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

What is it like having a new cochlear implant in a masked-up world? In many ways, receiving the implant during my gap year between undergraduate and graduate schools has been the most unexpected blessing.
Abbey (right) with her friends.

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Written By: Abbey Russell

What is it like having a new cochlear implant in a masked-up world? In many ways, receiving the implant during my gap year between undergraduate and graduate schools has been the most unexpected blessing. The timing was perfect and enabled me to heal and practice listening. At the same time, it has had a unique set of challenges and successes.

Videoconferencing and phone calls relay too much sensory information when I wear the implant, so I’ve often taken off my implant during an important call or interview. The implant starts beeping and stimulating my nerve like crazy to the point where I have no idea what was just said. In casual meetings, I try to wear the C.I. to gradually adjust.

While I still can’t hear 100 percent, the implant truly helps. With just the hearing aid, voices are completely muffled. The implant helps adds in some extra clarification by stimulating beeps for each consonant. It helps the muffled words have a beginning and end sound, rather than being just a slew of words. I’ve noticed that it’s easier to hear people who talk behind a mask better when I’m wearing my implant than when I don’t. Once my implant fell off into my hair at work, and I realized I could not pick up on what someone what saying in the room. However, put me in the drive-thru of my pharmacy to get a prescription, and I’m pretty hopeless trying to hear over the intercom with the masks. It’s a world of daily adventures!

Since I’ve moved to Indianapolis with my two amazing housemates, I’ve been able to test my implant out more in a real-life setting. From being able to hear the security alarm going off to hearing footsteps walking across the wooden floors, I’ve been able to pinpoint that my housemates were home. Interning in the hospital has allowed me to hear an influx of voices at once, allowing for more voice input than what I had experienced before.

At the hospital, I’ve continued to work on learning localization by creating my own little game when waiting for the elevators. The elevator beeps and flashes a red light to signal it’s ready. With just my hearing aid, I would spin in circles looking for where the sound is coming from. Since I have the implant now, I’ve been training my brain to work together with my hearing aid to find the location. I have worked on using only my hearing (not using visual cues) to test myself. As time has passed, my sense of hearing directionality has improved.

It’s in the little things, the little things that I’ve so long lived without and now I find myself searching for when the implant is off. Alarms, clearer voices, directionality, and the wonderful sound of an acoustic piano, my overall hearing seems to have been raised up a level in volume and clarity.

Thank you for sharing in my cochlear implant journey! Next stop: medical school this fall!

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 has kept a journal of her experiences for the past six months, since her implantation.

AG Bell has been honored to bring you Abbey’s Road and honored that Abbey has so generously shared her story with us to help us all understand a little better what life is like with a cochlear implant. Abbey continues to intern with AG Bell while also working in her local hospital. We wish Abbey great success and look forward to learning more about her journey living a life without limits!

For more information, please visit AG Bell here.

Abbey’s Road: un recorrido de la implantación coclear de Abbey

¿Qué se siente con un nuevo implante coclear en un mundo con mascarilla? En muchos sentidos, recibir el implante durante mi año sabático entre la etapa de pregrado y posgrado ha sido una bendición totalmente inesperada. El momento fue perfecto y me permitió recuperarme y practicar la escucha. Por otra parte, ha supuesto una serie única de retos y éxitos.

En las videoconferencias y llamadas telefónicas me llega demasiada información sensorial con el implante, por lo que me lo suelo quitar cuando se trata de una llamada o una entrevista importante. El implante comienza a pitar y a estimular el nervio en exceso hasta el punto de que no tengo idea de lo que se acaba de decir. En reuniones informales, trato de usar el I.C. para ajustarme gradualmente.

Si bien todavía no puedo escuchar al 100%, el implante realmente me sirve de ayuda. Con solo el audífono, las voces suenan completamente «apagadas». El implante añade una aclaración adicional al estimular pitidos para cada consonante. Ayuda a que las palabras apagadas tengan un sonido inicial y otro final, en lugar de ser solo un montón de palabras. He notado que me resulta más fácil oír a las personas cuando hablan a través de una mascarilla cuando llevo el implante que cuando no lo llevo. En una ocasión, estando en el trabajo, el implante se me enredó en el cabello y me di cuenta de que no podía captar lo que alguien decía en la sala. Sin embargo, cuando trato de obtener una receta en el servicio de recogida desde el automóvil (drive-thru) de la farmacia, me siento bastante impotente tratando de oír por el intercomunicador con las mascarillas. ¡Es un mundo de aventuras diarias!

Desde que me trasladé a vivir a Indianápolis con mis dos maravillosos compañeros de vivienda, he podido poner a prueba el implante con mayor frecuencia que en un entorno de la vida real. Como puedo oír cuando se activa la alarma de seguridad o los pasos de alguien que camina por los pisos de madera, puedo saber cuándo mis compañeros se encuentran en la vivienda. Las prácticas en el hospital me permiten oír una afluencia de voces a la vez, con una magnitud que nunca antes había experimentado.

En el hospital, he seguido trabajando en el aprendizaje de la localización creando mi propio pequeño juego mientras espero al elevador. Cuando llega, emite un pitido y una luz roja parpadea. Cuando utilizaba solo el audífono, debía girar en círculos para averiguar de dónde procedía el sonido. Desde que tengo el implante, entreno a mi cerebro para que trabaje con el audífono y encuentre la ubicación. Utilizo solo la audición (sin señales visuales) para ponerme a prueba. Con el paso del tiempo, ha mejorado mi sentido de direccionalidad auditiva.

El secreto reside en las pequeñas cosas, sin las que he vivido durante tanto tiempo y que ahora me encuentro buscando cuando el implante está apagado. Alarmas, voces más claras, direccionalidad y el maravilloso sonido de un piano acústico… tengo la impresión que mi audición general ha subido de nivel en volumen y claridad.

¡Gracias por compartir mi trayectoria con el implante coclear! Próxima parada: ¡facultad de medicina este otoño!

Abbey Russell es una graduada universitaria de 23 años que se está preparando para entrar en la facultad de medicina. Después de 19 años con sordera en el oído izquierdo y una pérdida auditiva en el derecho, Abbey tomó la decisión de someterse a una cirugía de implante coclear. Desde el implante que tuvo lugar hace seis meses, Abbey escribe un diario sobre sus experiencias.

AG Bell ha tenido el honor de presentarles Abbey’s Road y de que Abbey haya compartido tan generosamente su historia con nosotros para ayudarnos a comprender un poco mejor cómo es la vida con un implante coclear. Abbey continúa realizando sus prácticas en AG Bell mientras trabaja en un hospital local. ¡Le deseamos a Abbey un gran éxito y esperamos conocer más sobre su recorrido viviendo una vida sin límites!

Para mas infomación, visite a AG Bell International aquí.

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