I’ve been loosing my hearing for around 25 years. It started after my first kidney transplant – or that’s when it got bad enough to go see an audiologist to see why I was saying “What?” “Pardon?” “Could you restate that?” I would get home from work seeing clients and would be utterly exhausted, for no apparent reason. The audiologist I met with, Dr. Robert Sweetlow, advised a hearing aid for my right ear. I can’t even tell you how many aids I’ve had since then – about enough to buy a nice new car I’d guess, since they run about $2000 each.
I work and play for an RV Caravan tour company, we are wagon masters and tail gunners depending on the trip. We usually travel with 16 to 25 RVs and go all over North America, Europe, Africa and Australia. It’s super fun! And it is super stressful for me with my hearing loss. I’m with groups of people in all kinds of challenging hearing/understanding situations. As a retired psychotherapist, you have to know that I love connecting with people and being in the middle of things. Challenging? Oh my, yes.
In 2015 my discrimination was at R-46, L-32. In 2017, Resound 3D Linx hearing aides offered a lot of help to my declining understanding. So, I struggled along for those years. Then this year (2019), after a particularly challenging caravan, I decided to make an appointment for another hearing test and adjustment. In Albuquerque, NM I met with Dr. Terry Sankovitz. I just wasn’t understanding people and was cranky and exhausted all the time. After the exam, Dr. Terry showed me the audio gram… R- 14, L-12. Whaaat? Seeing it on paper my whole insides went cold and still, I was stunned. Barb, my best friend and wife, was just as shocked when Dr. Terry shared the test with her. The test measured how my ears understood speech without any visual cues. Dr. Terry said that there is no point adjusting my hearing aids further, louder wasn’t working. She talked about my options, one of which is cochlear implant. I had to let that sink in…
With a cochlear implant, there is no going back. You’re implanted period. But wait… with my ‘discrim’ I couldn’t go back anyway. The other option would be to withdraw from the world. Understanding .4 in one ear and .1 in the other is deaf. I am highly functional because I speech read; read bodies, context and situations – in the right situation I do okay. In groups, in noise, in a car, in low light… well you know.
It just happened that Cochlear Americas was hosting a panel discussion the next day, for people interested in CI (cochlear implant) and for those with CIs. Did we jump on that opportunity!!! WOW. What an eye opening. The group moderator was a woman who had been deafened as a child and as an adult had chosen bilateral cochlear implants. She was dynamic and compassionate. Her mother was a member of the panel discussion that included a couple, sisters and a single person. Here’s the best part. They hired a court XXX to transcribe speech to captions on a screen for all to see. I am not sure anyone in the room needed them as badly as did I. When I walked in the door, I felt afraid and when I left I felt elated. Arms full of booklets and information, Barb and I talked about the meeting and agreed that both of us felt a sense of hope, at last.