Usually I’m pretty private about my family life. But sometimes it is important to share experiences that could have a positive impact on others who are living with similar issues. Thursday, July 17 is a very big day for our daughter who will undergo surgery to receive her first cochlear implant.
Serena was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss….meaning she could hardly hear with her left ear, and her right ear had only mild/moderate loss. Basically, her ears are perfect organs except her microscopic ‘hair’ nerve cells in both ears are damaged. She has worn hearing aids since age 2.
Her left ear declined in elementary school, so she only wore a hearing aid in her right ear. Otherwise, her life was pretty typical….good marks, sports teams and an overly active social life.
We were just coasting along, even forgetting about her hearing loss and thinking all would continue this way indefinitely.
Last summer, on July 20, everything changed. Serena’s hearing in her right ear dropped to nothing. It’s called unexplained sudden deafness. Usually people with hearing loss do experience declines in their lives, but nothing this sudden or traumatic. We were all devastated. Serena’s response was amazing, and she attempted to carry on as always, not admitting that this was such a significant setback or hardship.
She was in Grade 11 and by October, we had a live captioning service called CART in place, thanks to the supportive school board and teachers. In fact, a TV station did a health news story about Serena and the CART service, hoping to make others aware of this wonderful aid in the classroom. Click HERE to view the CTV news video, called “Living with Hearing Loss”.
Serena also got new high powered hearing aids for some sound and her lip reading became stellar. We also knew about cochlear implants and began the application process. She was approved for two implants but will receive only one for now in her right ear. Think of it as a bionic ear, in which sounds will be transmitted electronically into her cochlea, bypassing the damaged hearing cells.
Three days short of one year of deafness, she will have surgery. The health care system has risen above our expectations and all costs are covered by our provincial government. We are so fortunate to live in a country like Canada that provides such significant financial support in health care.
At the end of August, her cochlear implant will be ‘turned on’ and Serena will begin to re-learn how to hear. It is not instantaneous perfect hearing as we have naturally. The brain has to re-map all the new electronic sounds coming in and eventually Serena will hear them. It could take up to 6 months to understand words again, but we anticipate it will be faster due to Serena’s well-developed ‘hearing brain.’
So our new journey is beginning, and we are optimistic that we will all adapt to the technology and are excited about the world of hearing awaiting Serena.
Along the way are many support systems, and some I have discovered through online searches. Thank goodness for the internet! I have connected with other parents and professionals on Facebook and elsewhere. One group in particular that has chapters throughout North America is Hands & Voices. I now belong to Alberta Hands & Voices and appreciate all the help and support of their Facebook group. They are a parent-driven support group that advocates for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.
No matter what bumps in the road we have, there are others to help us along. Has it been an easy year for us? No, it has been stressful and overwhelming, but by sharing this special story about my amazing daughter, maybe some of you will also find hope in difficult times.
**UPDATE** Serena had her surgery as scheduled on July 17 and all went well. She has fully recovered and is looking forward to our activation date, Aug 26, when the cochlear implant will be turned on. Thanks everyone for your kind comments and support.