Updated: Nov 15, 2020
(Continued from previous post)
Still, I was not fully comfortable with my hearing aids. Sometimes I wore them, other times I did not. I was so instinctively against it, that when the NHS (Health services in England) contacted me about getting a surgery that I would never need to wear hearing aids again, I jumped at it.
I had done a routine hearing test with an audiologist, who for some reason identified and recommended me as a candidate for this surgery. The purpose of this surgery was for me to get a cochlear implant .
Before I continue, I'd like to describe what a cochlear implant is (as defined by Mayo Clinic)
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that partially restores hearing. It can be an option for people who have severe hearing loss from inner-ear damage who are no longer helped by using hearing aids. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged portions of the ear to deliver sound signals to the hearing (auditory) nerve.
Cochlear implants use a sound processor that fits behind the ear. 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 (cochlear).
The signals stimulate the auditory nerve, which then directs them to the brain. The brain interprets those signals as sounds, though these sounds won't be just like normal hearing
I had never heard about it, all I heard in the first appointment was that, "there's a surgery to get you a higher range of hearing" I thought finally, "No more hearing aids, Where do I sign-up?" Listen folks, this was one experience where I was learnt, it is really important to do your research and not just do what your doctor tells you.
I was invited to a number of consultations where all tests were being carried out and all sorts. It wasn't until I was sitting with a panel of doctors in some sort of Q and A session that I thought to ask, what happens to my normal hearing as it was. I was told I would lose my current hearing... everything came to a screeching halt.
I was like ermmm... No one told me that.. What do you mean lose all my current hearing?
I don't remember it word for word, but the general idea was that because I was switching over to some sort of electronic hearing, my natural hearing would no longer be applicable.
It dawned on me, how much I valued the little hearing I had. It may not be a lot, but it was mine, and it wasn't something I was ready to sacrifice. I think the panel sensed the immediate shift in my attitude after that question was answered, and tried to dissuade my concerns. After the Q and A session, I thanked them for their time and told them I would get back to them. (Which in my head was NEVER)
One thing about me, once I make up my mind, it's pretty hard to change it. Unless I change it on my own, which does not happen often. With the exception of growing and maturing, (that's different). Getting a cochlear implant was definitely something I did not want to do. This was twelve years ago. I can tell you, that my decision remains the same. I have never even considered it.
I do have to concede, that what gave me the privilege of not opting for cochlear implants was the impressive progress that was being made in the world of hearing aids technology.
I stuck with my hearing aids through university, and continued to get a new one, every couple of years. Now that I am older, I realised how incredibly privileged I was to get a new one every couple of years.
A few years later, I needed to go to the United States for medicals for something else entirely. My mum suggested I meet with the audiologist at the hospital where I was doing my medical tests. I underwent a routine hearing test. When the nurse saw my results, she asked me if I had ever heard of "compressed frequencies"
That was literally my expression.
Looking back, that was a pivotal moment in my life. It's quite interesting how knowledge that could change your life, is just a piece of information given to you in the routine activities of everyday life or doing things you are used to and you don't realize the value at the time.
She recommended I speak to my audiologist back in London and ask about compressed frequencies, they will know what I am asking for.
Let me explain what compressed frequencies are:
My hearing is non-existent in the high-pitched sound range (frequencies). This means no matter how loud you make a whistle, you hiss, you whisper or a bird is singing, I simply cannot hear it. However, with low-pitched sounds I'm good. Examples of low pitch sounds are the beat of a drum, a phone vibrating or a bell. Interestingly I can hear low-pitched sounds slightly better than most people can. I guess this could be a hearing overcompensation.
The technology basically uses a powerful hearing aid to move those high pitched sounds to the range where I can hear them (low pitched sound range), basically compressing the frequencies to just the low pitch range, so therefore I am able hear it.
I discovered an audiologist in London, Dr. Ben Mann, super amazing guy, knows his stuff. He recommended I trial a new brand (Siemens, now Signia) which was launching two weeks after I had asked. (See how God works) with a minimal down payment until I was satisfied with it. I initially thought, "nah this guy must be dodgy, how can he offer hearing aids with no payment until I'm happy with it". It was also significantly lower than how much they cost in Nigeria, which was surprising.
After series of appointments, meetings, and fittings which went really well and were incredibly professional, I got the hearing aids fitted.
I will never forget how CLEAR and CRISP everything sounded. It literally felt I was hearing for the first time in my life. The only way I can explain it is - if you wear glasses. It feels like you have been wearing the wrong prescriptions for years and you suddenly get your right prescription.
It was beautiful... It was truly a beautiful moment.
Then the headaches came....
Because my brain was not used to this overload and high level of hearing, to my brain it was too loud. It was awful. I felt incredibly nauseous for a while. I had to keep turning the volume of the hearing aids to the lowest level (it came with an app)
For a week, I could only wear them at the office at the lowest volume where it was somewhat quiet. However, on the streets or on my commute, it literally felt like my head was about split open.
I have a friend who is an audiologist. I called her and said, "Look sis, I can't take this anymore, what do I do?"
I then called my audiologist to order the hearing aids I originally wanted, this new brand and the new hearing levels, was way too much for me to handle. He then asked me to come in for an appointment.
(to be continued.....)
Side note: My sincere apologies for how late this post is coming. Life happened, then the situation in Nigeria happened. I will touch on this in a later post. Things have settled back to normal now and looking forward to sharing an updated post with you.
Thank you for reading this and for your patience! Stay tuned for next week!