After several years of pestering by my wife I gave in and had my hearing checked about 10 years ago. I ended up getting hearing instruments (aids) for both ears at that time. After wearing hearing aids for less than 2 years I began having problems with my hearing on the left side. I thought my hearing aid was on the fritz, occasionally shorting out or something.
My hearing was evaluated by my hearing aid practitioner and it was discovered it wasn’t a faulty hearing aid at all. It was my left ear that was failing. I subsequently lost all hearing in my left ear on May 15, 2004 and lost the hearing in my right ear about 2 months later. I was later told it was sensorineural hearing loss of unknown origin.
After being seen by an ENT/hearing specialist I was set up with an appointment for further evaluation at Oregon Health Sciences University. This resulted in me being scheduled for cochlear implant surgery on September 2, 2004.
I persuaded the doctor to activate my cochlear implant about 3 weeks later, two days before my eldest daughter was to be married. Even though it sounded like a fusion between Mickey Mouse and R2D2, I was able to hear nearly every word at that memorable ceremony after being totally deaf.
Testing after my cochlear implant was activated showed that I had regained 98% speech recognition. My good speech recognition scores are most likely attributed to only being totally deaf for about 9 weeks. I guess that I was sort of a ‘poster boy’ in the OHSU Audiology department for awhile. In less than a month I began to hear normal again. My wife’s voice began to sound like it used to sound in less than 6 weeks.
It was only a few months later that I became involved with the Cochlear Awareness Network. I’ve participated in Cochlear outreach activities since that time. I recently was asked to represent Cochlear Americas at the 2011 Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss conference. I’ve done a number of presentations over the years at Lion’s and Rotary club meetings, church and civic groups, the School of Occupational Therapy at Pacific University, the Portland Medical Representatives Association and shared my personal story at a continuing education seminar for audiologists. I just led Team Cochlear at the Walk4Hearing in Portland, Oregon raising money for the Hearing Loss Association of America’s efforts to raise awareness and provide programs and assistance for those suffering from hearing loss.
The challenge of going deaf and receiving my cochlear implant has truly changed my life in a number of ways. Not only was I able to hear again but I gained a great deal of perspective and maybe even a little wisdom from going through the process. This has resulted in personal growth in areas that I would not have otherwise experienced.
I now participate as an Ambassador for the Cochlear Awareness Network and believe that having a cochlear implant is a great conversation starter. I have people ask me about it all the time. I enjoy sharing my story with others and hope that I can help them learn that there are solutions available to many who are ‘hearing challenged’.