Editor’s note: Matt Jones is the second MED-EL recipient who will be sharing his hearing journey with us, in our Guest Stories column. Here is the beginning of his story:
You would think that a bunch of beeps are a pretty boring first sound to hear in your brand new ear. But when you haven’t been able to hear pretty much anything for a long time, those beeps are the most amazing sound in the world.
I was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease when I was about 12. At the time it was like someone was waging war on my balance, but my hearing was fine. The doctor told me that my hearing would probably diminish, sometime later in life. I didn’t believe him.
When I was about 16 my hearing took its first hit. I woke up one day and everything just sounded weird. Not quieter, just weird. But then gradually my hearing got worse and worse over the high school years and beyond. I remember how depressed it made me. I could still talk to people and have decent conversations—with a whole lot of difficulty and embarrassment—but for me the biggest hurt was the fact that I couldn’t hear life.
My number one passion for so many years had been music. I was a musician. I played guitar, played drums, played just about anything that made a sound. I was singing in bands from before I started losing my hearing until about when I had lost too much. It was unbelievably heartbreaking. I actually remember thinking that I wouldn’t be able to live without my hearing because everything I love in life relies on it.
During all that time that my hearing kept getting worse, I was given a bunch of hearing aids, and every few years I’d get new ones. But none of them really helped that much. They made things a little louder but not really more clear. After high school I worked full-time for years instead of studying, holding back on chasing my dreams because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hear. Eventually I decided I’d just give things a shot and went to university. But it was virtually impossible to hear lectures or make new friends because I couldn’t hear.
I actually remember thinking that I wouldn’t be able to live without my hearing because everything I love in life relies on it.
Then one day, not too long ago, my hearing took another hit. It just stopped working. I remember the feeling when I realised that my hearing has actually gone, and that it wasn’t just “blocked ears” or anything like that. I was scared out of my mind. I had desperately hoped that my hearing wouldn’t get any worse, but now it had happened. I couldn’t have conversations at all now. People had to talk to me by writing on notepads for several months. The whole world was suddenly silent and scary and incredibly lonely. I didn’t see any of my friends, I couldn’t hear my family laugh and chat, and I couldn’t listen to music. To put it very, very mildly, it sucked. I thought I’d be stuck in that silence forever.
Then begun my cochlear implant journey. I spoke with a really fantastic Otolaryngologist (fancy name for an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor) and we started the ball rolling. After that I went to see the best medical audiologist in the entire world (well, I think so). Dayse listened to my story and assessed my situation and ran a bunch of tests. And she decided I was fit for a cochlear implant.