This is a post for Cochlear America’s “Wake-up call” campaign. When Cochlear approached me to write this story, I didn’t think twice; I recently got implanted with Cochlear’s cochlear implant (CI); I have the Nucleus 6 Sound Processor, and it honestly saved my life. It’s my pleasure to tell you all about my CI adventure.
My wake-up call has a little bit of a twist to it. Unlike many who have had to make the decision of whether they should get a cochlear implant, I had no choice but to get it. My wake-up call happened when I realized how precious hearing is. After I got implanted, I got another wake-up call when I noticed how powerful my CI is. Actually, I never acknowledged the little things my CI could capture until the moment I started to write this piece.
An unexpected wake-up call
I’m currently away on a trip in Jamaica, so I’m writing this on the beach. As I tried to reflect back and pinpoint my wake-up call, I had another one right here. I was brainstorming when I heard a buzz, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. It lasted two seconds. I looked around, but couldn’t see anything. It came back a few times, and then at one point, I realized it was a fly! I had never heard a fly so loudly and clearly before. I’m always indoors or in a noisy environment, so I guess I never took the time to listen and take notes on all the things I can hear with my cochlear implant. Two years ago, I couldn’t hear anything. Right now, I can hear the waves crashing onto the shore; the people chattering in the distance in the middle of the water; check out the picture – you can see they are a fair distance away from me. I can also hear the wind, and that pesky fly. Talk about a wake-up call!
Two years ago, I didn’t even really know what a cochlear implant was. Let’s start from the beginning…
I lost my hearing…twice
I was born hearing, but when I was 4, my parents noticed that I was having trouble hearing a couple of things. I, who could already express myself verbally, noticed that I could no longer hear as well when I answered the phone. A few hearing tests later, I was diagnosed with a significant hearing loss (severe to moderate). I lost all my hearing in my left ear, and about half my hearing in my right ear. We never found out what caused this. But I got fitted with a good analog hearing aid in my right ear, and heard pretty well with it.
Fast forward to 2015. My analog hearing aid had allowed me to get through everything in my life at this point – elementary and high school, my university studies in journalism and communications, traveling and working abroad, pursuing dance and theatre, and many other things.
In June 2015, my life took a downturn. I was out celebrating my birthday with some friends, when I suddenly could not hear very well. My ears were crackling, and at first, everything sounded muffled, then as if I was listening through a broken speaker. I figured my hearing aid must have broken. I left to run home to get my spare hearing aid. By the time I got home, I felt sick and couldn’t even hear that well with my other hearing aid. I blamed it on food poisoning and went to bed.
The next day, I could not hear ANYTHING. I slammed the cupboard door expecting to hear a bang, but…not much. I turned up the radio…nothing. I panicked and went to the doctor, who diagnosed me with an ear infection and put me on meds.
Ten doses of meds later, all signs of infections, if I had any, were gone. But my hearing had still not improved. I was immediately sent to have an emergency audiology exam, after which I got the worse news I have ever gotten: I was diagnosed with Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL), a.k.a sudden deafness. That night when I felt sick on my birthday, it wasn’t because of food poisoning – I had lost almost all my hearing in a couple of minutes.
SSHL is really scary. It causes your hearing to drop more than 30 dB in a short amount of time. It can sometimes be reversed with prednisone injections and surgery; but one emergency surgery and two injections later, my hearing still hadn’t improved. Some of it returned, but the sound wasn’t clear like before. Everything sounded like it was underwater.
The real wake-up call
I have always relied on my hearing to do things; I live on my own, but stay in touch with family and friends through phone and Skype calls. I work with people from all over the world. I dance and act to relax. I love being around people and travel whenever I can. With all my hearing gone, I couldn’t do any of these things. I was devastated and really thought this was the end of everything for me.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I had no choice but to get the CI. When the doctor suggested I apply for a CI, I didn’t think twice; but I was a little bit unsure of whether it would help me. Could this device really help me go from almost no hearing to back to how I heard before? I realized that I took my hearing for granted, and losing it all was a big wake-up call. I needed to get this surgery for any chance of getting my life back.
Cheers to Cochlear
The extra things that I’m able to do with my Nucleus 6 Sound Processor has made this trip much more pleasant. The Aqua+ is a genius invention that allows me to hear in the water and shields me from worrying about getting splashed with water. I met a very nice group of tourists, and I was able to socialize with them at the bar, thanks to the SCAN technology in my sound processor, which reduces background noise and captures the voice of whoever is talking. I’m on an island and it sounds like an island – I hear reggae music everywhere, beach vendors blowing conch shells, palm tree leaves rustling in the wind – two years ago, this was very hard to imagine. Cheers Cochlear!
You can see more of my travel photos on Instagram.
To find out more about Cochlear’s hearing implants, visit: www.cochlear.com/us/wakeupcall
Views expressed here are my own. Consult your hearing health provider to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology. Outcomes and results may vary.