High Fives Received


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My Story

Hi I'm Celtic Lass aka Sunny Rieker. I am originally from Chicago but have also lived around the US and around the world.   So while Chicago holds my heart gently I like to think I'm at home wherever I go.



I had viral meningitis in 1976.  I've had many medical issues since but  hearing loss was not one of them until ... one morning in 2005. 


One day in May I woke up deaf.  I didn't realize it for hours but when I did I knew it was serious.  I was giving a presentation and could not hear my audience.  Go to Plan B - engage the audience in a different way.  I explained briefly to my audience that I suddenly could not hear and asked for their help.  I spoke for 15 minutes, took and answered written questions and then repeated this process until I was finished.  Meantime the conference coordinator called my doctor and I had an appointment waiting for me 4 hours later with my first ENT.  I didn't even see my internist - he recognized the symptoms and made the call.


Adjusting to being deaf suddenly wasn't too hard for me.  In fact living in the bustle of Washington DC I almost welcomed the peace it afforded me ... but after 6 weeks of using alternative communication my natural hearing returned. 


In late 2007 I began to experience declining hearing in both ears.  I returned to a different  otologist and this time had shots and began yet another course of oral steroids.  My hearing stabilized and I was fitted for digital HAs and steroids were discontinued.  That was when we discovered that my hearing loss was autoimmune,  intermittent: sometimes hearing naturally and sometimes completely deaf and everything in between with no notice. 


Fast forward to February 2011 - just last year my left ear went silent and I qualified for a CI transitioned to the Listening Center at Johns Hopkins and was tested there for auditory nerve conduction as well as my brain's ability to receive signals reliably - there was some concern that the meningitis might have damanged that portion of my brain - in which case a CI would not work.  I finally got the news that my physiology would be compatible with an implant and got a surgery date to implant the Nucleus 5.


Because I wanted to remain mobile but found driving deaf difficult in a congested area I'm one of the folks who chose  to travel with a service animal.  It's a bit ironic, I once trained dogs for others with disabilities ... then found myself needing a dog to be my own ears.  I elected to train our pet golden retriever, Taos (named for Taos NM a magical place)  He's terrific and lets me know when he hears sirens, horns etc. as well as when to move over in the grocery store, on a jogging path, etc.


Surgery was uneventful.  I healed quickly and was activated 8/2/11 - and have heard speech in what I can best describe as near-natural ever since.  I can identify not only who is talking but if English is not their first language I can usually identify where they are from.  I had to practice to use the phone mostly because I do not like to use the phone - never have, hearing loss had nothing to do with that! Phones are to make a connection and then  move forward ... meeting someone, going to the doctor etc.  I have always preferred in person communication - a little hard for someone who has moved as much as I have, but it works for me, my family and close friends.  I never understand how people can be on the phone all the time.  What DO they talk about? (smile).  


At this writing most music is still noise and according to my audiologist and my surgeon will likely stay that way - my preference is classical music and my music memory (thank you Marla) puts me strongly in the snob category - I not only like fairly complex pieces, I have preferences for artists and conductors and dates for various recordings.  Yikes!  Opera is downright painful but music with a repetitive theme, such as the Pachabel Cannon and Ravel's Bolero is very recognizanble.


I am a practicing Buddhist - and my philosophy of life is pretty well summarized below.


"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."  - Buddha (563-483 BC)


Update 8/1/12-Implant failed on 7/10/12 - Revision surgery on  7/31 went well now implanting the Freedom.  New Activation date 8/14. 


Frustration after activation of the new implant - new audiologist and new parameters.  Heard well enough just not qutie as well as the first time around.  Kept detailed logs for audi to be able to have good discussion.




First real mapping - moved from the 1-4 programs since in week 3 I determined program 1 was best for everyday use.  Once given Smart Sounds I felt like I was back in the game ... being able to be in all environments.  I am one of the folks who does change back and forth between Everyday and Noise programs.  I seldom if ever use Focus and Music doesn't seem to make a difference ... it's still overall not a good experience especially for complex works.


What I have learned is that not only every person is different but every situations is different.  Having had an implant revision and adjusting to a slightly larger size has had its own share of adjustments ... none serious but all issues to deal with: pressure, fit, deciding on magnet strength again, deciding on cable length.  So just when you thought you had it mastered, life can hand you yet another curve.  It's all part of the game.  Play it as it comes.


Sunny 9/8/2012 


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