Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Awakening my left ear after 14 years!

Last year in October, I went over to Vancouver for work/training. Someone asked me the question: why don't you wear a hearing aid in your left ear? At the time, I only had a cochlear implant on my right ear.

Good question! Let me give you a history lesson:

Back in 2002, when I received my CI the philosophy was that I should focus on using my implant, rather than using both types of technology. That was the recommendation I was given then, and I accepted it, based on scientific findings.

Fast forward to 2013, my husband got his CI. Contrary to my experience, he was actually encouraged to use his hearing aid in tandem. The idea for me to use a hearing aid at the time was suggested, but I wasn't ready. Not when I was just about to have my first child!

Now, with a second child and an already loud 3-year old, I just thought: hmmm... what's the harm?? I'll give it a try for a month, and if I don't like it, I'll return it. Simple. My husband, a few months earlier had upgraded his hearing aid from a Phonak Naida to the Resound Enzo 7. He commented that he really liked it, and even better - Resound and Cochlear Corp actually worked together to pair the two different technologies!

Meet Enzo!

Pardon the red hairclip... That's from my kid
Enzo isn't your typical beige type of hearing aid. I chose the body to be silver and it has black buttons on it. Sleek and slim. To date, the battery life lasts me close to three weeks. It's significantly lighter than my bulky cochlear implant (not that I'm complaining...), and though it took some getting used to, having an ear mold in my ear was a strange sensation!

Sound wise, I was both pleasantly surprised and somewhat disappointed. Contradictory, I know. Especially after 14 years of not using a hearing aid in my left ear. How much I missed sound in my left ear! That was my impression in the very first 4 hours of use.

When I was first switched on, everything sounded ridiculously quiet. Like, I was begging for my audiologist, Lia (who was amazing throughout the entire process) to crank it up! It was hard to discern voices, and I couldn't hear the water flowing from my shower stall. This was my disappointment. Then the headaches came. Oh joy. Two weeks of pounding headaches. That's what you get for not wearing your hearing aids on a consistent basis! Tylenol was my best friend at that point.

I'll also never forget hearing myself talk. The last time I heard in my left ear, I was only 17 years old. My voice has changed! I sound... older? When at the audiologist's office, I actually said my name several times and couldn't believe how less high pitched I was. Leaving the office, I quickly noticed that my car sounded Another pretty neat fact: my three year old's voice sounds way clearer to me than it did before. But unfortunately, the hearing aid has amplified her threenager whines.

One month into it, the headaches have subsided. Finally! I've since then cranked up the volume of the hearing aid - and even while at maximum capacity, it still doesn't match the CI. Good practice for my hair cells to get some usage while I wait for a second implant...

This story is to be continued. I'm currently testing new earmolds as the loud sounds from the hearing aids are giving me the dreaded feedback. 

In summary, a few things to note when putting on a hearing aid in a ear that hasn't heard sound in 14 years:

  • Be patient with yourself. Give your ear some time!
  • You'll remember sound, but just not the way you remember it.
  • Take lots and lots of breaks. Wear it for an hour a day, then work your way up to a full day (I'm still at three-quarter of a day...because by 8pm I'm just DONE)

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