And, thanks to the latest technology, such as Made for iPhone® and Apple’s Voice Over feature, he keeps up his social life, stays current with the news, plans his days, listens to music and still finds time to read more books in a week than most people read in a month!
My name is Bernhard Fasser and I live in Glarus, Switzerland. I was born with normal sight and hearing but now I am both deaf and blind. Because of my blindness, hearing is exceptionally important for me; nonetheless, I live independently and enjoy life with the help of my Cochlear™ Implant.
Having been able to both see and hear as a child and a young man, going blind was difficult. I particularly missed being able to read. But I took it in my stride – I changed my career, became a physiotherapist and gradually got my life back. Losing my hearing was far worse because, by now, I had learned to ‘see’ with my hearing. My hearing loss began with a soft tinnitus that worsened until, after ten years, I was completely deaf. The deafness threatened everything in my life. I didn’t know how I would live independently and, although I could still continue working, I had to give up full control of my business because I am limited in how much I can do.
I found out about cochlear implants through my research online. By then my hearing was extremely poor, but I managed to use the speech function on my computer and I could just about hear still with hearing aids. After a lot of time and effort, I managed to get the information I needed. I was very sceptical at first and I was also quite reluctant to undergo what I saw as ‘brain surgery’… after all, my brain was one of the things that still worked perfectly! However, my specialist was very reassuring and I trusted him so, after careful consideration, I decided to go ahead.
I received my Cochlear Implant in 2010. It took some time to adjust to this new way of hearing – after ten years of high frequency hearing loss, everything sounded much sharper. I had to re-learn even normal, everyday sounds all over again, but my ability to understand speech was immediately better and that meant I could listen to audiobooks again, which was something I had missed terribly.
My experience with hearing loss is magnified because of my visual impairment and vice versa. Also, I only have one cochlear implant because I still have some residual hearing in my other ear. But I don’t wear a hearing aid in my second ear, so I’m effectively hearing only on my right side.
Living as a deaf-blind person brings an extra level of complication when it comes to personal safety. For a start, because I only hear on one side, I can’t necessarily know where sounds are coming from and it’s much harder to stay safe when you can neither see nor hear the world around you. But, to compound the issue, it’s also more important to avoid injury. If I were to break my ankle or sprain my wrist, life would be impossible because I couldn’t use my stick if I needed crutches or my arm was in a sling! Being able to hear is really a deal-breaker for personal safety, even more so when one cannot see.
I think it’s fair to say that my CI is what lets me live independently. I can really only live alone because I can hear. I am safe moving around my home and I go out in the town where I live, using my stick. I still work as a physiotherapist, which I couldn’t do if I was unable to hear. Getting out and about allows me to walk and stay physically fit. I like the fact that I can listen to train timetables and the weather forecast through my phone to avoid being caught out in the rain!
Being able to hear allows me to be part of society and less isolated. I attend church and I enjoy going to concerts. I don’t really venture far from familiar places, but I do still travel when I need to go to meetings or the cochlear implant clinic, for example. With Nucleus® 7, my sound processor is directly connected to my iPhone using the Made for iPhone technology. That makes it easy to check train times or to buy tickets using my phone because I use the function that allows me to have the on-screen content read to me. Just knowing that I can check transport timetables or refer to my calendar is helpful – I feel more independent and safer.
Having a CI has helped me stay mentally alert. I have always loved reading, following the news, listening to music, doing research and learning new things. When I lost my sight, I relied on my hearing for all those things. As a blind person, I listen to audio books (or stream the news, or whatever) at a much faster speed than someone with normal hearing. When I listen to a book or the transcript of a letter, I use the Apple Voice Over feature and I hear it at a speed that most people would find hard to follow. I probably read about 100 books every year – it’s great fun and good practice for my listening skills. I doubt whether a sighted person could keep up with me!
I use the SmartApp mainly for volume control and pairing the Mini Microphone but the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor is automated, so I don’t often need it. When I do use it, I leave the display off (I don’t need it and it saves battery). I use the iPhone’s Siri and Voice Over functions – Siri to open the SmartApp and then Voice Over to navigate within it. I’m really looking forward to using my new Cochlear Wireless Mini Microphone. It’s going to be helpful for hearing other people when there’s noise in the background. I expect I’ll use it a lot if I’m in a restaurant with friends, or in the car so that I can hear the driver talking, even over the engine noise or with the radio on.
Nucleus 7 is much better than my previous sound processor because it’s Made for iPhone, so I can stream directly from the iPhone. This makes the sound quality much better (compared to a loudspeaker) so I can listen at a higher speed and also in places where there is background noise. With Nucleus 7 and Made for iPhone, the biggest difference for me is being able to read anywhere I like. I can catch up with the newspaper on the train, in a cafe, pretty much anywhere.
Made for iPhone gives me more privacy. If I want to check my diary, I can do it without the person next to me hearing. I can keep track of time, in church or at a concert for example, without other people being aware that I’m ‘looking’ at my watch. When I’m in a dull situation, I can zone out and read without it being obvious to the people around me. These are all things that people with normal sight and hearing can do… except they can’t read a newspaper in a boring meeting and I can!
Lots of CI users talk about how their CI connects them to the hearing world and Nucleus 7 means they have the same connectivity as normal hearing people because they can talk on the phone, stream music and podcasts etc. For me, the difference to my life is even greater because I don’t connect with the world through sight. Hearing, being able to read a book, to use a computer, to go out for a walk, to spend time with friends, to stay aware of the news… all these things are made possible with my CI. And they are all made better and easier with Nucleus 7.
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