At the age of 53 I woke up one morning and everything sounded muffled. After weeks of struggling to hear, my wife suggested that I visit the doctor to have my ears syringed. The day came and I thought to myself ‘what if they aren’t blocked?’. I just felt there was more going on and my fears were confirmed, I had hearing damage from years of working in a noisy car garage.
I was given two hearing aids and tried to get on with my life. I love to ride my bike and I joined an organised challenge group who were cycling from Lands’ End to John O’Groats. I struggled at the nightly meals as there were around 40 of us altogether – it was just a wall of noise. I rode daily with 4 or 5 people who have since become great friends. Thank goodness for social media where my ears weren’t needed to be able to keep in touch with them.
I invested in some accessories which were ok for talking at home to my wife or son but visiting our daughter with her ever growing family was just noise. Along with the hearing loss I also suffered with tinnitus in both ears. Being deaf is lonely, you are on the outside of most things. People will try at first, but you are often left laughing just because you see others laugh!
My hearing continued to deteriorate over the next 6 years. Then last year my audiologist introduced me to cochlear implants and asked me how I felt about it. My reply was ‘the sooner, the better’. I was hopeful.
Fast forward to switch-on – I could hear! Sounds were a bit strange, robotic; like having R2D2 in my head, but as the days went on it became better. I could finally talk to my son one to one without having to use his mum as a go-between. I can hear them shout from another room asking if I want a cup of tea, I can join in all conversations and we’ve been to the cinema for the first time in years – it’s wonderful for them as well as me.
After 3 months I was at the stage they would hope you to be at 18 months after switch-on. I went back to meet with my surgeon, and he asked me what had improved. I couldn’t list everything because it has absolutely changed my whole life.
We have an amazing view of the Welsh countryside and it has now become a ‘soundscape’. I can hear the birds and pick out a Robin’s song. I often use just my sound processor and leave my other hearing aid out, that’s how good it is, and my tinnitus is all but gone. I can now really enjoy cycling as I can easily interact with others which makes me feel much safer on the road. Even a rainy day doesn’t stop me going out on my bike with my Aqua+ kit.
My audiologist helped me with the Nucleus® Smart App; where to adjust base, treble, master volume and different programmes to try. I tend to use the music programme a lot as it seems to give my ear more information to deal with. I am enjoying music again; my speech therapist was amazed at the music I am listening to. Pink Floyd, Santana, Simply Red… I bombard my ears with sound.
If I can offer you any advice it would be to use your sound processor for as long as you can every day. It is going to sound odd at first and it is never going to be the natural hearing you were born with, but I’ve learnt to enjoy things like music in a different way. Enjoy each day and use your new found hearing as much as possible, it’s the only way you will train your amazing brain.