My wife Carol has had hearing loss most of her life. She now uses a bimodal solution, with a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other. As with many families where hearing loss plays a big part of everyday life, our story was one of making do and getting by until we couldn’t any longer.
Carol’s decision to get an implant was a difficult one not only for her, but for me as well. Ultimately, though, that decision changed our relationship for the better and brought our family closer than ever. That is why I want to share my story.
When I first met Carol many years ago, she already had a severe to profound hearing loss. She managed to get by with her hearing aids, supplemented by lipreading, but she still missed a lot.
Communicating with her was often difficult, and it took me a long time to understand how important it was for her to be able see my face when we were together. In fact, I even attended lipreading classes so I could better communicate with her. I learned not to talk to her from behind a newspaper, call out from another room, or talk in the car when the engine is on, and to always make sure she can see my face. We got by, but it could still be incredibly frustrating for all of us.
When her hearing worsened, I saw the impact on her. Her confidence began to wane, and she started to withdraw from social activities she once enjoyed. She even began to fear for her job. Her frustration was painful to see.
I tried to support and help her as I always did, but it was a constant struggle. While I was fully aware that the hearing loss wasn’t anyone’s fault, the situation became increasingly upsetting for us and our family.
When the idea of a cochlear implant first came up, Carol was reluctant. To be honest, I was too. Cochlear implant surgery could mean losing whatever hearing she had left in that ear, if it wasn’t the solution we hoped for. I was terrified about the impact it would have on her job, our relationship, and our family. There would have been no way back.
But I also realized that, surgery or not, Carol was slowly losing her hearing. She was on her way to a world of total silence if nothing was done. So, as worried as I was, I kept my fears to myself. I remained supportive, but Carol had to make the decision.
Our two grown sons were very excited about the idea of a cochlear implant. They encouraged us to learn more about the technology and the procedure, and to read articles online from those who have already received an implant. Slowly but surely, our minds were changed, and Carol decided to go ahead with the implant.
After the operation, we had to wait a few weeks before the implant could be switched on and we would know if it worked. This time was the most nerve-racking, as none of us knew what to expect. I constantly worried about her being in complete silence.
When the implant was finally activated, the look on Carol’s face made me realize it worked. I cried with happiness for Carol and with great relief for us as a family.
Seeing how quickly Carol adapted to the hearing world with all its noise has made me very proud of her. Her life has changed so much, and her happiness and joy are wonderful to see as she explores each new sound.
As life-changing as a cochlear implant can be for your loved one and your family, learning to hear again is a slow process. Hearing is not instantly restored as soon as the implant is switched on. It takes a lot of practice and dedication to hear and understand new sounds. Carol welcomed this process with open arms, but it does take time. So it’s important to be patient and to keep expectations low to start with—things will improve.
We have been there for Carol and have remained strong for each other. I would tell anyone else supporting a family member through this journey to be there for each other and take each day as it comes. Read up on what having a cochlear implant means and how it works – then you can share the journey into hearing together.