I Only Wish I Had Done It Sooner: Sam’s Story
When Sam from India first noticed his hearing loss, he soon decided to start using hearing aids. But it was nothing compared to the hearing experience he had after getting his cochlear implant. This transformed both his way of communicating with others and his attitude towards the world of sounds. With a blog about his hearing journey and his work as a Hearpeers mentor, his goal is to help others with their decision.
My name is Sam, I am 38 years old and live in the southernmost part of Kerala, India. I am a Linux system administrator by profession. In my free time, I love photography and travel. I especially find pleasure in helping people with my knowledge, technical or non-technical.
My Wake-up Call
The first time I noticed my hearing loss I was 15 years old. It happened gradually: At first, I was still able to have normal conversations and hear from behind. It took me some time to notice, but a few years later I was not able to hear a phone ringing downstairs. That’s when I knew something had to be done.
At an appointment with the ENT doctor, I was diagnosed with profound sensorineural hearing loss. It was caused by the side effects of mumps that I had when I was five years old. After the appointment, I started using a hearing aid. In the beginning, it improved my hearing a lot, but after a while, my situation worsened, and the hearing aid was of no use anymore.
Five Years Without Hearing
I tried a different hearing aid but had the same results as the first time, and they also gave me headaches and dizziness. At that time, I didn’t know about cochlear implants so my only option was to learn lip-reading to be able to understand even small parts of a conversation.
During this time, I was very worried because I was trying to find a job and a job interview with only lip-reading would have been impossible. I managed five full years without any hearing aids but then decided to improve my quality of life with a cochlear implant.
A New Possibility of a New Life
When I learned about cochlear implants, it did not take me long to decide: I had to get one to improve my life. First, I had to choose a brand for my CI and therefore did my own research—I received a lot of help from different communities. I was looking for a brand that offers backwards compatibility, so I went for MED-EL. Out of all my options, MED-EL also seemed trustworthy as it was the one with the least recalls for implants and processors.
After activation, the first thing I noticed were individual sounds like tapping on a table or clapping. I started with rehab immediately after activation. Listening to podcasts and videos helped me improve my hearing so that after one year I noticed a huge difference. For example, I didn’t have to lip read while talking to someone, I was suddenly able to hear conversations far away from where I was standing, office meetings became much easier to understand, and I felt much more comfortable when socializing.
The Difference Between Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants
Compared to the hearing aids I used, my cochlear implant offers a much better sound quality. There is also no feedback. The wearing comfort is another big difference to my hearing aid. I just prefer not having anything block my ear canal. Although there are many accessories I could use for easier handling like AudioLink, I am proud to be able to use my phone and headphones just like everyone else.
I noticed that I speak more quietly now because I can finally hear my voice volume. I am also able to differentiate between male and female voices. I am very proud that I don’t need visual clues anymore to understand conversations, that I can always tell which one of my children is speaking and that I can finally enjoy live comedy shows! There is nothing I regret about my CI, I only wish I had done it sooner.
Be Patient With Yourself
The advice I would like to give others with hearing loss is that you need to be patient with yourself. Not everyone has the same results after a CI implantation. Friends and family need to bear in mind that the CI surgery and activation are only the beginning of your hearing journey and they need to know how much they can assist during rehab.
I also want to emphasize that I am a Hearpeers* mentor and that I have written a personal blog on my hearing journey. This way, I hope I can help others who are seeking assistance since a CI is a big decision in anyone’s life, and asking someone who has been through all the decision-making processes might help improve your life forever.
Thank you, Sam!
*Hearpeers is an international community of hearing implant users where you can learn more about hearing loss and cochlear implants. You can also get free one-to-one support from Hearpeers mentors like Sam. Find out more on the Hearpeers website.
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