My (Hearing) Wake-Up Call

by Heather Rivera, Ph.D

Many people have experienced a “wake-up call”— a defining moment when something in their life has to change. For some, it’s a dramatic event and for others, a seemingly mundane event, but for most people, the moment is life changing. My wake-up call was no exception.

For years I struggled with hearing loss. As time went on my world got smaller and smaller. Easy conversations with friends and family became a thing of the past. At work, as a Registered Nurse, because I was having difficulty hearing, I moved myself into positions that not only took me away from direct patient care but was very much “behind the scenes.” I relied on my husband to step in and translate for me when we ran errands. I even relied on my husband to order for me at restaurants. I was losing my independence.

Hearing aids were no longer providing me enough sound to enjoy life fully. I was resistant at first when my audiologist suggested that I get evaluated for a cochlear implant. I wasn’t one to jump into having a surgical procedure. As time went on though, it became increasingly difficult to hear. One of my favorite joys, music, was slipping away from me too.

One year “Phantom of the Opera” came back to Los Angeles. I very much wanted to see it because I thought it may be my last time to hear it before my hearing declined even more. I purchased a ticket in the fourth row, center, so I would have the best chance of hearing the production. As soon at the musical began my heart sank. I couldn’t make out one line of dialogue or any of the lyrics. Tears dribbled down my cheeks as I watched a performance I couldn’t hear.

After the show, I walked down the street to my car in a daze. There was no denying it anymore. I could not pretend that all was okay. I was going deaf. This was my wake-up call.

When I arrived home, I got serious and took a good look at cochlear implants for a hearing solution. After months of research and contemplation I decided on Cochlear Americas. I had my first implant surgery and was activated with the Cochlear Nucleus 6 early in 2016. At activation, I understood speech immediately.

My husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate that night and I used the Mini Microphone 2+. For the first time in a very long time I ordered for myself and understood the server. For weeks, I laughed and cried at all the sounds I was getting back.

Later in the year I had my second implant surgery done. Thankfully, I had remarkable results again. Being bilateral made a huge difference in my life. I no longer had to lean in with my implanted side to hear people and I could discern the direction of sound much easier. Shortly after my second surgery an off the ear processor called Kanso came out. I love having a discreet processor as an option.

My implants gave me back my independence. Because of them, I was able to go back to patient care nursing and communicate well with the patients. I loved the look of surprise on my patient’s face when I listened to their lung and heart sounds with my special stethoscope that streamed sound directly into my Kanso processors. The patients thought it was magical.

I’m also a writer and now I can speak publicly about the writing process again. Music is coming back to me too. I play my CD of “Phantom of the Opera” and sing along with my favorite show tunes.

I’m glad that I paid attention to my wake-up call.


Heather Rivera, R.N., J.D., Ph.D., lives in Hawaii with her husband. She is the author of eight books. Her superpower is bionic hearing.


About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.


  1. This is exactly me, but before the surgery. You describe it so well – the dependency, the tears… I am on the list for a CI.

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