How Cochlear implants have changed my life

If life gives you lemons, you make lemonade right? As humans we change to adapt to whatever lemons are thrown our way. We all have our adversities and how we overcome those hardships, defines who we are. This is my story, my adversity, my struggles and how I’m trying to squeeze as much lemons as I can!

When I was 17 I thought I had it all figured out. I would go to Europe and play professional soccer somewhere and be happily ever after… but the lemons 
started to come my way. Life isn’t always simple right?

In high school I never really tried to do well as far as keeping my grades up, or even trying to get good SAT scores. At that time I thought maybe joining the Marines could be a good thing for me. I had my high school soccer coach guiding me through it as he was a former Marine and it sounded something that I could actually enjoy and maybe even make a career out of it.
More lemons… During my initiation process, I fail my physical, more specifically, my hearing test. The ride home from the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) felt like forever. I was shocked as I didn’t realize my hearing was that bad.

My parents took me to see an audiologist to get to the root of the problem. After the tests were done, I indeed had some hearing less, specifically the higher pitch tones.

“So I can’t hear high pitch tones, beeps or whatever, doesn’t matter” I told my parents at the time, “I’m going to be a professional soccer player anyways”.

I traveled back home to Brazil to tryout professionally but in the end I just wasn’t as good as I thought I was and quickly realized that my dream was over before it even started. After some spending time with some family for a couple of months I moved back to the U.S. and enrolled at a local college and start my education.

At the time of my enrollment, I was still learning more about my inability of hearing at a normal level and didn’t think twice about as my college experience began.

My high school grades were below par, in fact, I barely graduate high school and it’s something that now looking back it was pretty irresponsible. Due to that fact, the first couple of semesters at St. Petersburg College were intro courses that didn’t even count as college credits. Some of these course were pretty easy to say the least and time went by pretty fast as I was enjoying spending times with new friends I was making in my classes.

Once the real classes began, I begin to noticed that things gotten harder rather quickly and I struggled every day. In American Government class, we had a group assignment and during that time I realized how lost I was in comparison to the other students in my group. How did I miss that lecture?

When did our professor talk about this subject? It dawned on me that I wasn’t hearing and understanding my professor in American Government as well all the other 4 courses I was studying. Anxiety kicked in and I was really lost and in a way embarrassed. Shortly after our first grades came out, despite trying my hardest to study and understand the subject, I was failing my classes. 
Instead of seeking for help, I quit college.

Cochlear implants were first introduced in the 60’s but the reaction from scientific community was negative due to lack of experimental trials and the risk of inner ear damage to patients. I first heard about the surgery through a co-worker of mine and did some research and I felt optimistic about the surgery as it was relatively “new” to the medical community.

In 2006 I purchased a pair of hearing aid and I was very excited to try on a device that could possibly change my life as my hearing was getting progressively worse (I was first diagnosed with about a 60% hearing loss). 
The device, which was a custom mold, was cumbersome to wear and it didn’t really help me hear the everyday noises and pitches that makes me such a shy and reserved person. After about a year or so I stopped wearing them and never looked back.

A couple of years ago, I was offered a good insurance package through my workplace in which I decided to take on and the first thing I asked my H.R. representative was the cost of hearing aids and to my surprise, my insurance would cover 100% of the cost.

I made an appointment with an audiologist and after the initial test she tells me that the device she sells wouldn’t help me. All of my high pitch decibels were gone and I’m comprehending speech at a 7% level.

My doctor then recommended to see a group of doctors at Tampa General that specializes in Cochlear Implant Surgery.

I was nervous at first and after all the testings I decided to go on with the surgery.

My life after Cochlear surgery has been interesting to say the least. I get people to stare at the back of my head, where I now have an attachment that is connected through a magnet that connects to a metal plate that is inserted in the back of my head. I don’t really mind since it’s been a journey that has completely changed my life since. Do I hear at 100% like most people do? No.

But it has improved my life drastically ever since. I now hear sounds that I could never hear in the past such as smoke alarms (how annoying they are!), microwave beeps, and even my cat meowing. I could never in words try to explain exactly what I hear through my right ear (planning on having surgery on my left ear soon), but it’s like learning a new language. I still struggle at loud settings such as bars, and I still have to read peoples lips at times to fully comprehend conversations but I’m thrilled with the way they work and the impact they have in my life.

Cochlear implants have boosted my confidence to be more social and have less anxiety trying new things. I also enrolled in at Suncoast Developers Guild where I’m currently trying to learn how to be a software developer. Something that I would never have the courage to do without the surgery. I still struggle in class as I don’t comprehend everything that my instructors teach. Everyday in class I learn something new and I’m proud of that and I’m also learning about myself as well.

Lastly, I think I have problems connecting with people because I don’t understand part of conversations but a few years ago I met someone wonderful in my life and she’s been a huge factor in my decision to get the surgery as she’s been there for me every step of the way. I can say that our relationship has vastly improved since and we’ll be getting married at the end of 2018.

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