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Life with Hearing Loss, by Christine Menzies, Outreach Worker for Hearing Help Essex 

I was born deaf, my mum had German measles while she was pregnant and this was probably what caused it.

I starting wearing a body pack NHS hearing aid that had wires that went to each ear from age five and had very little speech up till then.  I never learnt sign language because the school that I went to wouldn’t allow sign language. As soon as I could hear a little with my hearing aids I started to speak more.

I could hear noise, but I couldn’t really keep up with conversations or lessons and relied heavily on lip reading.   When I was 14 years old, I received behind the ear hearing aids which I was really pleased with because in the past everyone could see my hearing aid and would treat me as if I was stupid.

Throughout my life I struggled with low confidence due to not being able to understand people. Even keeping up with conversations with my friends and family was impossible and I was forever getting things wrong.

In later life I noticed my hearing was getting worse so I went for a hearing test at my local hospital and was referred to London for a cochlear implant. I was very apprehensive as I was scared but I went for a consultation and assessment. When I was tested they wanted to fit the implant to my best ear but I had too much hearing in that ear so failed to meet the criteria. I was very upset and disappointed.

For the next few months I got depressed and was struggling to cope with my hearing loss.

I went back to my local hospital and was referred to another hospital in Cambridge to see if I could have an implant. When I went for the consultation I asked if I could have the implant done on my bad ear and when I had the tests done they said I had been accepted and could have it done if my cochlear was ok . I went for an X ray and it was ok to go ahead.     

I had the operation in August 2012 which lasted an hour and a half. I was allowed home the same day, I had a small scar about 2 inches long behind my ear which no one can see.  Once the scar healed after six weeks I went back to hospital to have my cochlear implant switched on.  At first it sounded very robotic but it didn’t last very long.  My husband spoke to me for first time with my implant on and I was shocked to hear that he had a lovely voice.   All those years I relied on people expression on their faces.

I had to learn all the new sounds that I could now hear.   It took me about six months to get used to it and quite often had to ask people where noises were coming from in supermarkets and shops and outside etc.   It was like having to learn to listen all over again and was so exciting for me to hear so many new things.

People that know me have noticed that my speech has improved so much because I can hear myself and I can understand conversations even when there is a group of people, something I would never have been able to do before. When people speak to me now I can get what they are saying first time. 

In the past I never wanted anyone to know that I was deaf because I was fed up with people treating me as if I was stupid.    Now I am not ashamed to say I am deaf, it took me 50 years to accept that, I am proud of myself and of what I have achieved. My confidence has improved so much since I had my implant.

I now have a job with Hearing Help Essex which is a charity that helps people to cope with their hearing loss problems.    I still do a little lip-reading because I want to make sure I heard it correct.

This was the best thing I ever did having a Cochlear implant and it has certainly changed my life.

To learn more about how a Cochlear implant works, why not read this interesting article from our friends at Hearing Link?