I have not always been deaf. I was born hearing, but a meningitis infection at the age of 2 and a half years caused damage to the tiny hairs of the sensory cells in the inner ear (cochlear), leaving me with a profound sensory neural hearing loss in both ears.
I am lucky enough that I was able to benefit from wearing a hearing aid in the right ear. Without this, my experience of sound would have ended there and then, as would my capacity for speech. A hearing aid does not restore hearing (if only it was that simple!), it only serves to amplify sounds so that they MAY be detected by the few surviving sensory cells. Not ALL sounds can be detected, and as they are all amplified at the same level, they can be very difficult to distinguish from one another. If it wasn't for my acquired lip-reading skills I can safely say that I would not be able to understand speech at all.
Over the last few months I have noticed that I am no longer able to benefit from a hearing aid to the extent that I am used to. Suddenly everything sounds muffled, distorted, and surrounded by a constant strange buzz. The only way I can think to describe this is like a distant motorway in my ear... slightly distracting to say the least(!) It has got to the point where I would rather not wear my hearing aid at all, instead choosing to spend most of my time in complete silence. I cannot even begin to express how unusual this is for me - for 20 years I have been "switched on" more or less from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep at night, so to change the habit of a lifetime indicates that something is seriously wrong.
Understanding speech has become such an effort that I have actually found myself avoiding situations where conversation is likely to take place with more than one person or with any element of background noise. As you can imagine this is having a hugely negative impact on my previously thriving social life. On the occasion that I do agree to attending a social event I struggle to enjoy myself and am left feeling even more isolated than I did to begin with. It really has become a bit of a lose-lose situation in that respect. To top it off, my iTunes has remained untouched for months!
So... This is the story that has brought me here, to the beginning of my assessment process for a cochlear implant. I hope this blog will allow you to follow me on my journey :)