I have been deaf since the age of four – more than 60 years. In the early nineties, as executive director of VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children, I learned about the cochlear implant and how it could be used to greatly enhance a child’s hearing. There were implants for adults as well but, although I was most likely deaf enough, I did not want something foreign inside my head – too much like the bionic woman for me.
Besides I thought I was doing well. In truth though, I missed a lot. I was lulled by the unique security blanket that surrounded me while I was at VOICE. I worked with parents who understood the challenges of trying to hear. I had oral interpreters at board meetings and other group functions so I could follow the discussion. And I was surrounded by a whole host of professionals who gave me tips on the latest technology for hearing aid users.
At each annual review of my hearing status, the Otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) would suggest that I be tested for a cochlear implant. I always resisted. Not only would it be like the bionic woman, but what if it didn’t work? I’d be back to square one. I should tell you that I am generally an optimist, but when it came to cochlear implants, I wore the proverbial black cloud over my head and searched out all that could go wrong. I clearly wasn’t ready.
But I was getting older and missing more. In 2004 I decided to take the plunge and was tested for an implant. It took a lot of convincing for me to even go for testing so imagine my chagrin when I discovered that I just missed the cut. I could understand just a tad too well. My problem, if you could call it that, is that I had been practicing filling in the blanks for a very long time and was very good at it. So when I say that I understood too well, I was actually fudging – taking a guess. Not necessarily a good idea when being tested for an implant.
So here I was, all psyched up and ready to roll and I was turned down.
So I adapted. I went out less because hearing in any size group was very tiring. I stopped going to films and waited for them to be shown on television so I could watch them with captions. I tried to get smaller classes for my workshops and did fewer of them as well. I didn’t think to try cochlear implant testing again until the winter of 2011 when I noticed that I was having trouble with even a small group of 2 or 3. I had fudged for so many years that I truly didn’t think I was growing deafer. It just crept up on me.
I had my annual hearing checkup in the summer of 2011 and saw a brand new specialist. He glanced at my audiogram and said, “I think it’s time to look at a cochlear implant again.”