Hello there everyone welcome back to Hear and Now podcast, I am Sophia and in today’s episode I wanted to give you the full story (sparing you some details) of my 10 year hearing journey, of losing sound and gaining it back.
In the middle of kindergarten, I failed my hearing test. I had a ear infection, so they didn’t think much about it. They gave me antibiotics and had a follow up test later on. Nothing showed up for them to be concerned with, so they didn’t really bother testing me the following year in first grade. I didn’t catch a break that summer because I was so sick. So we went to the doctor, he prescribed an antibiotic again. Fall of second grade came and we conducted our annual in school check ups.
I always hated those hearing test machines. Those headphones were so heavy it would make us almost topple over and the noises were so loud and annoying (to the person who could actually hear them)… I failed that test (looking back on that now, the hearing tests were the only ones I was actually okay with failing). Another trip to the doctor meant they actually needed to test me, for real this time. And guess what, I failed that one too… We scheduled an appointment for the Children’s hospital in a neighboring state, a route that would become so painful and so familiar over the next ten years. A few weeks following that visit, it was determined that I had hearing loss in my left ear, and my right ear was beginning to show signs of a decline. I’ll never forget when I was fitted with that hearing aid for the first time.
We walked out of the hospital full of new gear and new ears, and I had heard the wings of the bird swoop down and fly past my ears. It scared me so much I had to duck out of the way. The swings creaked and I looked around in wonder at this new world of sound. Inevitably, my mom was filled with mixed emotions of sadness and joy and nervousness. I was eight years old and I had no idea what was about to come.
I was the happiest kid with this new found diagnosis, which I know may sound weird. I loved to make that venture down to the hospital for new hearing aid mold fittings, making sure to perfectly choose my new colors to flaunt in school. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. My sudden onset of hearing loss meant being a test subject, so to speak. I underwent countless tests, ABR’s, MRI’s, CAT Scans, all of the above. It was hard. I had to miss school and make hour long trips to and from the hospital. Shoutout to my amazing parents for spending so much time in that hospital to help give me the best care I could have ever imagined.
While my hearing progressively declined, so did my accommodations at school. The earlier years weren’t as bad, but sometimes the teachers would get annoyed at having to go the extra step to make sure I was succeeding in school.
In 6th grade, my hearing was hitting an all time low, hearing close to about 45% and missing 55% of the day. I became a candidate for a cochlear implant. If you don’t know what a cochlear implant is, here is a definition from Wikipedia – it is a medically implanted device that bypasses the normal acoustic hearing process, instead replacing it with electric signals which directly stimulate the auditory nerve. With training the brain may learn to interpret those signals as sound and speech. I’m planning on doing a whole episode about cochlear implants so keep an eye out for that.
So anyway, I became a candidate for that, but I was too young to really understand the process. The surgery date was originally scheduled for my birthday, which was shot down quickly. After deciding this was not the best time for surgery and recovery that would take upwards of 6 months, we were going to revisit in the next few years. From 6th grade until 10th grade, I like to consider these years the dark ages. My hearing was rapidly declining and I was struggling. My education was a priority to me, and the teachers were not very supportive of me.
The only thing that was consistent to me in that time was my family and my faith. I prayed over and over again and choose to take the high road, embracing my diagnosis and advocating for those who don’t have a voice.
My first year of high school went by so fast. I had a good year, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would need to make a major life change very soon. The summer before my sophomore year of high school I was struggling a lot. My hearing was declining so much, my anxiety was rising. I became very detached from myself and everything felt very monotonous. I am planning on doing another episode on this later.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I went back to the audiologist for a routine check up. I’ve never seen those little marks on the test so low. My left ear had about 8% hearing left and I knew what would be next. I left that appointment with a heavy heart and tears filling my eyes, because not only was my hearing almost gone, I felt like life itself was weighing down on me. I just couldn’t catch my breath.
A few days go by, and it was the day before Thanksgiving when I get a call from my audiologist. She had taken the liberty of looking at the calendar to schedule a cochlear implant surgery for my left ear. The doctor whom I had loved and had followed me since I was a little girl would be leaving in 8 weeks. I knew I had to do this. The timing was so right. I cried on the phone to Rebecca, my audiologist, and accepted that December 16, 2016 would be the day my life changed forever.
I was ecstatic. But that moment was short-lived, as I panicked about having to make up midterms and dreaded telling the already unsupportive school that I would have to have a new set of accommodations. Alas, it went as expected. The school met us with slight disapproval and begrudgingly allowed me to take all 6 midterms in 2 days. Thanks guys!
3 short weeks later, the surgery day was here. I barely remember the day, but I was so sick with anxiety and fear of the unknown. I came home the next morning to the first snowfall of the year, just 4 days before my 16th birthday, which I spent recovering at home on the couch.
Fast forward a month, I was due to return to school. Everything I heard sounded like a cross between Donald Duck and Darth Vader. My brain was taking a while to adjust, as expected. I’ll spare you the details and cut the story shorter. In the best interest of everyone I decided to do school online for a semester to recover and heal, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
By the summer before junior year, I was thriving. I got selected to attend a national leadership conference for deaf and hard of hearing kids, one of twenty in the country. This experience forever taught me resilience, advocacy, and courage. Shoutout to LOFT 2017!
I was already enrolled in a new school for the fall (third high school in 3 years!) but they told me they couldn’t guarantee they would help me, so I actually stood up for myself and told them I wouldn’t be attending. Onto looking for the fourth high school before I was a junior…
God had his hand working the entire time. I found a small little school where their faith was at the core of the school. I thrived there, and successfully got my second implant in May 2018. I was back at school a week later, like nothing had changed. In June 2019, I graduated high school. It was the proudest day of my life because I worked so hard to get there.
My story has shaped into the woman I am today. Without having to jump through hurdles and then fall flat on my face each time, I wouldn’t be here sharing this with you today. I am Resilient.
This space was created to show everyone, young and old, of all backgrounds, that no matter your story you can be resilient and persevere. God is right beside you holding your hand, and if He brings you to it, He will bring you through it.
That is everything on this episode of Hear and Now Podcast, thank you so much for listening everyone and I will see you in the next episode!