During the autumn of 2016, I noticed that my hearing had deteriorated. I was worried and made an appointment to see my audiologist, who concluded that the time had come to research a cochlear implant (CI). Her words left me feeling daunted and sad. I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for, nor did I know enough about the potential benefits. I just knew I had come to the end of a road and needed to start a new chapter. But what would the title be?
A year-long process
Soon after, I entered a year-long process to be evaluated for a CI. Yes, it took almost a year for me to go through the various medical tests, be approved, make the decision, and actually have the operation. It was a tough process, and I didn’t go through it with a happy heart. I cried plenty of tears. And I was scared.
Getting a CI entails a brain operation and like any other operation there are always physical risks. The procedure itself is relatively simple and a small part of the whole process: it’s over in a couple of hours and only requires one night in the hospital. It’s the post-operative rehabilitation process, which is daunting and very individual, all depending on your unique starting point and hearing loss.
In my case, I was scared of losing my residual hearing, scared of being reliant on technology to hear for the rest of my life, and even scared that I wouldn’t wake up after the operation. But knowing that fear is often caused by a lack of knowledge, I joined the international CI Facebook group and posted my story. One piece of advice rolled in after another. One comment was particularly blunt and read, ‘expect nothing and hope for everything.’ Great! This was reality. Nobody could guarantee any outcomes. The best advice I received was to make sure I was emotionally ready before making a decision. Throughout the whole process, I allowed myself to take my time and I often reminded myself that I was in the driver’s seat. There was no pressure from the medical world or anyone else. Just myself.
I had lived in the hearing world, but now I was on the border – walking a tightrope and fighting to stay in it. My energy levels were suffering. I asked my employer to support a four-day week, and I became choosier in how I spent my energy outside working hours. I cleared my calendar for all appointments after a working day and prioritized selfcare even more. My quality of life was at stake and the list of things I could no longer do was getting longer.
I then came across the following quote by Tony Robbins: ‘It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.’ Something shifted in me. Suddenly I realized I had to go for it in order to stay in the hearing world, to continue my plans of becoming a coach, to continue traveling the world, and simply to enhance my quality of life. I knew I had to do it.
Once I had made my decision, I actually felt relieved. The dark cloud had been lifted. Things started to fall into place, and I received lots of support from my workplace and friends. I decided to simply face each part of my journey, one step at a time. I created this mental image to support me:
I’m driving a car through a dark forest amidst a lot of fog. My dim lights allow me to see only 10 meters ahead, but I don’t need to see any further. Self-doubt is chucked out of the window as I remind myself, I can cope with anything life throws at me.
So what have I learnt?
Fear can actually be your friend and lead you to the right path when you are ready. Fear can be the fuel to take action. I got pushed to a point where I felt I had nothing to lose, and life as I knew it changed. Just six weeks after my CI activation, I was on my way to Vietnam. And hearing the words ‘This is your captain speaking’ was a defining moment. I had never heard them before – and that made me realize how far I'd come. I buckled my seat belt, sat back and smiled all the way to Vietnam.
Three years on, I look back with pride. Yes, I am reliant on technology to hear. But today I hear the most amazing things that others take for granted. I too can hear the birds sing, talk on the phone and listen to podcasts. My CI journey is yet another experience in my backpack – and I am braver and stronger for it.
Adding years to my ears
My hearing loss has gone from being the elephant in the room to being something I don’t give much attention to. Yes, there are still challenges. I don’t hear what direction a sound comes from, so I have to be extra alert when I hear an ambulance siren. I get a bit of a shock when a jogger or a kid on a scooter wooshes past me. But all in all, I feel like I have been born again – and I’ve definitely added years to my ears.
Karin is British by birth, global by choice. Karin has a professional background in communications and learning and development. She has lived and worked in nine countries across four continents and speaks four languages. Karin lives with hearing loss and got her first cochlear implant in 2017. Karin works as an International Business Coach and (copy)writer. She offers coaching to support other hearing-impaired individuals (globally) who need to build self-coping strategies and prepare for a CI. Learn more at www.karinweiser.com.