By Shayna Cooperman, Nucleus® Recipient
I would say I am one of the lucky ones. I have consciously experienced life in two very different ways, “life before” and “life after.” Before and after what, you may ask? Before and after I received my cochlear implant. Allow me to back up a little bit here. I was diagnosed with severe to profound bilateral hearing loss when I was 11 months old. For fifteen years I wore two hearing aids, successfully integrating into mainstream school. However, after fifteen years, I was exhausted. My hearing process was not a passive one, like it is for many. I decided to undergo the cochlear implantation operation. Thus, I entered the “life after” phase of my life.
For me, having a cochlear implant makes what can be a stressful time of year like the holiday season a lot easier.
Since there are eight days of Hanukkah, here are eight ways having a cochlear implant has vastly improved my holiday experience:
1. A room full of happy family chatter can be a nightmare for hearing impaired individuals. Lip reading and straining to hear relatives can quickly turn a fun evening into an exhausting one. However, since receiving my cochlear implant, I have been able to thrive in this challenging environment, participating in and hearing all conversations on any end of the table, even if I have to yell. Happy hollerdays, am I right?
2. My cochlear implant allows me to enjoy Thanksgiving Day football with my dad. Despite all the background noise, I can still pick up what the sportscasters are saying, and of course, I can hear all those Black Friday commercials. This is quite a feat, considering I could never hear televised voices clearly before.
3. I actually know the words to holiday carols! Music was something that I had always been cut off from prior to my cochlear implant. I could not hear the lyrics or the nuances in melodies with my hearing aids. My cochlear implant, on the other hand, has provided a whole new world of sound to me. Deck my ears. Hm, that doesn’t work quite as nicely.
4. Don’t even get me started on car rides to and from relatives’ homes for holiday celebrations. Car rides used to SUCK for me. With everyone talking all at once, I would tune out. I could never hear anyone sitting in the driver or passenger seat because I couldn’t read his or her lips. With my cochlear implant, lip reading is no longer a visual crutch used to help me hear. Now, sitting in Thanksgiving Day traffic isn’t so bad because it means more time to chat!
5. Although I am on the younger side in my family, there are still a couple of cousins younger than me. Before my implant, I was hardly ever able to decipher what their high pitched, excited voices were saying. With my cochlear implant, I have been able to connect with and spend time with them.
6. Storytelling has become one of my favorite parts of holiday gatherings. Before my implant, I was rather impartial to this portion of the evening, which would consist of me constantly bugging my mom and sister, saying “What? What did she say? What happened? What are we talking about?” With my cochlear implant, I am able to laugh along with my family about stories from days past without driving my mom and sister up the wall.
7. As everyone in the family continues to grow and age, I find myself, ironically, not being the one with the worst hearing. Sometimes, I am even able to fill in a relative on what they could not hear. If that isn’t progress, I do not know what is.
8. Being able to hear someone saying “Dinner is served!” ‘Nuff said.
Since there are twelve days of Christmas, as the carol goes, here are my twelve holiday tips for traveling:
1. Batteries. Batteries. There is a reason this is number one. Bring your batteries people. Without them, your Cochlear device is just a funky, futuristic looking gadget.
2. If you are traveling on an airplane, I personally swear by EarPlanes. I pop these little earplugs in my ears an hour before landing, and there is absolutely no pain. None at all. The few other hearing impaired people I know seem to complain that they have the worst pain from altitude changes, and EarPlanes completely take the pain out of flight for me.
3. I know it is extra weight/baggage, but if you have a Dry & Store, or something like it, you should most definitely bring it. For those that don’t know, a Dry & Store is a machine that removes any earwax buildup or moisture from your hearing devices overnight so your devices are squeaky clean. There are few things worse than having a subpar hearing experience when you are far from home.
4. For those of you that can use a personal audio cable with your hearing device, it can be a lifesaver. You can finally listen to your music or watch your Netflix shows on your laptop without having to pump up the volume to unsavory levels. Also, the audio cable goes directly into your device (in my case, a Cochlear Nucleus 5) so the days of having sound seep out of my earphones and disturbing anyone in a five feet radius are gone.
5. Five golden rings! Sorry, feeling festive.
6. Oh, those airport metal detectors. Cochlear provided me with a little card to inform the TSA that I have a cochlear implant, in case the metal detector goes off. It has saved me a rather uncomfortable pat down, so I highly recommend it.
7. I always bring a power strip with me everywhere I travel. Like a regular, technology obsessed teenager/zombie, I have to carry my laptop and charger and my cell phone and charger. This, along with the charger for my Dry&Store, and for my batteries (I use the rechargeable kind) PLUS the fact that I am often with my family and their chargers (and we share a hotel room) means that a) there are never enough outlets and b) if there were, the whole system would blow. Enter my solution: a power strip. Where four cell phone chargers, two laptop chargers and the chargers for all my hearing related things can peacefully coexist without causing Alessandro Volta, the discoverer of electricity, to roll over in his grave.
8. If you are going somewhere warm or somewhere that involves swimming of some sort and have a Nucleus System, I recommend you bring an Aqua+[i], which is the answer to every hearing impaired individual’s cry for a waterproof device. Aqua+ is Cochlear’s answer for those with their cochlear implants. Now, I can finally enjoy swimming with family and friends without the whole awkward “I-can’t-hear-you-when-I’m-in-the-pool” thing. Thank goodness.
9. If you are going somewhere where the language is different, be prepared for that! Also, be prepared for accents. The good news is that even normal hearing people struggle with this one. I would recommend doing your research before you even board the plane. Get to know the culture, study a map of your destination, and travel in a group. Odds are, it won’t be as hard as you think it is. With a positive attitude, you can end up hearing more than you thought you could!
10. Must. Bring. Batteries. Bring both rechargeable and disposable batteries. Bring some to lose. Bring some to give to the locals. Just bring batteries. You don’t want to be without.
11. If you are going to be dancing a lot, I recommend you bring either wig tape or an ear mold. Take it from a dancer, it is a jarring experience to be whipping your hair back and forth like Willow Smith one moment and having your cochlear implant fly across the room the next moment. Wig tape can secure the processor to your head. Or, an ear mold can ensure that the processor is less apt to take flight.
12. Have fun and relax! Twelve tips is a lot of tips, and they are not ALL necessary. Except #1 and #10. No exceptions. Enjoy this time of year with your family, and enjoy your hearing device. I know I am thankful for my Nucleus 5 System!
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Share your stories with us at CochearWire@cochlear.com.
[i] The Nucleus Aqua+ accessory is IP68 rated and is approved for use with rechargeable batteries and is not approved for use with the acoustic component.
The Nucleus 6 Sound Processor is water resistant without the Nucleus Aqua+ accessory to a level of IP57 of the International Standard IEC60529 when used with rechargeable batteries.