Growing Up With Hearing Loss, But Not Telling Anyone
Zeid Malas lived with near-total hearing loss for 10 years, but told almost nobody about it. Then he received a MED-EL cochlear implant. Here’s his story:
I lost most of my hearing in both of my ears in April, 2009. I was 9 years old. It was sudden, with no warnings or hints on how to be ready for something like this. I just woke up and felt that the world was mute: am I in one of my dreams? What is my mother trying to say? Why does my dad seem to be yelling at me with that fierce look on his eyes and keeps pointing to the phone?
Back then I didn’t really seem to care or be scared of what’s going on. When my parents took me to a doctor I would do anything that they asked me to do. Then after the tests I would look at the audiogram, the chart with 2 zig-zag lines on it, and watch my parents gasp and wait for a solution or cure. Sadly, that never came.
Hearing Aids and Medicines
I kept going on; wearing this weird skin-color device inside my ears (my hearing aid), testing out random medication in different quantities to see if they helped, and watching the disappointment in my doctor and parents’ faces as my hearing kept getting worse. I had some minor operations and ate different plants and seeds, but my hearing just kept falling. After one year, my 7th doctor gave me a medication that was quite different than the rest: cortisone. It was the only medicine that allowed me to hear without hearing aids, but I gained 25 kg and my height stopped at 132 cm for exactly 5 years. Yet even with the mighty cortisone and hearing aids I still couldn’t hear certain frequencies. When I was 15 and my hearing stabilized at 1%, I stopped taking cortisone.
After that, lip reading and body language told me more about each person than they could possibly explain. Yet, I still tried different accessories that could be connected to my hearing aids. I tried to extract more words and letters from what I heard, but these accessories gave very few benefits.
Alone in Silence
Until then I was really never open about my hearing issue. I wouldn’t normally go up to someone I just met and tell them, “Hey, I can only hear with 1%. Even though I’m wearing hearing aids I still need you to speak louder and keep your face looked on mine, okay?” I wasn’t afraid; I just didn’t want special treatment or someone hesitating to talk to me about something because they’d think “He’ll probably make me repeat it 99 times.”
I learned how to embrace my hearing loss and to treat it like a blessing instead of a “disability.” Yet, sometimes I really did wish I would be able to hear someone when they whispered to me, or looked the other way or were behind me. I wished I could sit in the back seat of the classroom and still understand my professor. I wished I could go to the cinema and understand the movie without needing subtitles. I wished I could pick up the phone and order food, or talk to someone. None of this, and so much more, was available to me.
A Cochlear Implant
In April, 2015, my doctor told me that it was time to get a cochlear implant.
Honestly, I did not want to go along with his idea of an implant. I really didn’t think the implant would be any different from the hearing aids. However, I knew that at some point I would need to be independent and go on in life without my family, without someone ordering the food or answering the phone for me. And, my parents begged me to so that they didn’t need to always repeat themselves.
The day after the surgery, my doctor came and allowed me to test the device for a couple of minutes. I was rather excited how the world would actually sound like, and when he activated the device…the sounds that I heard were unbelievably weird. I heard so much fuzz, so many squeaky voices; I couldn’t even describe it when they asked me about it. However, my doctor explained what was going on: what I was hearing was ALL the frequencies and voices that I had lost when I lost my hearing. I basically had not heard them for 10 years.
Now, with my best buddy RONDO, I can hear them all. My brain needed time to get used to them, and it did.
Zeid also made a documentary film about the time before, during, and after receiving his cochlear implant. Below is a short edit of it, and you can watch his full 45-minute here.
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