My rescue from isolation
I lost almost all of my hearing over 15 years, from age 55 to 70. My hearing loss turned my life around — and not in a good way. Until my loss, I had led a successful, bountiful life. I had been able to achieve what I set out to across domains — educationally, socially, professionally, financially. I counted myself as happy and squared-away, the hard work required, notwithstanding.
With the assistance of ever more powerful hearing aids, I dealt with mild, and then moderate, hearing loss with minimal difficulty. But, over time, as the audiograms systematically and unrelentingly trended south, I eventually found myself with severe/profound hearing loss or nearly deaf. That’s when it got painful. It felt as though I was living on a small island with a rapidly incoming tide. As the tide rose, my options and opportunities of all sorts dwindled. I retired early since my ability to converse was so compromised. Plentiful attempts at hearing aids and their smart accessories failed to solve my ever-diminishing hearing. And there began a long and painful period of withdrawal.
I eventually found it pointless to be physically present and seemingly part of a group, but unable to participate in the conversation that was its heartbeat and reason for being.
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For a time, I faked it — smiling and nodding at things I did not understand and saying things like “yes” and “good point” at pauses in the conversation where I guessed such comments might make it seem that I was part of the discussion. Soon enough, I could not sustain such fraud and pretence. Though my friends and family generally went out of their way to be kind and tolerant of my near deafness, I could not abide with their continued charity. I could not risk another, however infrequent, surreptitious eye roll or sigh. So I withdrew. I just stopped showing up. The social withdrawal was an anathema to my soul and mind since all my life I had enjoyed nothing more than high-energy, rapid-fire conversations on topics silly to profound.
I had the overwhelming sensation that as my world had shrunk, my very self had shrunk along with it. I was no longer who I had been. How could anyone I did not previously know have any idea of who I was, what I knew or believed, what I hoped for socially or personally, or what I could or could not offer? Old friendships and professional relationships dried up and blew away. And it was impossible to make new friends or deal with the random, incidental exchange of everyday life. I was dying.
My salvation came via a Cochlear Implant. I was tardy in my embrace of that technology, as I harboured mistaken impressions. I feared the surgery with necessary holes drilled into my skull, having read varied reports of unsuccessful outcomes. Since I was not entirely deaf, but merely “severely/profoundly hard of hearing,” I did not want to gamble on losing what pitifully little hearing I had in exchange for an unknown and somewhat unpredictable benefit. Eventually, as my tiny world threatened to reduce me to meaninglessness, I went forward with the Cochlear Implant.
The surgery was nearly pain-free and quickly over, as was the healing period. What a joyous day it was when my device was “activated”! My left ear had less residual hearing than my right, so it was the one implanted. My right ear continued to use an amped up hearing aid. Within an hour or so after activation, I could hear better than I had heard for many years. At the fear of hyperbole, it felt miraculous. I do not apologise for using that word, for it accurately defines my experience. Each morning when I awake, my first thought is one of joy, knowing I can once again hear. I can converse in a near normal fashion, with some difficulty in loud environments. But even in acoustically challenging places, I am worlds better than I was with two hearing aids. I can follow along and participate.
The Cochlear Implant has rescued me from my metaphorical island incarceration. I am timid and withdrawn no longer. Day by day, my social, conversational, happy self is returning, and I once again look forward to my future with eagerness and boldness.
My next milestone will be to request a Cochlear Implant in my right ear.
Implanted in left ear, March 2019
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If you like this article, you might like… What is a Cochlear Implant? This overview includes simple factual and video information.
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