In January 2002, I suffered a total loss of hearing in both ears due to a virus, which led to a double ear infection. Both ear drums perforated and I was in excruciating pain for several days. Within less than a week I was completely deaf. Until that time my hearing had been normal and, in retrospect, I took my hearing for granted.
As a result of the sudden hearing loss (98% loss in the left ear and 95% loss in the right ear) my normal world quickly tumbled into deaf silence. I stopped going to church and avoided public interaction because I could no longer function without the ability to hear. I could not perform my duties as office manager/vice president of our family business because I was unable to talk on the telephone. It was as if I had been dropped into a foreign culture without knowing the language or customs.
In May, 2002, I was fitted with a power hearing aid. Noisy environments with this device were difficult, if not impossible to bear. My doctor had thought that hearing might possibly return, but it did not, and he suggested that cochlear implant might be a solution.
In preparation for the implant I began visits to Brenda Hall. After the cochlear implant surgery in June of 2003, Brenda helped with all the mappings and any necessary adjustments to my power hearing aid. She is flexible and sensitive to my needs and continually strives to improve my hearing level. She has worked very hard to help me find the optimum balance between my right ear power hearing aid and my left ear cochlear implant
Before my cochlear implant, my profound hearing loss greatly hindered social interaction because I could not hear well enough to understand speech. The power hearing aid provided enough hearing assistance to help me communicate one-on-one, but large group settings were extremely challenging because the hearing aid did not sort out wanted sounds from unwanted sounds. The cochlear implant provided clarity that the power hearing aid could not provide and my hearing experience improved considerably.
I have a Panasonic speaker phone that makes it possible for me to talk on the telephone again. In restaurants and other noisy environments I use a small microphone that attaches to my CI processor to help pull in voices of people I want to talk with. I have a Phonak SmartLink FM system that I use in select environments where the speaker may be too far away for me to hear well. I am still disappointed that I cannot perceive and interpret musical sounds to any great degree, although I occasionally run across a music box that plays a one-line melody (with no harmony) that I can recognize; or I hear a violin playing a pure melody that is sweet to my ears. I appreciate life again. I have found a job that I enjoy and have gone to work. I love the interaction that has been made possible by technology and caring people like Brenda Hall. I now consider the hearing obstacles that I encounter every day, to be mere challenges that enlarge me for the good.
I owe a great debt of gratitude to Dr. Edward Dodson for his surgical talents and to Brenda Hall for her hard work and patience in developing my hearing skills.
~ Nellie Rader
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