Stefanie from Berlin, Germany, has been a radio host for many years. Her other big passion is traveling. For a year, she’s used a VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE. In today’s guest article Stefanie shares her (hearing) journey and why she wishes society would be more open about hearing loss.
My name is Stefanie and I am a real Berliner! I was born here 55 years ago and have never lived anywhere else. I’ve been a radio host at a station in Berlin for over 25 years, hosting programs at various times of day. Besides radio, travel and culture are my great passions. In the last few years, I’ve accompanied countless trips all over the world as a tour guide for a tour operator and for my radio station. You’ll usually find me in the cinemas, theaters, opera houses, and beer gardens of Berlin with my friends.
And since summer, I also offer city tours through Berlin’s neighborhoods. I love sharing my love for my hometown with guests.
Ear Pain, Tinnitus, Hearing Loss, and Hearing Aids
My hearing story began on one of the many trips around the globe: I was in Vietnam when I first experienced pain in my ear back in 2013. A short time later in Australia, my right ear was suddenly blocked. It felt like I had water in my ear. Both times, ear drops helped me for a bit. But I experienced tinnitus in the same ear—in my case in the form of a constant murmur.
Over the next few years, my hearing went up and down: Sometimes one ear was better, sometimes the other, but both ears were wet and hearing gradually got worse. Finally, four years ago, I got hearing aids in both ears. These helped me hear, but I frequently got infections from the ear molds. So I did well with hearing aids in terms of hearing quality, but often couldn’t wear them. At some point, I only wore them when I was with other people.
On the occasion of one of these ear infections, my ENT doctor referred me to a clinic in Berlin. There I was diagnosed with ear canal stenosis in both ears, which means that the external ear canal is narrowed, making it difficult to conduct sound. In addition, my eardrum is “fused together”. Several surgeries followed, during which—unfortunately—unsuccessful attempts were made to open my left ear canal.
A New Possibility: VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE
I first learned about VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE when a physician at my clinic suggested a middle ear implant as a solution to my problems. So, after the other treatment attempts were unsuccessful and because I trust my doctor, I decided to go for this hearing implant. I was finally implanted at the end of October 2020 and for me the surgery was quite relaxed. The part of my head where the implant sits under my skin hurt when I slept for a few nights, but otherwise I didn’t experience any discomfort. In mid-December my implant was activated.
Currently, I use VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE on my left side and I’m doing very well with it. Most of the time I don’t wear the hearing aid on my right side and only listen with one ear. Due to the corona pandemic, my social life is still quite limited. So we will see whether one implant is enough or whether I also need a SOUNDBRIDGE on my right side.
First Hearing Impressions With Hearing Implant
When my SAMBA 2 audio processor was first fitted, I felt like I was in one of those YouTube videos where a child hears their parents’ voices for the first time and cheers loudly. We were all a little excited and I shed a few tears when a gentleman from MED-EL who was there for the fitting said to my doctor, “Everything is in the optimal range with Ms. Schweda.”
Today, when I think of those first experiences, my eyes still moisten up: First, a bird chirped in a hedge next to me. Then I heard someone talking on the phone and saw the person behind a car window. I would never have heard that with the hearing aid. In the car, I listened to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to test how the sound quality would be with classical music. I was completely thrilled, drove to my mother’s house and fell sobbing into her arms. I had not expected how great the relief would be!
The first spring with VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE was equally overwhelming: So many birds in the trees! If the weather allows, I sit on my balcony in the evening and enjoy their concert as if they were performing it just for me. It was also amazing for me how “talkative” my two cats are. I never heard their pleasant purring, or noticed how they meow to ask for breakfast before.
Everyday Life With VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE and SAMBA 2
When I compare the sound quality of the hearing implant with that of my hearing aids, the hearing experience with VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE is significantly better. I mostly use the program that fades out background noise, which works well for me. With this much better sound, I can now understand people who whisper or lower their voices. There are places, such as rooms with a strong echo, that are still difficult for me. Turning the volume up or down doesn’t help there either. But SOUNDBRIDGE on the left ear gets along well with the hearing aid on the right ear.
I am also happy with the battery life of the SAMBA 2. I can use it for almost a week without changing the battery. But the biggest advantage of the implant system for me is that hearing is simply no longer an issue. I put the SOUNDBRIDGE on my head in the morning and take it off at bedtime. This is incredibly relieving!
Listening to Music With Middle Ear Implant
At work in the radio station it has become much easier, because I can wear SAMBA 2 with headphones. With hearing aids this was difficult and uncomfortable. I don’t have to turn up the studio sound so much anymore and I can talk to colleagues even when I have my headphones on. I assume I’ll have an easier time in the theater and cinema again, but I haven’t been able to try that out yet.
Otherwise, I listen to music; mainly in the car, where I turn it up nice and loud and make the sound a little “softer” for me, because pop music sounds shrill above a certain volume. Classical music also sounds fantastic from speakers. When I have the SAMBA 2 GO neckloop with me, I like to listen to music and podcasts with it, because then I don’t need headphones.
Advice and Wishes
My advice for other people with a similar hearing history: Take your hearing loss seriously and consider hearing aids sooner rather than later. And if the doctor says that a VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE can help: Don’t be afraid! It can only get better! There is no shame in wearing a hearing device. Be proactive with this limitation.
I have always been very open about my hearing loss. Personally, I think it’s silly when people try to hide their hearing aids. I think it’s much better when hearing aids are visible. This way people around you are more aware. I would make all hearing devices colorful so that people are always reminded: Here is someone with specific needs. That’s why I proudly show my new ear to all my friends and acquaintances and say “Look: Technology that inspires people”.
When I show my SOUNDBRIDGE system, everyone is very impressed. I like to let friends touch it and see for themselves how the magnet works. Of course, family and friends are happy for me that my life has become easier. And I’m sure they are also happy that communicating with me has become easier. We also like to joke that I am now a cyborg—a human-machine.
Read more about how SAMBA 2 and BONEBRIDGE have improved the everyday life of Sophie from the UK in this guest article.
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The content on this website is for general informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please contact your doctor or hearing specialist to learn what type of hearing solution is suitable for your specific needs. Not all products, features, or indications shown are approved in all countries.