by Patricia Eastwood
To some, it may not seem like the experience of a lifetime, but that’s what being a HearPeers Mentor has meant to me. A HearPeers Mentor is a person who lives with a hearing implant, or whose child has a hearing implant, and has volunteered to share their experiences with others. Becoming a Mentor for people who are considering a hearing implant is the culmination of one of the most exciting and challenging times of my life. Taking on this role demonstrates how dramatically life has improved since I received my VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE middle ear implant in 2013.
I live in Yorkshire, England and have been deaf in one ear for over thirty years. During that time, I did not consider myself disabled as I had good hearing in my second ear and was able to live a fairly normal life. My deafness was caused by Meniere’s disease, and in those days my main concern – and that of my medical consultants – was to prevent the attacks as much as possible. As a young mother with three children I led a busy and active life. I was so grateful that the insertion of grommets into my ear drum did help to restrict the attacks.
I became bilaterally deaf (both ears) with Meniere’s disease in 2007 and from the day of my first attack I became a completely deaf and disabled person. I had to learn how to live in silence and felt that there was no future for me. I could not wear hearing aids and there seemed to be no alternative solutions. I became a depressed recluse, not interacting with anyone except my husband – simply because I could not hear anything.
Everything changed in 2013 when I met a consultant who offered me a future. He suggested that the VIBRANT SOUNDBRIDGE middle ear implant might work for my type of hearing loss. After a number of tests and applications for funding, I received my implant in August 2013. Besides my family, I had received no support prior to being implanted. My only point of contact was my implant team who I saw at appointments. HearPeers didn’t exist then, but I wish it had. The solitary isolation and having nowhere to turn for help or anyone to talk with was the most difficult thing for me to deal with. I was in a very bad place, but the implant has turned my life around for the better.
Being a Hearing Loss Mentor
The HearPeers Mentor Programme offers valuable information and support on life with a hearing implant, whether it’s a middle ear or cochlear implant. The program allows you to connect directly with implant users who understand your concerns through their personal experience; they have been through the process and will give you the details – without the jargon. And, should you decide to embark on this exciting journey, they are there to help support you.
I feel hugely privileged to be a HearPeers Mentor. I welcome it as an opportunity to “give something back” – not only to the company that made my implant (MED-EL), but, more importantly, to other people experiencing both Meniere’s disease and deafness. For the past six months, I have been supporting two implant candidates who have told me HearPeers helps them hugely to bridge the information gap as they go through the assessment process.
Candidates also have questions about the outcome of the operation such as “what are the chances that it will work”, “how long will the operation last” and “what will the post-operative care and audiology appointments be like?” Some of these questions will be answered by their implant team, but I can provide a unique, personal perspective. The most important thing I can share with a candidate is that they must make it a priority to build a good relationship with their implant team, which is imperative to achieve success with any implant surgery.
Being a patient and facing surgery can be daunting. I give the best support I can, offering strength when patients feel drained, compassion when they are in tears and the courage to go forward to a new and changed life.
From living a solitary lifestyle, unable to communicate and deeply depressed, I have become an interactive person again, enjoying so many things I missed. The drop of water from a tap can sound like a symphony. So imagine what joy it is for me to hear my children and grandchildren’s voices again. Believe me when I tell you that I experience the miracle of hearing every time I put my audio processor on. Being a Mentor is one way of sharing that joy.
Connecting with a Mentor in the UK
Potential candidates for a hearing implant, new patients and even their family members can get in touch with a Mentor like me through the HearPeers website. As Mentors, we are here for anyone who contacts us. I always emphasize that I am not a medical professional, and all medical and technical advice must come from the medical team looking after them.
Patricia Eastwood lives in Yorkshire, England with her husband, enjoying her renewed hearing, helping others and spending time with her grandchildren.