“I am very happy with my decision” – Stefanie’s CI Journey
34-year-old Stefanie from Germany has had hearing loss since her early childhood. She started using a cochlear implant four years ago. For a long time, a CI wasn’t an option for her. In today’s guest article, she talks about why, after careful consideration, she finally decided to go for an implant and how her CI works in combination with her hearing aid.
My name is Stefanie, but I prefer to be called by my nickname “Stäff”. Together with my family I live in beautiful Thuringia in Germany. I work as dental technician and in my free time I love to be creative: Whether it’s new hairstyles, designing candles or creating sign language music videos – I love it all! I also love to dance, especially during carnival. But what I enjoy most is spending time with my husband and our two children, or with our friends. I’ve had a hearing aid on my left side since the age of five and on my right side I’ve had a cochlear implant for four years.
My Hearing Journey
When I was about three years old the kindergarten teacher noticed that something about my hearing was not quite right, because I didn’t react when she talked to me from behind. No one had noticed my hearing loss before that because my speech development had been normal for my age. A number of appointments and examinations at various doctors and hospitals followed. They tried a number of treatments to improve my hearing, for example removing my adenoids, but without success. Finally, at the university clinic in Göttingen, I was diagnosed with bilateral profound hearing loss. And so I got my first hearing aids at the age of five. Surprisingly, my language skills weren’t negatively affected, although I had heard almost nothing during the language-learning phase.
Nevertheless, school was a difficult time for me. Because of my hearing loss and hearing aids I was bullied by my classmates and my teachers didn’t take the hearing loss seriously. They thought I was just faking it and performed ominous hearing tests with me in front of the whole class. Although I had a “microport” system that allowed a direct connection from an external microphone to my hearing aids, some teachers simply refused to wear the microphone. I often pretended to be sick so my mother would let me stay home from school. I never really belonged anywhere and felt alone most of the time.
Support From Family and Friends
But no matter what, my family and my two good friends always stood behind me and were a great support for me. Even though it wasn’t always easy, today I know where I stand. I know where I belong, who I am. Some uncertainty and mistrust will probably always remain – my experiences have shaped me and that cannot be undone. But I like myself the way I am. And I have the best family and the best friends and colleagues you could wish for, and I am very grateful for them. They accept me for who I am and are understanding and patient.
Choosing A Cochlear Implant
For many years, I didn’t want a hearing implant at all. Due to my past and experiences in school, I was always ashamed of my hearing aids – so much so that I never wore a hearing aid on my right, worse ear. And so my hearing on the right side got worse and worse. Eventually there came the point where hearing aids were no longer enough. And yet, I was too ashamed and didn’t want a CI – also because the thought of having a magnet in my head was scary.
But when I was pregnant with my second child, I started to think more and more about what would happen if my hearing in the other ear also started to deteriorate. I realized that at some point I wouldn’t be able to hear my children anymore. And so I got used to the thought of using a hearing implant after all. I started to look into cochlear implants and looked at different audio processors. I was surprised to see how cool the processors look nowadays. The white SONNET and the colorful Design Covers in particular immediately caught my eye. And so, four years ago I got a cochlear implant on my right side. One thing I noticed very quickly: The thing with the magnet isn’t that bad.
Cochlear Implant + Hearing Aid = A New Quality Of Life
Today I wear my audio processor on the right and a hearing aid on the left side. The CI and hearing aid complement each other amazingly well! I don’t even a notice when I wear both. It’s impressive what the human brain is capable of. I am still amazed about how well I can hear with my CI. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I waited for so long! It makes such a great difference for me and my social environment. Sure, it has been a long journey and I am very grateful for the support I got from my husband, family and friends.
Everything had to be trained, together with a great speech therapist, a patient audiologist and some discipline from my side. But it was definitely worth it! It was a great feeling to see how I progressed from appointment to appointment. In the end it is the result that counts: Today I can hear AND understand with a deaf ear – and very well, too! I don’t regret anything, I am very happy about the decision I made. It was a good and important decision. I can’t imagine a day without my cochlear implant anymore. With my CI I feel complete, simply because I can hear so much more.
A Proud CI User
I now embrace my hearing loss, and I wear my devices with pride. I openly talk about my hearing loss and I really like it when interested people ask me about the thing I am wearing behind my ear. I also like to take the time to explain it. Many people don’t know cochlear implants and are fascinated by this technology. And to be honest: So am I. Over and over again. But no matter if it’s a CI audio processor or hearing device, I think one thing is very important: It doesn’t matter WHAT you wear. It’s only important HOW you wear it.
And you shouldn’t forget: Despite using a hearing devices, you won’t hear exactly like other people are able to. There will always be challenging situations. People often don’t realise this. Bigger groups or social gatherings are a challenge, especially when the radio is playing in the background or when there are other disturbing noises and when the room is dimly-lit so lip reading is harder. In situations like these the understanding of people around you is very important. I am very grateful for having considerate and caring people in my life.
Learn more about Anette from Denmark and her experiences with bimodal hearing and how her quality of life has improved thanks to her hearing implant.
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