Hi my name is Sherri and I am 58 years old. My husband Gary and I have been married for 32 years. We have two daughters and two amazing grandchildren. I have to say I am truly enjoying this stage of my life. We live on the south coast of the US. Our greatest joy is spending time sitting and walking on the beach year round. How incredible it is that with my hearing implant, I can enjoy the sounds of the ocean, the sea gulls squawking, and my wonderful grandchildren squealing with joy as they run along the shore!
How did you first realize that you have a hearing loss?
I had normal hearing most of my adult life. Around the age of 40 I began realizing I had to ask people, especially women, to repeat themselves. Children were almost impossible for me to understand. At my husband’s urging, I went for a hearing test. I didn’t really expect the results to be so bad, but I was shocked at the struggle I experienced during the test. I was diagnosed with a moderate hearing loss in the mid and high frequencies, but normal hearing in the lower. For the next several years I used hearing aids, which benefited me in most environments. After a few years my hearing deteriorated in the mid and high frequencies from moderate to severe/profound. The odd thing was that most of my low frequency hearing remained stable and in the normal range.
In the end my hearing aids were maxed out in the amplification of high frequencies. They no longer were helping me with clarity of speech. I remember my audiologist saying to me I had “dead zones” in my hearing and it was impossible to amplify something when there was nothing there in the first place!
For someone with high-frequency hearing loss, some things can be heard perfectly clearly, while other sound frequencies can’t be heard at all. What did you experience?
Before getting my implant or hearing aids, I could still hear and understand my husband’s voice and his loud snoring at night. I could hear dogs barking, loud planes overhead, and knocks on the door. However, I could no longer hear birds singing, crickets chirping, clocks ticking or any high pitched sounds. Children’s’ voices were impossible for me to hear. Social environments also began to be difficult for me, as I struggled to hear conversations. Talking on the phone or riding in the car was challenging. I also struggled in my outside sales career, as I found it difficult to follow any fast-paced conversation.
How was hearing loss challenging for you?
I had a very successful outside sales career in the professional beauty industry. As my hearing declined I became more and more anxious about making sales presentations and listening to my clients. A day that is forever etched in my brain is the day I resigned from my position. I had pulled up to go into one of my clients and literally could not make myself get out of the car! The thought of walking into that business and not being able to understand what was being said to me was overwhelming. I drove away, came home, curled up in the fetal position, called my husband and told him I could no longer do this job! I wrote my letter of resignation that day.
The next few years I lived between two worlds. I felt I no longer fitted into the normal hearing world because I couldn’t have social conversations in a group, talk on the phone, or hear children’s voices at all. And I didn’t fit into the deaf community because I still had some hearing and couldn’t understand sign language or lip read very well. This was a very isolating and lonely place and time in my life.
How did you come to hear about the SONNET EAS?
It was about this time when we received some great news. Our daughter was expecting our first grandchild! I was overjoyed and overwhelmed all at the same time. Overjoyed to be a grandparent, but overwhelmed that I would never hear our sweet baby’s cry, or sweet little voice. This sent me on a desperate search for help. There had to be an answer. This is when I found information about something called the MED-EL EAS hearing implant. I read every piece of information I could find, and I had hope again for the first time in many years. This new technology sounded perfect for me! A cochlear implant with a hearing aid!
The only information about a cochlear implant was back when my hearing aids were no longer benefiting me and I was tested for a traditional cochlear implant. I was told I did qualify for the surgery because I had profound hearing loss in the mid and high frequencies. But the odds were about 99% that I could lose all of my residual hearing. This did not seem to be the right answer for me. I felt I would be giving up normal hearing in one level to gain hearing in another. So I chose to wait.
Some years later when I tested for the EAS, it seemed the perfect fit. A cochlear implant that would give me electronic sounds in all those dead zones, and the odds of retaining my low frequency residual was very high. This seemed to be my answer and I never looked back!
What have been the most memorable moments in your hearing journey so far?
6 months after my EAS surgery my granddaughter was born. I was in the delivery room, and heard her very first cry. When my grandson was born a short time later I again experienced the miracle of birth and the miracle of hearing! Today those are the greatest sounds in my life, and something I couldn’t have heard before my EAS hearing implant. Their voices are sweet music to my ears!
How has access to a greater range of sound helped you socially, career wise or in other areas?
I cannot begin to imagine my life without my SONNET EAS. Today I am able to teach and lead several ladies groups. I can go out to dinner and have conversations in noisy environments, and do daily talks on the phone with my best friend. Best of all, I can hear all those sweet, sweet words and sounds of the two greatest joys in my life—my grandchildren.
What advice would you give to others experiencing your type of mixed hearing loss?
I think the greatest advice I can share is—if you relate to any of my story—don’t settle for the isolated life you may be living just because you feel you don’t fit in the hearing or deaf world. There is hope! There is EAS! You will probably feel afraid. I did. But the greatest advice someone gave me once was even when you feel fear, just do it anyway. Do it afraid! I have never regretted making this decision afraid. And today, I can stand bold with clarity of speech and hearing and tell you the journey has been worth it all.
Thank you for sharing your story, Sherri!
Liked this post on Electric Acoustic Stimulation? Find out the five signs of high-frequency hearing loss.
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