I have written about this subject quite a bit, but I am not sure I have dug into it in detail. For this entry in my blog, I want to dig into the reasons behind my decision to go ahead with my Cochlear implants.
In 1992 my world was literally turned upside down. You know the drill, Meniere’s disease. The vertigo came on fast and hard. I began having drop attacks almost immediately. The first was sitting at my parent’s house eating breakfast. Boom! Out of nowhere, I was on the ground. Several more followed. All of them I ended up on my right shoulder…..on concrete. Never a warning.
Sometime in 1993 my ENT had become concerned enough with the frequency and severity of the drop attacks that he began to discuss more serious measures to control them. He offered up the options and his opinion of the options, looked at my audiogram, and suggested we try Gentamicin injections. The reason he considered this route was due to the results of my audiograms. My hearing was nearly shot from Meniere’s. If memory serves me correctly, I was near 90dB on the true tones test, and it was flat. 90dB across all frequencies. The trial hearing aid did nothing but give me a headache. It was with this in mind that he suggested the equivalent of a chemical labyrinthectomy. He was a full disclosure doctor and warned me that while he was quite confident the injections into my inner ear would reduce the vertigo and the drop attacks, it would likely leave me permanently deaf.
It is rather sad that being left deaf is a better option than living with vertigo, but that was my choice. And it was a rather easy one. Give me the injections.
Over the course of the next three years, I received 3 intratympanic injections of Gentamicin in my left ear.
They worked exactly as he predicted. By the time I received the third one my vertigo had diminished from several attacks per month to a couple attacks per year. It also left me permanently deaf at 120dB.
But that was fine with me. I was young (29). I was getting married. I had one good ear. Most important, I had my life back. Life was good.
Adjusting to only one ear wasn’t much of a problem and I don’t think many people even knew I was stone deaf in my left ear. I learned to position myself so my good ear was toward people when choosing seating arrangements. I learned to turn my head enough to hear people if they were on my bad side, or I moved. A minor inconvenience at best.
Fast forward 10 years and the beast took over my right ear as well. But the hearing loss was subtler and fluctuating. At least the vertigo didn’t return-----yet.
Fast forward another 8 years and all heck broke loose. The vertigo returned with vengeance. The hearing loss became more pronounced and fluctuated wildly. The drop attacks re-appeared. And worst of all, people became nasty and unaccepting of my losing my hearing.
I can’t even remember all of the people or the comments that I heard concerning me being stubborn about not getting hearing aids. “Get it fixed.” “Why don’t they cure you?” “You can’t tell me that in all these years, they don’t have a solution.” “All you need is hearing aids.”
I’m sure there was more.
What people refused to understand was that I had gone down this road before. 1992, to be exact. I knew what was happening and I also knew that there wasn’t a hearing aid in the world that would do diddly squat for my hearing loss. Besides, that wasn’t even my biggest concern. I just wanted the horrible vertigo to stop. I. DID. NOT. CARE. HOW!
This disease causes enough stress of its own on a person without the unknowing, or should I say “all knowing” general public telling you how you should suck it up and move on.
It’s rather hard to “suck it up” when you are spending the vast majority of your day trying to not throw up.
The drive to seek help was getting rid of the drop attacks, first and foremost, and the only reason I went back to my clinic after a 7-year absence. I knew this disease was stealing my hearing. I was ready to accept that.
The day I found myself sitting in the exam room, I had not planned to ask about my hearing loss, yet I did. I am not sure why I did, but I did. Yet I remember well that I sat there feeling all the stress that had been on me from the vertigo, drop attacks, going deaf, and people, that I blurted it out at the end of the appointment. “Is there anything that can be done for my hearing loss?”
I was ready to hear “no.” That would have been comforting at that point. It at least would have given me validation for what others considered stubbornness.
Instead I got what have become some of the sweetest words I have ever heard. “You would be an excellent candidate for cochlear implants.”
Now, here I am 4 years later and, although I have changed careers, I have my life back once again, and my hearing. You don’t know how much that means unless you were at the point I was when I blurted out my question.
4 years ago, I had no idea what my future would be like as a deaf person. Today I have graduated with high honors with an associate degree in accounting. I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the same major. I have 2 (or 3, I lose count) jobs. I get to spend time educating and mentoring others about advanced hearing solutions and I get to speak to groups of people that want to hear my story.
|Giving a presentation|
But most important, I have my life back.
If you have reached your tipping point with your own hearing loss (please don’t wait until it becomes a boiling point), explore your #WakeUpCall by clicking here
‘til next time
Just a guy trying to live with an invisible, potentially debilitating illness
Views expressed here are my own. Consult your hearing health provider to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology. Outcomes and results may vary.