Breaking Down All Prejudices Against Deafness: Erika’s Story
Erika from Italy was born deaf, as was her son Kevin, and it took her 40 years to get a cochlear implant. Together with her son, she is now working on rehabilitation and getting used to the world of sounds. In this blog article, she discusses why she chose a cochlear implant (CI) as an adult, how her hearing adapted to it, and how the surgery changed her life.
My name is Erika, I’m 41 years old and I live in a small town in the province of Bergamo. I have been married for 12 years and have two children, Noemi, who is 10 years old, and Kevin, who is nine years old. I work for a German company as a mobile merchandiser. In my free time, I love reading books and doing sports. Now that I have my cochlear implants, I also love listening to music.
Integrating Into Society Despite Deafness
I was born deaf, which my mother found out when I was one year old. I would cry a lot and when my mother would call me from behind my back to console me, I couldn’t hear her and didn’t react. That was when she noticed my hearing loss for the first time. After a series of check-ups in the hospital, doctors confirmed that I was not able to hear at all.
We don’t know for sure what caused my hearing loss, but it is likely genetic as my father has deaf relatives. When I was two years old, I got a hearing aid (it looked like a box with two wires and earphones, so I thought it was a Walkman). I also visited a speech therapist twice a week until I was 13. I was lucky because I never had any problems integrating into society.
My Decision to Get a Cochlear Implant
My hearing deteriorated when I was in my early twenties, and hearing aids did not help me anymore. I struggled with the decision to get a CI, even though my doctor recommended one, because I was uninformed about the surgery and terrified of it.
A few years later, I got married and had two children, first Noemi and then Kevin. We then found out that Kevin was born deaf like me. At first, he used hearing aids but then, unfortunately, his hearing situation got worse, and the doctor proposed he use a cochlear implant. I panicked again.
This time, after a series of doctor visits and a lot of research, we decided to go for it together. I still remember how he asked me: “Mom, how nice would it be to get our CIs together?” Of course, I could not say no to that.
Choosing a Cochlear Implant Brand
When it was time to choose a company for our cochlear implant, we were offered MED-EL and immediately fell in love with their audio processors. Kevin got his cochlear implant in June 2021 and only a month later, I was implanted too. Since I didn’t want anything on my ear, I chose the RONDO 3 audio processor, while Kevin got SONNET 2. We like everything about our cochlear implants and consider them indispensable accessories!
Activation Day After 40 Years of Silence
Kevin’s activation day went well. Since he was still so little, it wasn’t traumatic, and he got used to sounds quickly. When it was finally time to activate my implant, I was overwhelmed. The activation was very traumatic for me. I started screaming and wanted to run away. I didn’t want to wear my audio processor because all the sounds that I suddenly heard were too much for my brain and annoyed me. But of course, I knew my brain had to get used to sound since it had been sleeping for 40 years. It was a struggle. But thanks to my family, friends, and encouraging speech therapist, I got used to wearing my audio processor and listening to the new sounds around me.
Speech Therapy and Rehab at Home
Since then, every day is a new discovery! It’s been six months, and there is still a lot of work ahead of me—but I can already say I’m so happy with the progress I’ve made! I go to the speech therapist twice a week and try to do rehab exercises at home as well. Now I see that the surgery was worth it.
I’ve discovered that my favorite sound is my children’s laughter. Another favorite sound is the church bells, maybe because that was the first sound I heard without also seeing where it came from! The emotions I felt at that moment are indescribable.
Music to My Ears
The cochlear implant has literally changed my life in the sense that I feel at ease wherever I go. Before the surgery, I was always tense; now I am more relaxed and can enjoy all the noise and sounds. During my walks, I listen to the sounds that nature has to offer: the air, my footsteps, singing birds, rustling leaves, barking dogs, and people’s voices.
Every sound is music to my ears now!
My Advice to Others
The advice I would give to other people with hearing loss is to pursue your dreams because deafness is not an obstacle! And of course, I would recommend getting a cochlear implant as early as possible because it will change your life.
To help break down all prejudices against deafness, I use my Instagram account “vocedelverbosentire” to share my and Kevin’s hearing journeys, talk about life with my CI, and give rehabilitation tips.
Thank you, Erika!
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