By Barb Hale

Pardon. What did you say? I’m sorry, I’m hard of hearing, could you please speak a little slower? The worst times are when my family gathers, or I’m with a group of friends. The conversation is animated and flows freely, but I can’t hear a word. I remind them of my disability, and they speak clearly for a while, but then they forget, and I sit there silently. I don’t blame them. It’s the ‘silent, unseen disability’ Maybe they think I’m bored, maybe tired, maybe I’m not intelligent enough to join their conversation.

I’ve been hard of hearing since my twenties, but with the help of hearing aids. I’ve managed to have a successful career, and though difficult at times, I’ve had a good life. Recently, though, my hearing has got considerably worse. I’m a member of the CHHA (Canadian hard of hearing association) and they have several workshops about cochlear implants, but it wasn’t until, one day in Toronto’s Pearson airport, when I bumped into a tall, elegant woman with short, stylish hair, wearing a bright turquoise earpiece and disc of the cochlear implant processor.  She looked at me and said “You should get one of these! I can hear everything. How much can you hear?” “Not much” I said. It was the incentive I needed. I asked my doctor to refer me to the hearing department at Sunnybrook Hospital.

Sunnybrook is the only hospital in this area to treat deafness with cochlear implants and their hearing department is the largest in Ontario. Noted for its research.

The first step was to have a Zoom call with the surgeon. He seemed to concentrate on the pitfalls and side effects of the procedure, and I had the feeling he didn’t want me as a candidate, but the next morning I received an email inviting me to an assessment at Sunnybrook the following week. This involved a cat scan of my ear, a balance test, and an intensive hearing test with an Audiologist. Also, a meeting with my surgeon. All went well and my surgery was booked for March 27th.

It was day surgery at 8.30am. My daughter drove me to the hospital and was able to wait and take me home in the afternoon. The pain pills I was given made me quite chirpy! Then followed two lazy days in bed, being taken care of by my elder daughter. Because the inner ear controls balance, there is a danger of dizziness.

Then a month to recover and processor installation is April 30th

How it works. From Sunnybrook’s Cochlear Implant Program, the processor captures sound signals and sends them to a receiver, implanted under the skin, behind the ear. The receiver sends the signals to electrodes implanted in the snail shaped inner ear (the cochlear) The signals stimulate the auditory nerve, which then directs the signals to the brain.  

(To be continued next month)