My Hearing Journey
I was born with moderate hearing loss and wore hearing aids from the age of 2. A week after my 27th birthday I noticed muted hearing and a sensation of being underwater in my right ear. Over the course of a week this got progressively worse, doctors thought I had glue ear and later, a perforated eardrum. However, a visit to my ENT consultant confirmed I had lost significant hearing in my right ear, bringing my hearing to profound levels. The consultant advised I had suffered from Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL).
Once I had been diagnosed with SSHL my ENT consultant suggested I be put forward for a Cochlear Implant, I had never heard of Cochlear Implants before and I had never been told growing up that I could lose more of my hearing so this was a difficult thing to come to terms with. I was initially referred to St George's Hospital in Tooting but, having gone through all the assessments, speech perception tests, MRIs etc., the hospital rejected me on the grounds that my left ear was 5 decibels outside of the NICE criteria, which, understandably, was upsetting news for me and my family. I was then referred to the Royal National Throat Nose Ear Hospital in Kings Cross, London who accepted me! The hardest part of the process for me was deciding which manufacturer to go for as no one could give a personal comparison of the devices on offer, I went with my gut and chose MED-EL and I'm so glad I did.
Life with my Implant
My implant has given me so much confidence. When I lost my hearing, I lost a part of my identity and self-confidence, and with it, the ability to believe in myself. My implant has made me realise how strong and capable I am. There have been highs and lows throughout the whole journey. The highs have been plentiful; from being able to interact in social situations (i.e. going out with friends to the pub), to listening to live music and comedy, being able to speak to my grandparents on the phone, to being able to hear my husband say his wedding vows on our wedding day. The lows have been few and far between, one that springs to mind would be when we were travelling in Vietnam and the processor just cut out, I was terrified. Turns out I was just a bit too sweaty!
My Role as a Mentor
I enjoy supporting others who are going through a similar hearing loss experience and considering an implant. Through my involvement with MED-EL I have made wonderful friends and even got to visit the HQ in Innsbruck! Learning about the how the implant was made, meeting Ingeborg Hochmair and seeing all the component parts was amazing.
RESEARCH!! Go online, join hearing loss groups on Facebook/social media and Hear Peers and ask lots of questions. This will give you a personal perspective that you can't find elsewhere. Also, have a read of my book; The Invisible Disability And Me. My audiologist also gave me some great advice prior to being switched on; to keep my expectations low. This would mean I wouldn’t be disappointed if things didn't immediately improve but if they did, I would be really happy and that definitely worked for me.