“My world is opening up again thanks to the team of people who helped me get my cochlear implant and re-adapt to a life with sound.”
In late 2001, my husband and I sailed down the Intracoastal Waterway from New Jersey to Florida. It wasn’t our gameplan when we set out, but we ended up falling in love with Florida’s beauty and warm weather and decided to make the Sunshine State our home.
When we started that trip, my hearing was just fine. But within a few months, for no apparent reason, the ability to hear in my right ear was gone. Doctors couldn’t tell me what happened, and MRIs revealed nothing abnormal. Just poof, gone. You can imagine my fear and frustration. But this was my new reality, so I lived with it.
From that point, I relied on my left ear, and I was able to function well enough with the help of hearing aids, a common starting point for anyone with compromised hearing.
Beginning sometime in 2019, however, things took an even more dramatic turn for the worse. I lost even more hearing and the ability to recognize words, and had to rely almost exclusively on lip reading, texting, and captions. I could no longer communicate on the phone without a caption app. I could no longer make out the words being said in audiobooks. Watching television was impossible without captions. Being invited to group events caused despair. When strangers engaged me in conversations, I often pretended to hear them.
My first reaction? That my hearing aid was simply malfunctioning; it was a technology issue that could be easily remedied. That was my hope! But no. I had my hearing aid run through all the advanced diagnostics, and, alas, it was fine. My ears were the problem, and an Audiologist told me after testing that my word recognition score had dropped to around 14%.
It would be an understatement to say this development was difficult for me and my family and friends. I was deeply saddened thinking I could no longer volunteer, attend book club meetings, or even make new friends.
My next step was a visit to a local ENT. I needed a fresh, professional assessment / diagnosis of my hearing health and a gameplan for how to deal with what we learned. Turns out, my situation was more complicated than I’d ever known. I had one “dead” ear, and my good ear, so to speak, was entwined by an acoustic neuroma.
With this new information in hand, the Audiologist I saw was passionate about the fact that I should consider a Cochlear Implant in the dead ear. She had seen great results even in patients with long term hearing issues. There was no way to guarantee success, but since the ear was already dead, the opinion was there was nothing to lose. In short, we’d need to pray for a little magic.
And the magic began with an internet search!
I discovered a website for The Cochlear Clinic at ENT Associates. The site had lots of great information about hearing health and cochlear implants, and the resumes of the clinic’s cochlear experts were stellar, as were their online reviews. Better still… they were in Florida, and accessible. Just three hours away!
Excited, but a little apprehensive, I booked an appointment and made the trek. After just one visit with Dr. Greene and Dr. Hanna, I knew I was in great hands. Once I began working with them, I discovered that they were truly passionate about helping people with hearing loss.
The circumstances of my hearing loss posed some unique challenges, but I was ultimately approved as a CI candidate, and on October 19, 2021, Dr. Greene implanted an Advanced Bionics Marvel Cochlear Implant. Two weeks later, the magic turned miraculous!
On November 3, 2021… Dr. Hanna activated my implant. After years of hearing absolutely nothing out of my right ear, I immediately heard words, sentences, sound. I even made a phone call to a friend and was able to hear what she said.
Just like that… I could hear. I couldn’t believe it! Tears of happiness came then and continue to flow even now as I write this.
My hearing is getting better every day with practice. The squeaky, chipmunk-like sound of people’s voices is getting less and less and should abate entirely as I progress. In fact, my husband’s voice sounds perfectly “normal” just as it did many years ago. I am comfortably watching TV, and I can’t express the joy of being able to once again stream audiobooks and understand every word. Next week I will be attending a book club meeting and look forward to hearing my fellow club members.
My friends and family have been very supportive, and they have all expressed joy at being able to talk to me on the phone. My mom is so happy that we can again have conversations while riding in my car. My husband is very happy that we can talk casually; that he no longer has to be looking straight at me to have a conversation.
The next goal? Getting more comfortable with understanding song lyrics. For the first time in years, I don’t feel a need to distance myself from music. It is no longer an assault on my senses. In fact, I’m finding myself humming along.
The road I’ve traveled with my hearing loss has been fraught with twists and turns, but my world is opening up again thanks to the team of people and companies who helped me get my cochlear implant and re-adapt to a life with sound.
At this point I feel like the luckiest person in the world, and I am forever grateful to Dr. Greene, Dr. Hanna, and Advanced Bionics for giving me my life back.