My Cochlear implant story by Elzette Cilliers

I cannot really remember when my hearing difficulties started.

I began to not hear when my children spoke softly or whispered. We did not have the normal mom/daughter moments where we could softly whisper to each other (or they to me).  I needed to see their mouths in order to "hear" the whisper. By the time I concentrated enough to read their lips, that special moment was gone.I had meningitis at the age of 17.  Only in my mid 20's I noticed that my husband complains about all these crickets and frogs in the house or garden that, back then, was great not to hear- but today...I would give anything to have that again.

I visited an audiologist who, after conducting tests, suggested hearing aids.  I felt I was too young to wear hearing aids. I felt ashamed and did not share my disability with anyone else except my closest family and friends.

By age 34, I was referred to an ENT by a friend after continuous struggling – after some test I was referred to an audiologist and both of them said hearing aids were my only option.  I received two hearing aids.  Although the hearing aids helped a lot, I was still struggling with distortion.

I struggled a lot at work, not following conversations/meetings. During social gatherings with my friends, I could only follow the conversation of the person next to me and I started to withdraw from social events. I developed a phobia for places with crowds and a lot of noise because then I couldn’t hear, focus or listen to my kids when they needed me.  That is when I decided to see another audiologist.

After another stressful session in the booth, the Audiologist told me that the hearing aids that I was fitted with is not suitable for my hearing loss and I was referred to an ENT again.  This where my Cochlear Implant Journey started. 

I was assessed and supported by a fantastic group of professionals.  A Hybrid Cochlear Implant was recommended for my hearing loss.  Hybrid mode is where you have hearing at some frequencies and amplification can be used. Only the damaged frequencies are then stimulated by the electrodes that is implanted.

I did a lot of research and had to take all factors into account and had a lot of mixed emotions- Glad that there was a solution, worried that I would lose all my hearing and that the processor would not help at all, worried about finance… but in the end I was excited to have a “normal” life again without asking 100 times “repeat that” or sorry I didn’t hear that.

Activation day came and honestly, it was overwhelming.   I could feel my heart beating in my throat. 

I didn’t have my ‘magical moment’ so often seen on youtube with the switch on, but it came later that evening.  After everyone went to bed, I was watching TV and frantically started searching for this irritating ticking sound that wouldn’t stop.  I was all over my house looking for this noise and what I found was – my kitchen clock ticking!  I have never heard the ticking of the clock. I was so excited that I started texting all my family with the good news at 10pm at night.

Day by day the sound became clearer, with each mapping it became much easier to hear.  It is tough, it’s tiring, and your head feels that it will explode in the beginning with all the new sounds, but in the end it is all worth it!

I’m now 1 year and 7 months post activation and I cannot wait to do my 2nd ear.

I can hear the rain, I can hear my kids laugh and fight, I can hear people talking in another room and I can understand them.  I can do conference calls again without feeling so tired afterwards and follow everything that was said, I can hear the ocean with all its mixed frequencies and relaxing sounds.

My kids can whisper in my ear and I can hear them. We have our “moments” back!

My family members soon told me that I have so much more confidence than before!  

Each morning when I put on my “ear” I say – thank you God for my miracle because every morning I can hear the difference… and I would choose this journey all over again