"When I first put the Ponto Pro on, I felt like a kid at Christmas."
When Kristine Siwek, a successful medical device sales representative, was seven months pregnant, her doctors diagnosed an acoustic neuroma tumor. Within eight weeks of her diagnosis, she had lost all remaining hearing in her left ear from the effects of the tumor and suffered from numerous complications from the severe brainstem compression. She delivered a healthy baby boy pre-term in order to have the surgery that saved her life. A bone anchored hearing implant helped her to regain the hearing she thought was gone forever.
Name: Kris Siwek
Profession: Medical Sales Representative
Indication: Single-sided deafness after removal of a large benign tumor on her hearing nerve (Acoustic Neuroma).
Sound processor: Ponto Pro
Becoming deaf in one ear
“When I first experienced hearing loss, the change was so slight, I wondered if my ear was temporarily plugged up or if it was something else that would go away in a short while. Initially, I just switched my phone to the other ear and continued on with my life, but the hearing never returned. Little did I expect that the cause was an acoustic neuroma and within eight weeks of my diagnosis, I would experience single-sided deafness” explains Kris.
“Deafness in one ear is such a profound experience. It is so isolating – no one can see the disability and they expect you to perform naturally. And you can’t.
The hardest part for me was bringing my son, Parker, home from the hospital and worrying that I wouldn’t be able to hear him. It was heartbreaking for me to not know if my son was crying and needed his mother.
I also found it difficult being out and about in public and even with friends. I was constantly trying to figure out which side to sit on or where to stand so I could hear and be present in the conversation. I would smile and agree and have no idea what I had just agreed to. I felt that people were tired of me asking, “What?” “Excuse me?” and I was so exhausted trying to be involved that I would just give up asking”, Kris continues.
“I would memorize answers. If I was going to the grocery store, I knew they would routinely ask if I’d prefer my groceries packed in plastic or paper. So I would pre-empt the question or if they asked first, I would be ready with my answer. I had an infant son and of course, people were constantly stopping me to admire him and ask questions. So I had answers ready before they asked: “He’s a boy and he’s six weeks old.” “His name is Parker.” “He’s my first child.” Other times, people would speak to me on my “blind side” and would just stare at me, expecting an answer. I’m sure they thought I was being rude.
When I was driving with my husband and sitting in the passenger seat, it would be so hard trying to hear. The fatigue on my neck trying to angle around so I could hear was a strain. What a relief to have my Ponto Pro. I still automatically swing around my “good” ear and have to remind myself that I don’t have to do that anymore” says Kris.
My Ponto treatment
“I received my Ponto Pro four months after my craniotomy. The surgery was very easy. I just had to care for the wound site while it healed and then my Ponto Pro was fitted three months later.
When I first put the Ponto Pro on, I felt like a kid at Christmas. I was in tears. I just wanted to go out in the world and have people talk to me. I couldn’t believe I could pick up sounds on my deaf side. I was startled by sounds I had forgotten were there. After only one year, I had forgotten so many of the everyday sounds people with normal hearing hear all the time. I was so thrilled, I made my surgeon give me a hug!”
A newfound freedom
“Just knowing that I don’t have to compensate for my “blind spot” is so freeing. Now I can hear the sounds Parker makes when I’m holding him and feeding him. When he wakes up or is making little sounds in the backseat of the car, I can hear him.
You don’t realize what you’ve missed until you start hearing things again like footsteps or running water or the sound my dog’s paws make when we’re out walking on the pavement.
At least once a day, I cover my good ear and am blown away by the things I can pick up with my Ponto Pro. It’s very comfortable and I wear it all day except when I’m showering. Most of the time, I don’t even know that I have it on.
No one notices it. But I’m proud of it. I’m happy to answer questions about my Ponto Pro. I guess I think it’s silly to have any kind of stigma about wearing it. It has made such a positive difference in my life. I just think the technology is amazing. I want to share information about it so that I might be able to help someone like me who could be using it right now” says Kris.
Getting it the first time
“I feel that I need my Ponto Pro as much for my family as for myself. I’m 29 years old. I have a long time ahead of me and to live in the darkness of no sound would be just as much a loss for husband and son as it would be for me. Now my husband doesn’t have to sit on a specific side. He doesn’t have to make the extra effort to confirm that I’ve heard him. I have to remind him, “Michael, you don’t have to check with me anymore – I can hear you now!” He can even talk to me from across a room” Kris explains.
Why I chose Ponto Pro
“I did a lot research and I literally didn’t make up my mind for a month or two before I chose Ponto Pro. As a person in medical sales, I felt it my duty to research my options. Since bone anchored hearing solutions are implantable devices, I did not make my decision lightly. I talked to surgeons, patients, and company representatives. There is no question that I made the right choice with Ponto Pro. I told my doctor, “I want the most advanced, newest technology out there.” In the end, I chose the Ponto Pro for its performance, ease of use, attachment mechanism and commitment to technological advancements. I like the look of Ponto Pro and the ease of use. I wanted a device that I could touch and easily reach the button. I love my Ponto Pro!
I’m telling everyone about my Ponto Pro. I am part of an online community of people with acoustic neuromas on the Acoustic Neuroma Association’s website. I am one of the first to get the new Ponto Pro.
I hear so many stories from the members of my community about the problems they’ve had with other bone anchored hearing devices - sending them back for repair or dealing with feedback issues. They can’t believe I’ve had no problems with Ponto Pro!”
Confidence on the job
“I am a salesperson for a medical device company and I’ll be returning to work from my maternity and recovery leaves soon. Just a few months ago, I had no idea how I would ever go back to work and be able to do my job. Having my Ponto Pro just gives me another layer of confidence in my ability to do my job right.
I think this whole process has helped me to understand that hearing loss is not just something you deal with as you grow older. You never know what path your life will take. There is such a sense of finality when you are told you are going to be deaf. It seems mind-blowingly permanent. Just to know there is an option I could pursue gave me the hope to keep pushing forward. If my story can help ease the fear of people and spread that awareness, I’m all for it” Kris concludes.