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Mary’s Story

Hearing Loss History:  I was diagnosed when I was nine years old as deaf in my right year but my left was completely normal.  Three years later, when I was twelve, I woke up one morning with a 40% loss in my left ear.  I went through a myriad of tests, but it was never really discovered what caused my hearing loss.  In the three years from age 9 to age 12, I had taught myself to lip-read.  At first, the doctors thought I was faking because I was operating too well with the hearing loss that I had.  My Mom said they would slam doors, clap behind my back and do all sorts of loud noises, but I would never react.  I got my first hearing aid and had formal lip-reading lessons for a year after my second loss.

Over the years, I continued to lose hearing until the age of 42 I had only 10% of my hearing left and was considered a candidate for a cochlear implant.  However, it took me nearly 10 years to decide to be implanted. There were many reasons for this. First and foremost, I was a single parent and wanted to make sure that my daughter graduated from college before I did anything.  I also had to make the decision about which ear to implant.  And quite frankly, I thought I was doing well with my hearing aid.

At the age of 52, I finally decided that the time was right for a cochlear implant.  My daughter had graduated from college and my insurance company was willing to pay for my cochlear implant.  The biggest hurdle left was the decision to implant my good ear.  It was hard to let go of what hearing I had left in order to hear better.  I had spent the better part of my life protecting my hearing and to make myself deaf to hear better went against everything I knew.  However, I finally decided that I had to make a decision and it was one that I have never regretted.

I chose Cochlear America basically because it had been around longer than any other of the implant manufacturers and I had many friends who had the Nucleus 24.  I attribute the success of my implant to the hard work of my surgeon, my audiologist and myself.  We all worked together to get the best result possible.  I had the surgery in July 2004 and was hooked up 3 weeks later.  It has been an amazing journey and I consider myself a walking
miracle.  The day of hookup I heard words and sounds although admittedly much of what I was hearing sounded a lot like Donald Duck.  As the days went on, it got better.  It was wondrous to hear sounds that I had not heard for many, many years.  I heard my dog, Peaches, paws on the concrete as I was taking her for a walk; the click of the mouse of my computer (when it said click on the mouse, I never knew that there was ACTUALLY a sound attributing to the click); the whoosh of the air as it came through the ducts and finally the sound of the crickets calling drove me crazy!  These sounds eventually went to the background but they were all amazing indications of how much more I was hearing.

One of the best things that has happened is that I have the phone back.  At the time of my implant, I rarely used the phone if at all.  I would drive miles out of my way to make an appointment with my doctor rather than call him or her up on the phone.  My daughter was doing most of my calling at home and my assistant in the library was making my calls at work.  It was so stressful just to hear the phone ring and it took me over a year to get comfortable on the phone.  Today, I am able to pick up the phone and call a perfect stranger and understand what he/she is saying.  It is absolutely amazing.  I won't say that I am completely over my phobia of the phone, but it gets better each day and each time I pick up the phone.

The cochlear implant has made a considerable difference in my life.  It has improved my speech, made me independent of other people, made my job as a librarian much easier because I can understand what was being said, made me less dependent on lip-reading and last but certainly not least made me realize how much I can hear in this busy world of ours.  I am hoping that I am approved for a bilateral CI in the near future.  What will it be like to actually hear with both ears instead of being "left oriented"?  It will be an experience that I hope to find out soon!

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Resources What is a cochlear implant?  What does insurance typically cover?  What are the ongoing costs?  Connect to our Resources page to view the only online clearinghouse of up-to-date cochlear implant information. CLICK HERE FOR RESOURCES
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