In Guest article

Hearing loss doesn’t just affect an individual, but their whole family as well. Small everyday moments, such as enjoying a joke together, can no longer be taken for granted. This is something Kathrin, whose father has just decided to get a cochlear implant after years of hearing loss, knows only too well.  In today’s blog post, she tells us about her experience, and explains how a cochlear implant has been life-changing for her, her dad, and their whole family.

It’s five minutes to three. I’m outside my father’s house and press the doorbell, even though I have a key. We’re meant to be meeting for coffee. “I wonder if he can hear the bell…” I think to myself. The sound of the door opening  brings a smile to my face. My father Adi had been almost deaf for the last ten years until receiving a cochlear implant five months ago.

“Come in, it’s nice to see you!”  My father always used to be a social person, but in the last few years his hearing loss has made him more withdrawn. Before the operation, he was entirely dependent on lip reading. Conversations were limited to the most important topics, and the easiest vocabulary. Other family members had to write down everything they wanted to say, and my father would shout the answer back at them as he couldn’t hear his own voice.  This style of conversation was pretty exhausting for everyone involved. Even for me.

Hearing Loss Affects The Whole Family

For years it wasn’t possible to have a normal conversation with him.  I wanted to tell him about the small things, about our children for example, and I really wanted him to be able to understand jokes again, instead of just laughing along because everyone else was. I wanted to include him more in my family’s life.

In the eight years that I have been married to my husband Jakob, he never had a proper conversation with my dad before his CI. And even communicating with our children, who are three and five, was near-impossible. This made his life as a grandfather very difficult.

Adi - a CI user

He once told me: “I hope that after the operation I can at least tell you stories, like I did when you were a child,” he told me shortly before his surgery. “At the moment I can’t socialise or do anything at all. I am totally excluded.  Hearing loss makes you half a person, because you can’t talk to anyone. I just want to understand my family. Right now, I hear nothing at all. That is very hard.”

Hearing Loss And Independence

My father is 80 years old and lives alone. He is physically and mentally fit, and does all his own housework, cooking, and shopping. But before his cochlear implant he wasn’t able to live independently without help from my mother or me. He could only deal with doctors or officials if one of us was there. My mother Heidi had to go with him and translate at appointments, and we all had a house key as he couldn’t hear the doorbell.

Talking on the phone was impossible.  When he called me, he would just starting talking—no matter if I’d picked up the phone or if it had gone to voicemail. He just couldn’t hear anything. In the end I told him that he had to repeat everything, so that we could catch at least a bit of what he had said on the voicemail.

A Wake-Up Call

 

I gave him an ultimatum: Get a cochlear implant or move into a retirement home.

In spring my father tripped in the kitchen, had a bad fall, and suffered a deep and bleeding wound to his head. His hearing loss meant he couldn’t phone an ambulance, so he rang me in a panic and I phoned the emergency services for him.

That was really awful for me, and also the point at which I had to say: “This can’t go on. If you want to continue living alone, you have to do something about your hearing loss. Your doctors have been telling you for years that you’re a candidate for a cochlear implant. I can’t, and don’t want to, have the responsibility for helping you in a situation like we just had.” I gave him an ultimatum: Get a cochlear implant or move into a retirement home. He chose the cochlear implant.

And what’s life like five months after getting a CI?

Just four weeks after surgery, when my dad was activated, it was already clear that things were going to change for the better. The first time we went to the audiologist he could already hear different numbers and musical scales. I was there with my mother crying tears of joy.

Everyday life for my dad is richer and he is a lot more independent thanks to his cochlear implant. “I’ve become more self-confident. Before I always felt unsure of myself, because I could hardly hear anything—for example, when taking the bus. But now I feel safe again,” he told me over a coffee.

 

Getting a cochlear implant was the best decision. It’s massively improved my quality of life.

Now he doesn’t just hear the door bell or church bells. Listening to the radio, watching TV, and talking on the phone have all become possible again. I phoned him a couple of weeks ago, just to try it out and see how he would react, and see if his answers would still be limited to “yes” and “no”. But to my positive surprise I could talk to him completely normally for a few minutes.

His speech therapy has also improved the very loud speech that he developed over years of hearing loss. We haven’t dared to go to a restaurant just yet, as he tends to talk a little louder in noisy places and I don’t want all the other diners to hear our conversation. But that is our next goal and we’ll try it soon I’m sure.

Kathrin with her father Adi, a CI user

“Jakob was here yesterday and fixed the lamp, and I practically told him my life story,” he told me smiling. Conversations are still a little challenging with the grandchildren and in noisy places, but it’s a miracle that I can talk so easily and joke with my dad. And it makes me feel calmer knowing that he can hear and communicate with other people in an emergency.

“I wear my audio processor all day and enjoy hearing. I even tried wearing it at night, but unfortunately it kept sliding off,” he said, and then added: “Getting a cochlear implant was the best decision. It’s massively improved my quality of life.” “If only you’d done it sooner,” I thought silently to myself, while at the same time overjoyed at hearing these words come out of my father’s mouth.

Thank you, Kathrin!

Kathrin, 33, lives with her husband and their two children Moritz (5) and Leo (3) in Tirol, Austria.

Read this story from 80-year-old Barbara, whose cochlear implants changed her life. 


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