Kathlyn Maguire


Cochlear Implant Success Story

I was in denial for 40 years. I was too embarrassed to acknowledge the fact that I had a major hearing loss; and I was too afraid to accept the fact that hearing aids just didn't seem to work for me. It was a double whammy that I elected not to face… at least until I absolutely had to.

In my early teens, I was overnight at a friend's house when we both realized I had trouble hearing her with the lights off. That was the beginning. It wasn't as though I couldn't hear, it was more a comprehension problem. I heard people speaking to me, but it became increasingly difficult to understand what they were saying. I was able to stay in denial because I didn't want to believe that my inability to comprehend the words was, in itself, a hearing problem.

Through the years, I thought I was fortunate to have friends who would act as "enablers" in helping me with business meetings, phone calls and committee work. I didn't realize then that, because of their "help," I was less inclined to seek out the technical hearing assistance I needed. My career was public relations, which of course was based on the kind of communication skills that I found most difficult. In spite of my excellent speech reading skills, I was a disaster waiting to happen. Everyone knew I had to work twice as hard just to get things straight. They all had advice for me - acupuncturists, chiropractors, holistic health centers - which I followed to the point where I felt I was suffering more from the so-called "solutions" than from the problem itself.

I did try hearing aids - on several occasions. They were all enormously expensive and difficult to program. Then, too, they beeped in the most mortifying ways. I was told by audiologists that I needed to give the aids more of a chance… I was given to believe that it was my fault for not trying hard enough!

I moved to Florida in 1988 when my husband passed away. By the year 2000, I was desperate. I was diagnosed with profound hearing loss, and my friends were totally frustrated with my refusal to accept my condition and do something about it. When I saw that I was losing my friends, I became terrified. The isolation was unbearable. I'd never been so alone ... I contemplated suicide ... and I prayed.

Not long after that, I was approached with the suggestion that I might be a candidate for a cochlear implant. It was one thing to be a candidate - it turned out that I was - and quite another to agree to the surgery. I met with Dr. Thomas Balkany and his team at the University of Miami. I was told that I would lose my residual hearing in exchange for the sound the implant would provide. There were no guarantees, but I was blessed with great faith in Dr. Balkany and his team. I chose to implant my good ear. It was April 2001.

When audiologist Jack King hooked me up in May, I freaked out… the sounds I heard were like percolating bubbles. I was sure I'd made the worst mistake of my life! Then gradually, over the next days, I began to make some sense of it. Talking out loud to myself mostly. Then, within a week, I had a real phone conversation. My adorable grandson couldn't get over how different I sounded. Everyone was talking about my voice - better modulated. Their voices sounded different to me, too - more electronic…kind of computerized. But did I care??? No way!!

There are really no words to express how wonderful it is to be able to call family and friends for a periodic catch-up, or sit in a committee meeting and understand what's being said. I really love talking on the phone, listening to the radio and watching television without captions. I love the ads. There's one advertisement that never failed to grab my attention durring those years. It featured the man from Verizon… "Can you hear me now?" he asked. I always responded with a laugh and a “Yes, sir, I can hear you now.”

Now, I am part of a team that has produced a public service message campaign called "Empowerment Through Hearing." The purpose of this campaign is to eliminate the stigma against hearing loss. It targets the millions of Americans who are experiencing denial or lack of awareness. Its mission is to help others in a way that I couldn't help myself.

For more information please see www.cochlearimplants.org