No more hearing struggles
A retiree shares her journey towards getting a cochlear implant.
In her 20s, Audrey Heng suffered from deteriorating hearing which resulted in her having an operation on both ears. However, in her 40s, she experienced a sudden hearing loss on her right ear and had to rely on a hearing aid for her left ear. She learned to cope even though sometimes she found it hard to hear what people were saying.
But while travelling in the US and sightseeing with her sister when Audrey was 55 years old, she suffered vertigo and lost her hearing on her left ear. “It was a frightening experience having this happen and my world went eerily silent. I could hardly hear with the existing hearing aid after I lost my hearing,” she shared.
Her husband had to take leave in Singapore and fly to US to bring her home. She was then retrofitted with a new and more powerful hearing aid. The grandmother of two shared: “Before the sudden loss in my left ear hearing, my hearing level was about 70 percent with the hearing aid. After the US trip and fitted with a new powerful hearing aid, it was like 40 to 50 percent. It was a challenge to hear in a noisy environment.”
However, in the back of her mind, she was still concerned of losing her hearing on both ears as her thought was, “How was I going to engage with friends and attend bible study?” She added, “I was very active. What happens if my quality of life is bad? I was anxious and fearful.”
Audrey, 63, was urged to go for a cochlear implant at Singapore General Hospital, where Dr Barrie Tan was an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. She shared, “I was told that he could restore my hearing on the right to 50 percent. From zero to 50, that is a bonus!” She also heard from other patients who did cochlear implants and all this left her encouraged. In 2018, she did the implant surgery.
“When the device was first turned on, I could hear loud sounds and words from speech was not clear. The volume was a bit too loud for me and the audiologist had to subsequently tune it down to a comfortable level likely because the hearing senses in my ear were being reactivated and I could not get used to it at the beginning. My hearing improved thereafter after my brain adjusted and got used to the sound,” she said. It took eight months for her hearing to normalise.
She also still had the hearing aid on her left ear. “I could hear better as the sounds are more directional and balanced. Even my own voice is louder as compared to the past where I could hear only on my left ear with a hearing aid.” When things stabilised, she went travelling, which she enjoys, and saw the Northern Lights.
Asked if she is looking at having a cochlear implant for her left ear, she said: “I do not think it is necessary since I can still rely on the hearing aid to hear on my left.”
She added to others who are suffering from hearing loss: “I would advise them to seek help and consult an ENT to find out more about their conditions, whether hearing aids or a cochlear implant could be a better option for them. Ask yourself – do you want to live in the silent world for the rest of your life, feeling disconnected and missing out the meaningful conversations with family, loved one and friends? Do you want to burden and stress your family members, knowing that they will always be worried about you, needing help to communicate with the world? What about the onset of dementia due to prolonged disengagement with social peers and the world?
“Find out more about the hearing technologies in the market and then make informed choices that will improve your quality of life. We only live once. Leverage on the advancements in hearing technologies to help yourself so that you can live an independent, happy and quality life, knowing that your happiness will also permeate into the lives of your family and loved ones.”