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That was then…This is now

                        Jan Kristo

                        Editor, Village-Wise Online Newsletter

                        University of Maine, Professor emerita

My name is Jan Kristo, and I was in denial for years about my hearing issue. My elderly aunt told me quite directly that I had a problem hearing. A dear friend, a colleague, and others chimed in to say, Jan, you can’t hear very well. Of course I could hear; I became defensive and changed the subject very quickly. After many years of denial and a change to an administrative position, I had to finally admit that I, perhaps, did have a little problem hearing.

My doctor did an informal hearing test, and when he asked if I heard the sound he was testing; I responded by saying, what sound? At that point, I admitted that something was wrong. After three formal hearing evaluations, it was time for hearing aids.  After two sets of hearing aids within three years, my audiologist said that I had a bigger issue than volume. She sent me to Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston.

My audiologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear did extensive testing of my hearing. The audiologist sat behind a glass partition, while I was in the testing room. I was so baffled that I wasn’t able to understand many words on the dictated list that it brought me to tears. I could hear a dictated word, but I couldn’t understand what the word was in order to repeat it. I was baffled and afraid of the implications and felt as though I just flunked a big test!

I learned that my hearing problem was most likely genetic and that volume was an issue, as well as clarity; that is not being able to understand spoken language. My left ear was weaker than my right. After much discussion, I decided to go through with surgery for a cochlear implant.

Having a cochlear implant on my left side and a hearing aid on my right side was not a panacea. However, there was a dramatic difference in my ability to hear and understand spoken language. I felt less socially isolated and more able to interact with the world, and that’s a very good thing.

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