Gemma Mole is a Hearing Therapist who received a MED-EL cochlear implant to treat her Single-Sided Deafness. Here’s her story, in her words:
I am a Hearing Therapist and have worked on a Cochlear Implant programme in the UK since 2002. I work with adults who are going through CI assessment, and provide auditory training after they get their CI.
Born with SSD
I often wondered what a CI really sounded like but never thought I’d get to know for myself. I have Single-Sided Deafness (SSD) and after a lifetime of only hearing in my left ear I was fortunate enough to get an OPUS 2 in June 2014. My CI has opened up a world of sound “around” me, and I love it! I can’t say for sure that I hear in stereo (whatever that is) but I do now hear on both sides.
Yes, I had one good ear but like most people with hearing loss I also had those “what if” moments… What if someone sits on my deaf side; what if the background noise is too much; what if I mishear and answer inappropriately? I never avoided social situations, but at the same time I was never relaxed or happy when I was out. I had got used to a life of SSD and had made adjustments over the years.
However, the hardest part for me was when my twin daughters used to fight over who was going to hold mummy’s left hand: because I missed what was said on my right they definitely didn’t want to be on that side.
Getting a Cochlear Implant
I knew all about CI assessment and implantation but being on the receiving end was very different, and I am sure it was a little odd for my work colleagues too. I had no memory of hearing through my right ear and I didn’t know if it had ever been stimulated so we all had concerns that it may not work or that if it did I wouldn’t understand anything. My expectations were low but my hopes were high.
Switch on/activation was a strange experience: as I felt sound as well as heard it, which I wasn’t expecting. (It certainly adds a little extra to my hearing experience.) And like many implantees I had great difficulty knowing what comfortably loud was…but by the end of the session I was definitely hearing in my right ear, especially the high frequency sounds such as sssss and shhhh.
Then it was time for the hard work to begin…
A Therapist’s Tips for Rehabilitation
I was determined to get the most from my CI. From day one I wore it as long as my rechargeable batteries lasted. I set aside 2 hours a day to do auditory training with the CI alone. Instead of “live voice” auditory training I had to use recorded materials and was really lucky to work with Geoff Plant, of the Hearing Rehabilitation Foundation, who recorded a lot of his work for me.
To ensure that my brain was only responding to my implanted ear I used a direct audio cable with my OPUS 2 and an earplug in my left ear. If I didn’t do that my brain would listen to anything the left ear picked up rather than what was going through my CI.
Over the weeks I was aware I was getting more and more from the CI, and really noticed the difference when I took it off or the batteries died.
SSD, with a Cochlear Implant
Now, I no longer have to worry about where I sit, I manage a lot better in groups, and coping in noise is better (but not perfect). My colleagues have commented that I look more at ease. My life has become less stressful and less tiring, and finally my daughters can now happily be either side of me knowing they will no longer be ignored.
Not only do I hear better but I now have a much better idea of what our CI patients are going through, and I feel that I can offer more to them and their families in the pre counselling stage, as well encouraging them to really set time aside for rehabilitation.
Gemma will continue writing here on the MED-EL blog, so subscribe to keep in touch with her and all the other guest stories we feature!