost weekly. I can now go out to restaurants and be with groups of people, and I can now to go concerts and plays.”
Arlene said she uses her own story to encourage people who are worried they’re too old to get a cochlear implant. Her advice to others is to embrace the positive change.
“Don’t be scared,” she said. “Your world is about to expand. Age isn’t a factor, as I was 81 years old when I got mine.”
One of the people who has walked alongside Arlene in her hearing journey is Margo, a close friend and a bilateral Nucleus® 6 recipient who could give firsthand advice on the subject of Cochlear Implants.
Margo said she saw a dramatic change in Arlene before and after she received her Cochlear Implant.
“When I saw her in the fall of 2007 prior to her Cochlear Implant, I could tell that she was struggling to understand what was being said,” Margo said. “Arlene’s Cochlear Implant joy was evident when she came to see me several days after her activation in June 2008. How I rejoiced with her!”
She added that Arlene is an example of how to respond to stressful or scary situations.
“There was never a ‘can’t do it’ but rather a ‘teach me and show me’ (attitude) from Arlene,” Margo said. “She is just the kind of lady who just doesn’t get discouraged but rather always has a positive attitude. She doesn’t let age stop her from learning. … She is the kind of elderly person all of us need to look up to and be inspired by, and learn to (follow) her positive attitude and willingness to learn and grow.”
For more information on how the Nucleus system works, click here.
To search for a hearing specialist near you, click here.