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My hearing loss is a confusing one as there may be more than one probable cause. When my mother was pregnant with me, my sister came down with German Measles. It is possible that my mother had a mild case and not even known it thus that may have been a cause. Another cause may have been when I was born, the doctor used forceps on my ears, leaving a puncture mark on it. But it is believed that when I contracted the German Measles at the age of one year, that my ears were damaged. At the time of the test, it was thought that I had 60% loss in the right ear and 80% in the left. For about three months, I wore an aid in both ears, but since the loss difference was so high, it was determine it would better if I only use a hearing aid in the right ear. As a result, I never fully develop the ability to hear in that ear.
Despite that limitation, I was one of the lucky ones. My hearing loss was caught early enough for me to start school at the age of three. I went to a school that specialized in auditory training. I did cheat though by learning how to lip read and adapted to the world as my hearing progressively deteriorated. Life became more challenging when I was told by my doctor in 1984 that I would lose my hearing before I was thirty.
I had checked into cochlear implants at this time, but was told that it would my situation worse than it was. It was still new and experimental. In some cases, were unsure it would even work. So I held off on it and hoped for the best.
I continued on with my life and completed my degree in Theater from Central Michigan University in 1991. I had wanted to become a teacher, but was told that due to the severity of my hearing loss, I could not under Michigan's law at that time, teach in a school unless I wanted to teach Special Education. Deciding that is not what I wanted, I work several jobs in the "real" world, but my heart always wished for a job as a teacher. Finally, an opportunity to earn my teaching certificate through Arizona State University opened up and I completed their program by 1999. I became a drama teacher and taught for three years in the Phoenix area. Later, I moved to California, where I began teaching for my current school district (Stockton Unified) as an English teacher.
It was late last year that I found out that my worse fear from my teenage year was starting to come true. Though my doctor was wrong that I would lose my hearing by age thirty, my hearing had fallen in the past three years to the point that I was beyond the threshold of any type of hearing. I was increasingly having problems hearing and understanding people. In addition, I was become frustrating and irritable towards my girlfriend, family members, and students. I would have trouble making out what people were saying and worse of all, saying things that did not fit in with the conversation.
It was during a hearing test that my audiologist recommended that I talk to an expert about cochlear implants. I told her what I had hear as a child. She stated that things had changed and recommended that I go see the expert, Dr. Roth. During that meaning, Dr. Roth told me the steps that needed to take place and explain how things were different. She present one model from each company. The one that grabbed my attention was the Nucleus 5.
As part of my homework assignment, I had to research each model. Though the other models were great, Nucleus 5 appeal to me because it was light weight and small. In addition, I like the idea of having a visual aid such as the remote assistance to help me diagnosis any problems such as low battery or if the unit was having a problem with the sounds. Finally, unlike the other models, I like the idea that I may be able to recapture the ability to hear music including the songs from the 80's and 90's, that I enjoyed listening to when I was in my carefree adult (hard to believe that this age is now classic rock music).
When it came down to my decision, I let my doctor know. However, I added an additional request. I wanted an implant in both ears. Dr. Roth was a little hesitant about that, but wanted to know why. I told her that I had watched the DVD where the patients had gotten bilateral and they seemed to be doing well. I also wanted it because as a teacher, I was forever having trouble with students taking advantage of my hearing loss. What I mean by this, is that they would talk from the left side of the room, but since my hearing aid was on the right ear, I would turn to that side first. By the time I got to the left, the guilty party was aware of it and had stopped talking. I found out from experimenting with digital hearing aids that it helped me to pick up where the sound was coming from. She agreed to order the part and try.
I My operation took place on 6/7/10 and was activated on 6/28/10, I was told to expect Mickey Mouse and Minnie voices as well as trouble with differentiating voices. I was told the world would sound louder. The latter was true and as I continue with the progress, I am hearing more sounds I have either never heard before (the clock, the humming of the refrigerator, the "sh" and "s" sounds), and sounds I have missed (birds, ice cream man driving, and the doorbell). The problems with the voices only last five minutes as I was able to adapt by recalling the sounds of the voices. Some voices are different. My girlfriend has a higher pitch than I knew and my mom sounds more like my aunt (both of whom sound like my great-grandmother). I am amazed I can be at one end of the aisle at a department store and hear the sales person giving customers directions (though I cannot make out what they are saying). I keep looking forward to each day, to find out what I can learn.
Update 2/17/2012: I went to my audiologist Wednesday. For the first time in a year and a half, my programming has stablized. She used a tougher program with the expectation that my hearing ability scores would drop by 10%. Instead, of hitting 88% correct in my right ear, I got 98% correct. The left was supposed to be 61%. Instead, it was 77% correct. I told her that based on my observation, it seems to that if you were exposed to hearing at some point in your life, you would seem to have some recall of the sounds. I also explained that I have tried, especially with music, to repeat the sounds as it seems to be easier to make out the words and the music, then trying to do it one time. It seemed to me that repeated exposure made it easier to identify the sound.
My audiologist agreed with that statement. The odd thing is that she was talking to me through a facemask (in Sacramento County, you have to wear a facemask if you are a public employee, who has not received a flue shot). I understood what she was saying and could carrying the conversation without having to be corrected or having things repeated.
As a result of this experience, I am very satisfied that I received the implants. Next step in my life is to work on getting my doctorate in Education. I am hoping if I choose to go into the classroom, I will hear everything with ease. I will post a blog when I get ready to take this step.
Update 6/12 as my two year anniversary approaches, I celebrated it by becoming a volunteer/mentor in the Elk Grove-Sacramento area. I spent this pas weekend receiving training and additional information about the Coc