Feeling confident about yourself and having support is extremely important when trying to overcome any challenge in life! Samantha has faced many moments of tirelessly working at her hearing, like so many of us do. I wanted the portrait to show her confidence, as if she’s able to listen to the new sounds from her cochlear implant and fully enjoy what she can now hear, just like when she’s playing the game of Marco Polo. Without fear, just pure joy!
My story begins at two years old when I was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in both ears and immediately fit with hearing aids. This process for my parents was tough. They always thought something was off but couldn’t pinpoint what exactly their little girl was missing. It was sound.
After I was fit with hearing aids I was put into a total communication program where I learned both sign language and spoken language to help me learn to listen and talk with my new hearing aids. The school used this giant teddy bear to help me learn my name and other vocabulary in sign. In the picture I shared, I am signing my name, “Samantha”. It looks similar to the ASL sign for “work”. My mom says I had a huge increase in communication and by the time I was 5 years old I was in a mainstream classroom with my normal hearing peers. I attended my neighborhood middle school & high school and I loved playing soccer, softball, and volleyball.
When I was 12, I got a new pair of hearing aids. These were digital and had more bells and whistles (digital). I heard birds for the first time. But one thing my parents noticed, even with all of the crazy amount of energy I had, I was still fatigued at the end of the day. I worked twice as hard to listen and keep up with schoolwork. It was exhausting. I just didn’t know it.
I had been thinking about getting a cochlear implant for a long time. People always asked “Have you thought about getting an implant?”. My response was usually a blushing “not now” answer. I always figured, I do great with my hearing aids. That being said, I am often fatigued by the end of the day, and I knew, with an implant, I could improve my quality of life so much more.
I began my cochlear implant (CI) journey after a series of testing determined that I would perform better with a bionic ear. Over the years I began to struggle to keep up with the demands of work, clinical rotations, and studying. Classmates & faculty brought it to my attention that a cochlear implant might benefit me. My answer always was, no way! Honestly, this was fear talking. As I completed my cochlear implant rotations I experienced the amazing impact the cochlear implant had on the patient’s lives. Due to some down time during my externship year I decided to make the bold decision to receive a cochlear implant for my left ear.
In six months my word understanding went from less than 4% to 88%! I can talk on the phone, I can hear people talking in the next room, I can understand conversations without reading their lips, my hearing has never been better! And most excitingly I can hear in the water for the first time! I no longer fear the game of Marco Polo.
My journey doesn’t end here as living with hearing loss is a lifelong journey, but as long one has support and confidence nothing can stop them.
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