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Abbey’s Road – A Journey Through Abbey’s Cochlear Implantation

Abbey Russell is a 23-year-old college graduate who is preparing to enter medical school. After 19 years of deafness in her left ear and hearing loss in the right, Abbey made the decision to undergo cochlear implant surgery.
Abbey and her best friend, Theresa, on an apple picking adventure.

Written By: Abbey Russell

Abbey Russell is a 23-year-old college graduate who is preparing to enter medical school. After 19 years of deafness in her left ear and hearing loss in the right, Abbey made the decision to undergo cochlear implant surgery. Abbey is keeping a journal of her experiences, and AG Bell recognizes Abbey’s generosity in sharing her story to help others on this journey understand some of the joys and challenges of adapting to a cochlear implant.

Implantation Day

My mom and I woke up at 4:00 am in the morning to make it in time to the University of Michigan operating rooms. She is a literal angel!

After I was discharged, my mom wheeled me out to the car. My head was wrapped in gauze, and I was so pale. I was extremely dizzy coming out of the car. Anytime I rose up, the room would spin. One tip I would recommend for someone receiving a C.I. surgery, would be to always touch something for balance and move slowly.

My pain was pretty wicked, and we had to call for stronger pain meds. Once those were in my system, it became more bearable. I ate soft foods since chewing hurt, drank Sierra Mist when my stomach was sore, drank a lot of water, and iced my ear when it would swell. I slept in a recliner to keep my head raised to decrease swelling.

My first week was the hardest for me, but after I got through those long nights, things improved. I found joy in going on (slow and careful) walks outside and spending time with my animals. You just have to push through and take each day one day at a time.

Activation Day!

Activation day came three weeks later. I should note that due to my ear being deaf for 19 years, it does not recognize words. However, the audiologist said I had more range than expected!

The “sounds” don’t feel like sounds, because they aren’t like the sounds you experience through hearing. They’re loud and overwhelming bells and electrical noises. Each sound reverberates, but this stops when the sounds stop.

It was about a week after activation that I first cried. There are a lot of hopes, expectations, healing, finances, and time going into this decision. Wearing the implant has been exhausting and oh-so-hard to describe to others. As much as I am optimistic, I also want to point out how difficult it has been. I know things will continue to improve. It is a process. It’s okay to mourn through struggle because it is unlike anything I’ve experienced.

After the first week of getting used to the implant, I celebrated my sister Bethany’s birthday and spent time with friends! I’m so blessed to have such wonderful support in my life.

Three weeks after activation, I took off my cochlear implant and realized that I missed it! To me, this was the greatest sign of improvement. I noticed that there were two “sounds” that I liked with the implant: music and my voice. My left ear hasn’t “felt” my voice for 19 years, so it is kind of sweet that my own voice stimulates my ear. I have started to play piano again, and I feel that the implant, paired with the hearing aid, embodies a fuller sound. Here’s to continuing to learning what sounds the screeches and beeps represent!

(Left) Abbey and her sister, Bethany, enjoying some hot coffee. (Right) Abbey alongside her horse, Sonny.

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