Nicole Rousselle was born 58 years ago with severe conductive hearing loss in both ears. Her hearing loss affected every aspect of her life. She looked for treatments as technology advanced, but it took 58 years to find a solution that would work for her. Nicole had her BONEBRIDGE Bone Conduction Implant surgery last month, and wrote this story in the anticipatory days before her audio processor was activated.
Her Hearing Loss Since Birth
I was born with microtia and atresia in both ears. I had a very tiny ear canal and ear on the left side, and no ear canal and a “peanut ear” on the right side. That meant I had profound-to-severe conductive hearing loss on the left side and severe-to-moderate on the right.
Despite my hearing loss, my parents didn’t treat me different from my siblings. I went to a mainstream school, learned to lip read, and did very well without hearing aids or tutors. But during that time, I was left out a lot and couldn’t follow the usual conversations. High school was very hard at times, as I had numerous teachers and couldn’t hear in class.
Because of my hearing loss, I have had difficulties in high school, work, and life. I went to nursing college for a year and a half, but was asked to withdraw from the course because of my hearing loss. I had bought a special stethoscope but it wasn’t strong enough for me to hear the blood pressure, and I had a hard time hearing some patients.
And when I got married and was ready to have a family, I was scared of not being able to hear my baby’s cry, or if someone came to the door.
I later got a diploma in a computer program and found a job at a hospital’s IT department. But at work, my hearing loss causes issues at meetings and in general conversations. Even though I tell people that I can’t hear them, they still don’t make an effort for me to hear them. I found that many times, people in the room seem to forget that I’m there. But I am there, and I would like to know what they are talking about.
Searching for a Solution
My parents had me get rib graft surgeries till I was 4 years old, and they formed a somewhat external ear on my right side, but it was still closed off and I had no ear canal.
When I was 16 years old, I had a surgery to enlarge my ear canal on the left side. But it failed, so I received a hearing aid instead. That did improve my hearing a tiny bit, but it was a huge body-worn device.
A year later, I received a smaller analogue behind-the-ear hearing aid, but all that did was make everything loud! It was still hard to follow conversations! I had huge issues with feedback, not being able to hear normal conversations, or having the volume really high when watching television.
Then when I was 43, my ENT surgeon enlarged my ear canal on the left side, but again this did not really improve my hearing much.
About 5 years ago, when I was 53, I got a digital BTE hearing aid. It gave me a very directional sound and I had a hard time getting used to that, and I still had a hard time following conversations.
For the last year and a half I’ve tried a bone conduction headband. I learned about it through a Facebook group and borrowed one from one of the members. Since using it I have been amazed at what sounds I could hear. I then looked into bone anchored hearing aids, such as BAHA, but I didn’t want the external screws in my skull that they would require.
The Solution: BONEBRIDGE
So, my audiologist and ENT surgeon then suggested the BONEBRIDGE to me. I did my research and got great feedback from different people, and I knew it would be the right device for me.
I’ve struggled all my life to try to hear. I wanted to be a part of the crowd, but couldn’t follow conversations. I heard sounds, but couldn’t make out words or where sound was coming from. I lacked confidence as I felt different from others.
Never in my life did I ever think I would be able to hear all sounds that I enjoyed hearing with my bone conduction headband: normal conversations, without asking people to repeat themselves; the TV, without having to turn up the volume super loud; my grandchildren, my 6-month-old granddaughter’s cry, my 3-year-old granddaughter’s chatter, and normal conversations with my 11-year-old grandson.
But now I’m so excited. I recently had my BONEBRIDGE surgery, and am now so looking forward to the activation! I’ve been waiting 58 years for this.
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