By Sherri Ely
I lived a normal life in the hearing world until about 18 years ago when I started noticing I had a harder time following group conversations and talking on the phone. I discovered I had a moderate hearing loss in all the mid and high frequencies. For several years, I benefited greatly from hearing aids. I had a successful sales career in the Professional Beauty industry and was doing well.
One day, I began noticing that my hearing aids no longer helped with the clarity of speech. I could hear the sound of someone speaking, but had no idea what they were saying.
A day that is forever etched in my memory is the day I resigned from my job. I pulled up to go into one of my accounts at a noisy salon and literally could not get out of my car. The thought of walking into that business and not being able to understand what was being said to me over the background noise was overwhelming. My employer was wonderful and tried to place me in a position within the company where I didn’t need to rely as much on my hearing, but I just wasn’t able to continue working.
Because my hearing aids were no longer benefiting me, I was evaluated to see if I was a candidate for a cochlear implant (CI). While I met the criteria for a CI, I was concerned about losing my residual hearing. I felt I would be giving up normal hearing in one level to gain hearing in another. So I chose to wait.
In the following years, I lived between two worlds.
I no longer fit into the normal hearing world because I could not have social conversations in a group or talk on the phone, or hear children's voices at all.
And I didn't fit into the deaf community because I did have some hearing and I could not understand sign language or lip read very well.
About this time we received some great news. Our daughter was expecting our first grandchild! I was overjoyed to be a “Gammy,” but overwhelmed that I would never hear her little sounds, her cry, her little voice!
This sent me on a desperate search for help. This is when I found information about the EAS (electric-acoustic stimulation) implant from MED-EL. I read everything I could find and had hope again for the first time in many years. This new technology sounded perfect for me because it incorporated cochlear implant technology with an acoustic component. At the time, EAS was still being tested, and I was able to enroll in a clinical trial.
I was implanted with the EAS in 2010, and my granddaughter was born 6 months later. I was there when she was born and HEARD every cry and little sound she made. Today she is a chatty six-year-old that loves to ask me hundreds of questions. Her favorite question, when I don't answer her quickly enough, is, “Gammy, do you have your ears on?”
Today, because of my EAS, I can say, “I have my ears on and I'm enjoying all the sounds of my new grandson and my very talkative granddaughter.”
EAS implant recipient Sherri Ely, 58, from Charleston, SC, shares her story just in time for Grandparents Day, September 10. A recent survey from MED-EL found that 66% of adults said that a major life event (e.g., marriage, birth of a child/grandchild, health scare) would motivate them to get their hearing checked.