Friday, June 15, 2001

My Teaching Career

The Professional Side of my CI Journey

I began my teaching career in 1975 with perfect hearing. I had a special education degree in emotional disturbances, but was hired as a resource teacher for learning disabled (LD) students. I got my first hearing aid in 1980 while teaching fulltime and working on my Masters in LD at night. At that time I had a mild loss in both ears and the audiologist had me decide which ear I want to try a hearing aid. Nowadays, I suspect that he would have recommended two aids. I chose my right ear, thinking that would free my left ear for the telephone and my right hand for writing.

I taught LD students from grades 1 through 11 (mostly elementary) over the next 10 years. My hearing gradually worsened but with the purchase of a more powerful aid about every 3 or 4 years, I managed well. Then my left ear (the unaided one) took a rapid nosedive. No explanations for the decline were forthcoming, despite several MRI’s and a round of steroid treatments.

I began using assistive devices when my right ear began to fail. My school system purchased an FM system, substituted an amplified telephone for the standard model, and installed a strobe light in my classroom for fire alarms. I gave an in-service on hearing impairment at the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year so the teachers and staff would be more aware of my situation and more prepared if and when they encountered HI students in their classrooms.

In January, 2000, after my annual hearing test which confirmed further loss in my right ear, my doctor suggested I consider a cochlear implant in my right (“good”) ear. I began the candidacy process at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in May, hoping that at this renowned facility they would consider implanting my left ear. The candidacy process took 3 months of visits, including a prom stem test that showed viability in my left auditory nerve. Yea!! Surgery was scheduled for my left (“bad”) ear for September 19, 2000.

Choosing which implant device among the 3 available brands was not a particularly difficult one for me. My husband Gerry, a retired electronics specialist for the Navy, felt that Advanced Bionics was technologically superior. Also, the support group available to me in northern Virginia was made up predominantly of AB users. It seemed to me that their advice regarding programming and rehab would be more useful if I had an Advanced Bionics implant.

Activation Day, October 19, 2000, was exactly one month after surgery. My return to teaching in January, 2001, was an incredible milestone, considering the demands of my specialty, phonics instruction, and the relatively short time of re-entry to the hearing world. My CI journey is like an advertisement slogan: it keeps getting better and better !