When I was 1 year old, I was diagnosed with congenital hearing loss. My sister, too, although she was 3 at the time. Not long after, my parents probably made one of the hardest decisions of their life—they gave the consent for the procedure to implant us both with a Cochlear Implant, an event that would ultimately affect us for the rest of our lives.
Looking back in time, I really wish that I could owe all of my success to my parents — whose resilience, determination, and unfettering love and support guided me all throughout my life. But it would be erroneous to simply give them all the credit. When I was younger—much, much younger—my parents sought help from an organization called Listen and Talk.
Listen and Talk was one of the few organizations dedicated to helping young children who are deaf and hard of hearing. It is to them that I must express my incredible gratitude for helping me when both of my parents were away — working hard to keep the refrigerator full, the electricity on, and the water running. It is to Listen and Talk, and its incredible staff members, that I owe my gratitude because of how much of an influence they had in helping me to become who I am today.
Fast forward to now—16.
Every morning I wake up. I walk over to my desk where I unplug one of two batteries which I re-charged the night before and insert it into my electronic device. When the light flashes on, I put the device around my right ear and attach the magnet to a little spot on the side of my head. In less than a fraction of a second, I am magically able to “hear” sound, and then I carry on with my day.
Stop. Wait a minute. Let’s try this again.
Every morning I wake up. I walk over to my desk where I unplug one of two batteries that I plugged in to re-charge the night before. I twist the battery into place in my sound processor, a routine as instinctual as plugging a charger into your laptop. When the light flashes on, I then place the device around my right ear and attach the magnet to a little spot on my head. This process effectively establishes a connection between the sound processor (or, transmitter) atop my ear and the cochlear implant receiver in my head.
The sound processor, simultaneously, begins picking up sound from the nearby environment and instantly transmits it to the receiver. The cochlear implant then transmits this information to my brain by firing electrode signals via the auditory nerve; as a result, a world of absolute silence ultimately fades away for me, and I immediately “hear” sound.
A habitual, and simple routine, but nonetheless, a far overlooked one. It’s from there that I then go on to start my day — which often tends to involve turning on some 70s/80s Rock Classic songs by any of my favorite bands: Aerosmith; Nirvana; REO Speedwagon; Scorpions; Foreigner; Black Sabbath; Led Zeppelin; Pink Floyd; Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers; Poison.
I mention the prior because it has come to my realization that I often overlook the significance of my device and it’s functions; I often overlook the origins of the cochlear implant, which dates all the way back to the 1960s; I often overlook the science behind the device and its workings; the people who helped me when I needed it most; I often overlook the fact that there are so many people in this world who aren’t as fortunate enough as I am to have a cochlear implant, and that my Cochlear Impact has had such a great impact on my life and in developing the 16-year-old that I see in the mirror each morning. The 16-year-old that loves playing chess competitively (at the state, national, and even international level), discussing philosophy Quantum and Mechanics—or more broadly, into metaphysics; Who loves hanging out with friends, playing Ultimate Frisbee for his school, collaborating with others on unique projects, and talking to and listening to people on a daily basis…
In the end, not a day goes by that I regret the choices that my parents made for me. At every moment throughout my life, while it may not seem so, I am so appreciative and thankful for the sound that reaches my brain but far more importantly, of everyone that worked so incredibly hard to get me where I am today.
This blog is an excerpt from Oscar’s original post titled The Controversy Surrounding Parental Decision-Making: My Life Story