“The cochlear implant had a huge impact on my mental well-being. I insist on wearing my sound processor all the time.”
At the age of 72, retired sociologist Karin decided to get a cochlear implant hearing solution to overcome severe hearing loss in her left ear. She admits that the rehabilitation process has been tough but her perseverance has been rewarded by a great improvement in her hearing and her outlook on life.
Karin first started losing her hearing in 1967. At that time, she was working in an office and had noticed that it had become difficult to hear when speaking on the phone. Her hearing loss quickly got worse and just a year later she was struggling to even hear the phone ringing.
In 1968 she was fitted with conventional hearing aids on both ears. This helped her in daily life but didn’t slow the steady decline in her hearing function. In 2014 her hearing loss was so severe, her hearing team suggested she try a cochlear implant on her left ear.
”At that time I’d had good experiences with the Oticon devices. They always gave the most flowing and comfortable sound and never left me tired. But Oticon didn’t have a cochlear implant solution so I decided to wait until they did.”
Oticon Medicals first CI solution
In 2015 Oticon Medical launched Neuro, their first cochlear implant solution, and Karin was ready to try it – not least for the sake of her family.
”I’ve got two small granddaughters and I was struggling to hear their tiny high-pitched voices. Because they’re small children, they never considered my hearing loss when they spoke, which made it difficult.”
Getting a cochlear implant solution was not a decision that she took lightly as it involves surgery and months of rehabilitation. However, Karin was ready to take on the challenge. In the weeks up to the surgery, her only worry was the anesthetic but when she arrived at the hospital the night before, her nerves disappeared completely.
”The staff at Gentofte Hospital treated me so well and the entire experience was worry-free – even the food was good. After the surgery I felt fine. There was no pain or issues of any kind and I went home again the day after. In fact, the biggest issue was the fact they shaved my head around the implant. They’re certainly not trained hairdressers at the hospital,” she jokes.
Rehabilitation and speech understanding
With the implant in place, the next step was to get the sound processor and start the rehabilitation process to help adapt to the new sound picture. At Gentofte Hospital they have a very extensive rehabilitation program at the “Communication Centre” that Karin is following. The amount of rehabilitation required came as a surprise to Karin but slowly but surely she started to see progress.
"When the sound processor was first fitted 4 weeks after surgery, it sounded like I was in a pigsty or in a farmyard full of geese. I couldn’t believe it. It was actually quite a shock. But it did improve. After six days it had become comfortable to hear with the sound processor but I still couldn’t distinguish the words. Then after a couple of weeks it all changed and I could hear words. One month after it was fitted, my boyfriend read to me from a book and I listened – just with the cochlear implant – and I could understand it! I remember thinking, why on earth has he chosen that book?”
From that moment, the progress has been impressive and today Karin wears her cochlear implant sound processor all the time – at home, when she’s out and about and even when exercising at the gym.
A wider range of sounds
”With the cochlear implant, I feel I can hear a much greater variety of sound. For example, I can distinguish foreign languages when watching Swedish or English TV programs. I can also focus better on speech even if there’s background noise as the sounds don’t run into each other as they do with a normal hearing aid. There’s a remarkable difference.”
Karin had a very nice experience at a party recently where she was able to have a conversation with the person next to her, while 15 other people were in the room. This was clearly a huge change for her, since having the implant.
Her new-found hearing has affected more than just speech understanding. ”The cochlear implant had a huge impact on my mental well-being. I insist on wearing my sound processor all the time. I put it on straight away in the morning and now my brain adapts in under a minute. This process took much longer in the beginning.”
With the help of the cochlear implant solution Karin can also hear and communicate with her grandchildren, ”I’m able to answer their many questions and can keep up with their conversations even though they tend to go off in all directions.”
Karin is the first to admit that it has been tough to adjust to the cochlear implant, “It’s taken a lot of energy to use the cochlear implant but each time the settings are adjusted I get more out of it. I now understand more with the cochlear implant than I do with the hearing aid. It’s been mentally challenging but without a doubt worth it.”