Your son, Michael, will never be able to hear, speak, or do the things a normal hearing person would do,” my parents were told. I was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf at the age of fifteen months. My world seemed as if it had come to a narrow passage with very limited opportunities. However, it was the beginning of something unforeseen and beyond normal. All future dreams and visions seemed shattered, but they were actually expanding to a whole new dimension a normal-hearing person would never experience.
I was the first child to receive the Cochlear™ Nucleus® 22 Implant in Dallas, Texas, USA at the age of two in 1991, and since then I have thrived in the hearing world thanks to a team of family members, audiologists, auditory-verbal therapists, and Cochlear. I have upgraded multiple times over the years. With each upgrade, I experienced new sounds and adventures. Cochlear technology enabled me to push myself to do more such as appreciate music, talk on the phone, make the high honor roll in school, graduate college, travel, kick start my career, and receive an MBA.
I will celebrate my 25 year anniversary with the Nucleus 22 Implant in June. It has been an incredible journey filled with many “a-ha” and “wow” moments. The very first sound processor I had was the Mini Speech Processor (MSP). It was considered “mini” because the previous generation sound processor (Wearable Speech Processor) was rather quite large by today’s standards. It had a bodyworn processor that rested on my hip and connected to a behind-the-ear microphone via a long cord that ran up from the waist to the ear. The behind-the-ear microphone was about the size of what the Nucleus 6 Sound Processor is today. Isn’t it amazing how far we have come? It took something as big as the size of today’s sound processor just for the microphone back in the day! I used this speech processor during my toddler years. It helped me discover the world of sound and begin my journey to listen and talk.
After the Mini Speech Processor, I upgraded to the Spectra 22 Speech Processor. It comprised of a bodyworn processor connecting to a behind-the-ear microphone via a long cord very much like the Mini Speech Processor. It was tough and withstood many of my crazy shenanigans as a young boy such as completely dropping my Spectra 22 Speech Processor in a Colorado mountain river, and it still worked! I had this speech processor the longest; it very much became a big part of my life. I depended on it, and it supported me like no other technological device. In a way, I grew up with this speech processor.
Right before I entered high school, I upgraded to one of my favorite sound processors, the ESPrit™ 3G Sound Processor. It was completely behind-the-ear, the first of its kind I got to experience. Long gone were the days of struggling to tuck in my shirt because the long cord that attached my behind-the-ear microphone to the bodyworn processor was placed underneath my shirt. This sound processor was much more discreet, which served me well as I was a bit more vain going into high school. I used this sound processor for seven years. It gave me so much more comfort and flexibility throughout my high school and college years. I could not have made it as well as I did without this high-performing sound processor.
Shortly after I started working for Cochlear in 2010, I was still using my ESPrit 3G Sound Processor. I loved this sound processor and felt no desire to upgrade. Plus, I was a bit nervous about the upgrade as I heard that it might be a challenging upgrade. Little did I know what I had in store. After much encouragement from my mentor and work leader, René, I tried the Freedom® Sound Processor upgrade. I couldn’t believe how well I could hear with this upgrade from the get-go and how many new sounds I could hear with it. It was like I had a hearing loss with my previous sound processor, and all of a sudden, I could hear so much more with the Freedom Sound Processor. The upgrade was nowhere near challenging to which to transition; I had absolutely nothing to worry about this upgrade. This sound processor was the first all digital sound processor with which I ever heard. My previous sound processors used analog processing technology. I could not believe the sounds I was picking up with this new sound processor. For example, I always could always subtly hear the fizzing out of a soda pop can with my previous sound processors. With the Freedom upgrade, I couldn’t believe how loud the fizzing was after opening the can. Not only that, the fizzing continued for many minutes afterwards–I had no idea! So I learned an important lesson here: Do not be afraid of upgrades as they bring about very exciting, new sounds and experiences.
Fast forward nearly five years, the Nucleus 6 for Nucleus 22 launched. Naturally, I had to upgrade to this sound processor immediately. One particular area that I struggled in was hearing in noisy environments. I got an all-new noise program with my Nucleus 6 Sound Processor, and I could not believe how well I could hear in noisy environments. Instantly, my confidence to join a lunch meeting or a dinner in a noisy café or restaurant skyrocketed. I no longer felt the sense of dread when I received an invitation.
Just recently, for the first time in my entire life, I heard in water with the Cochlear Nucleus Aqua+. Growing up, anytime I jumped into the pool, took swimming lessons, or vacationed at the beach, I always had to remove my external sound processor and returned to a silent world. Currently, I am doing a secondment at the global Cochlear headquarters in Sydney, Australia. One weekend, I took surfing lessons for the first time and used the Aqua+. I could hear the instructor who was behind me; this would have never happened had I not had the Aqua+. It was remarkable to hear the waves crashing and the birds chirping from above–all while in the water! This is something that I really wish I had growing up, but I am even more thankful to have it now.
One other thing that I treasure in my life is the gift of hearing music. There are very few things that I appreciate more than music. With the Nucleus 6 upgrade, I got the Cochlear Wireless Phone Clip and the Remote Assistant. The music is so clear through the Phone Clip. Best of all, there are no wires. I spend many hours cranking out reports and presentations at my desk. I simply place the Phone Clip next to my keyboard and jam to music all day long. It is pure bliss! When I am traveling, it can be awfully noisy on the plane. So I whip out my Remote Assistant, and I adjust the mixing ratio so that I can completely eliminate sound coming through the microphones and completely focus on the sounds streaming through the Phone Clip. It is like having the world’s best noise-cancelling headphones. Last but not least, the Nucleus 6 Sound Processor is the most comfortable and discreet sound processor I have ever owned. It is incredible.
After receiving the Cochlear Graeme Clark Scholarship, I worked as a summer marketing intern with Cochlear Americas based in Centennial, CO, USA, the very company responsible for enabling me to grow up in a world of sound. I am now a Marketing Manager where I have the honor and privilege to manage Nucleus Sound Processor upgrades, recipient communications and Cochlear Celebration events.