Anyone that knows me professionally knows that I have a passion for bringing teens/tween together who have hearing loss. WHY? Because there is comfort in knowing others share a similar challenge. In 1999, I had the idea to start a peer mentor group (Hit It! Hearing Impaired Teens Interacting Together). Why? Because I did not want others to think that they were ALONE and the ONLY ONE with hearing loss in the whole world. Believe me, when you are a teen and no one else you know has hearing loss, it can be isolating. With 20 years and counting of facilitating this group, I observed many tweens/teens connect and become more confident because they realize that they are not the one and only. There is power in #peermentors and #sameselfpeers.
Fast forward 20 years and I am on a new hearing journey and renewing in myself the importance of connecting with same self-peers. In this blog, I want to share how incredibly thankful I am for the many Audiologists with Hearing Loss Friends (AuD w/ HL friends!) You all know who you are and know that you play an important piece of this journey.
Do you ever have that little voice inside of your head that tells you to do something? Whether you believe in a higher power or it is a little voice inside your head; I think most of you know what I am talking about.
One of the greatest things about being an audiologist with hearing loss is that I have met many #sameselfpeers in my professional life. These AuD w/HL friends have become instant connections in my life. Several years ago, I heard the little voice in my head tell me, “ask what they think about a cochlear implant and their experience”. My AuD with HL friends willingly share, and I would be in awe of their response. At that time, I was just curious. Fast forward another year, and the little voice told me, “ask deeper questions, ask how they made a decision, chose a surgeon and cochlear implant audiologist, chose a device, recovery from surgery, and aural rehabilitation therapy”. My AuD w HL friends would willingly share and again, I was in awe of their response. Fast forward to this current year, and the little voice inside my head told me “ask these AuD w/HL friends for unfiltered advice about the whole process and SHARE that you are taking the leap to make an appointment for yourself”.
The day before my scheduled assessment, I sent a group message to some of my closest AuD w HL friends and immediately a flood of responses!!! What a relief to know that there are others who have gone through the process and willing to share their own personal journey and still recognize that mine will be my own. Being an audiologist and on the professional side of the CI journey, I have been empowered with research, advancements, training, and experiencing results with those I am blessed to work with. However, when it is YOU experiencing the patient journey, it is a whole new perspective. My questions quickly changed to how this is going to impact ME, not the statistics and results in the literature. My AuD w HL friends were able to give FIRST hand direction about preparing my mind for this process, questions to ask when I went for my initial consultation, what to expect at the consultation, why it is important to have my husband (and other family) in the testing room, how to cope when things are not going as planned, making sure the surgeon and CI audiologist are willing to communicate and answer questions, getting second opinions, defining expectations and hopes, enjoying the experience, getting dizzy, recovering with a recliner, taking it easy, the initial mapping (not like those YouTube videos that bring tears to our eyes), tips on learning a “new language” and therapy, and returning to work. As you can see by the array of questions, my mind goes in many different directions about the entire process from the beginning to what to expect years from now. It is also incredibly encouraging to know that I can count on my AuD friends w/HL throughout the entire process. I know that I am going to have ups and downs. I know this is going to be a process. I know that I am going to have moments when I am down and scared. I know that I am going to have small and big moments of celebration. Being able to reach out to those who are in my shoes is both comforting and encouraging.
Going through this process, I am reminded about how important it is to reach out to others who share similar experiences AND I am also reminded about how important it is to be vulnerable and share your own experiences. We all have life events which may take us on a different path. What is YOURS? Who do YOU need to reach out to for support? Who can YOU support?