When asked what is the best thing about my cochlear implants, my answer is this: I don’t have a best thing about my implants because these implants have given me my life back and what is better than life itself.
My story, self-dubbed “The Miracle at Ohio State”, has nothing to do with the OSU football team—in fact Dr. Welling and I don’t agree on who the best football team in the nation is. It is about going from being profoundly hard-of-hearing to being able to hear again with bilateral cochlear implants implanted by Dr. Welling and the care he and his staff have given me over the last three years at the Ohio State University Department of Otolaryngology. I began to lose my hearing in my early 40s, however, the defining moment in my hearing history came when I was 52 and could no longer use the phone. Keeping up with lives of my out-of-state children was impossible. My husband would have to answer for me in restaurants and other places—our relationship became more of a caregiver one than husband and wife in so many instances. I also found myself not wanting to go places because and it caused my husband to have to alter his own relationships with not only myself but with friends.
I wasn’t living; I was existing and I knew I had to do something. I contacted Debby, an audiologist at OSU, for a cochlear implant evaluation. The minute I met her I knew I had made the right decision. Debby and the entire staff in the audiology department were so kind and caring. They treated me like a human being and were truly interested in me as a person with a hearing problem not just as another patient. They understood that my hearing loss involved every aspect of “my life.” When I met Dr. Welling his kind, caring, unpretentious demeanor was a welcome relief as I struggled to hear and understand the details of my impending surgery. He told me that I was a good candidate for an implant, explained the procedure in layman’s terms and answered what I am sure seemed like a never ending series of mundane questions. I knew that not only was I in the hands of one of the few otologist/neurotologists in the area but someone who was interested in me as me and not just as another patient. Brenda, Dr. Welling’s secretary, took care of setting up my surgery and insurance approval and never tired of my endless emails about insurance. She was always willing to accommodate any special requests as best she could.
After cochlear implant surgery the implantee has a series of appointments with the audiologist to program the implants. My admiration for the quality of audiological care I received during these appointments is second only to the kindness I have been shown by the entire staff. Debby is always willing to listen to my requests and if she doesn’t know the answer she will find out. She is willing to work with me to tweak my implant and never gives up so that I can attain the best possible hearing results.
The ultimate compliment anyone can give a professional is a referral. I have referred several others to the OSU Department of Audiology. An electrical engineer by profession, my severely hard-of-hearing friend was fitted for his first pair of hearing aids at OSU. Debby worked religiously with him to attain the best possible results with his hearing aids. He smiled when he told me he could hear his grandchild now. One of my colleagues, who is deaf in one ear, received a BAHA at OSU. An amateur musician, his first comments to me were how rich and clear music was again with two ears. But probably the most amazing work to me is the work that the audiologists do is with cochlear implant patients. My cousin will have an implant soon and one of my favorite stories is that of a young Indian woman whose hearing was damaged by mumps. When I met her, although well educated, she was struggling to find a job because of her hearing loss. I suggested she contact the audiologists at OSU and she was implanted at OSU a few months later. Through the hard and diligent work of the audiologists she is now working in her chosen profession.
On the two year anniversary of my first implant surgery I did a little reflecting on the changes in my life after my implants. Without the care and help of Dr. Welling, Debby, and the entire staff at OSU simple things wouldn’t be possible.
Before my cochlear implant, I would let my work phone go to answering machine and then call it back using CAPTEL. Now I field phone calls using a regular phone.
Before, I loved my job because I didn’t have to interact with many people and just did my work in my office all by myself. I still love my job but now I look for opportunities to get out of the office and talk with others.
Before, I would go to church and pray my rosary because I had no idea what was being said or sung. Now I can hear the readers and priest and even sing the hymns (although the CI hasn’t helped my singing voice).
Before, I had no idea how to us the CD player in my car. Now I have so many CDs that I have to have an extra storage place in the car for them.
Before, I didn’t realize how noisy and annoying crickets can be. Now I can hear them chirping with the windows closed.
Before, I used closed captioning all the time and had to be somewhat “on alert” while watching television. Now I can cross stitch and knit while enjoying television.
Before, I would memorize what I wanted to eat at a restaurant so I wouldn’t have to worry about the waitress asking me any questions. Now I can identify the music that is being played in the background while having a conversation with my dining partner.
I had a dream when I got my first CI that I wanted to hear my children say their wedding vows. I am happy to report that dreams do come true because I heard my daughter and son-in-law say their vows on September 2, 2007, thanks to this wonder CI and the doctors and staff at OSU Department of Otolaryngology and Audiology.
Thanks for giving me my life back.
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