Hearing Loss History: I was implanted 9-1/2 years ago in an ear that was without hearing or stimulation for 20 years.
Tell Us Your Story: I was back in college preparing to be an Occupational Therapy Assistant, when I lost my hearing. I'd lost the hearing in my left ear 20 years earlier, and was using bi-cros aids successfully. I was out riding my bicycle when I was hit by a car. I was thrown across the front of the car, and hit my head. The ambulance took me to the hospital and I discovered I couldn't hear. I thought my hearing aid had broken.
I sent the aid away to get fixed and when it came back I realized it wasn't the hearing aid, it was my hearing. It was gone. We tried a course of steroids, and other non-invasive treatments, but my hearing kept fluctuating from bad to worse.
My implant surgeon, Franklin M. Rizer, MD in Warren, OH suggested the implant. He said it might help with lip-reading, but couldn't guarantee any results. He also advised that I implant the worst ear, one that had no hearing and no stimulation for 20 years. That way if it didn't work, I'd be no worse off than I was before. In August of 1997, I had a Nucleus 24 straight array inserted in my left ear. I was part of clinical trials for this device.
A month later, I had my first mapping. Some voices sounded like everyone swallowed helium - very high pitched. And other voices sounded very low pitched, so it was hard to tell male from female voices. With subsequent mappings, speech became more normal sounding. Three months after my initial mapping, I was pretty much hearing the way I do today. Talking on the phone, able to understand the radio, listen to music, TV, and understanding people speaking to me when I was not lip-reading are all things I do now. Amazing. I was very happy when the body worn processor with it's long cord was replaced with a behind the ear processor (Esprit BTE). That allowed me to hear again with a device that was actually smaller than the bi-cros hearing aids. A few years later, the 3G processor was introduced and again I upgraded. This new processor had a built in telecoil. GREAT news for folks who want to talk on the phone. Cuts out the background noises, boosts the volume. I didn't think things could get better.
Then the Nucleus Freedom implant system came out. It had both a new internal array, and a new processor. The processor was made backward compatible for those of us with the Nucleus 24 and 24C system. Now we have 4 available program slots, plus features like ADRO, BEAM and Whisper. Some of these were available on the original body worn processor. How nice to have them on a behind the ear model! And it uses either disposable or rechargeable batteries for power. A feature no other implant system offers.
My Nucleus 24 Cochlear Implant has returned me to the world of hearing. People don't even realize I have a hearing loss. Some folks ask me if I hear with my non-implanted ear. I don't. At the time I was implanted, the criteria was that you have no amplifiable hearing. I only have one implant; but then I was only hearing from one side for 20 years prior to the implant.
My implant has changed my life, and for the better. Always nice to know that no matter what improvements or upgrades are made by Cochlear, that I won't be left behind. They have always made new technology available to the people with the older implants. So we benefit, as much as possible, with new processors while still having our older internal arrays.
Above photo is of me and Tom Westman, the winner of a Survivor episode. His daughter uses a Nucleus cochlear implant.