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Mardie’s Story

February 3rd, 2008 by | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

Mardie, an adult cochlear implant user, was born profoundly deaf and raised with the Auditory-Verbal approach. She did not receive her cochlear implant until she was an adult in 1996 and is very successful with it! She was Helen Beebe’s first client. Helen Beebe is one of the founders of the Auditory-Verbal approach. Here is Mardie’s story:

I was born profoundly deaf due to rubella my mother had gotten while pregnant with me. My hearing loss was diagnosed when I was a year old, and my first hearing aid was put on me one year after that—back in the 1940s.

My parents chose to raise me orally, and as a result, I developed excellent speech and listening skills, and became a fair-to-good lipreader. I attended regular schools (long before the era of special education!) and have a BA in English from Syracuse University and other academic credentials.

When my hearing loss deteriorated to approximately 115 decibels, hearing aids no longer gave me any benefit beyond some vowel sounds and certain environmental sounds. Consonants so critical to speech comprehension were inaccessible to me, and I had no high-frequency hearing at all.

When I received a cochlear implant (part of the device is implanted in the inner ear, and the rest of it is externally worn) at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in 1996, I had very low expectations. All I wanted was to be less frustrated and more able to understand people while lipreading. Tests done on me prior to the surgery revealed I was getting 100% of receptive communication through lipreading alone.

The surgery was a success. I was immediately able to hear such sounds as music, speech, traffic, birds, and the clinking of dishes. I embarked on an ambitious self-taught program to maximize my new ability to hear. I taught myself to hear without lipreading by listening to my car radio while commuting to work. I started by not understanding a single word and progressing to being able to understand much of the radio. Not perfectly, but certainly a huge improvement over understanding nothing!

I also listened to audiobooks and practiced talking on the phone with people who had perfectly clear speech and who knew they couldn’t talk a mile a minute with me. It’s a great pleasure to be able to conduct phone conversations without straining.

In fact, on the day of the Columbia shuttle disaster, while driving to have lunch with a friend, I was listening to the radio. As soon as I heard there had been a dreadful disaster involving the shuttle, I picked up my cell phone and called my husband to tell him to turn on the TV. Being able to do things like that is very empowering!

Having had a career as a medical technologist in a busy hospital lab for many years, I am, today, an editor and website manager for a small company in Virginia that is owned and operated by well known travel and career writers, Ron and Caryl Krannich. Without my skills in spoken and written English, I would not have been able to do either this job or the previous jobs I have had. Virtually my entire career has required participation as part of a team and a great deal of communication with doctors, nurses, patients, authors, supervisors, employers, and co-workers, all of whom had normal hearing and practically no familiarity with hearing loss and its ramifications.

Today, technology is advancing so rapidly that deaf babies born in 2008 almost certainly will have access to normal (or pretty close to normal) hearing by the time they are middle-aged. But if their auditory channels have not been adequately developed, they will not be able to take full advantage of hearing-related technology as it comes along. The development of those channels—for speech and listening—need to begin in earliest childhood; this is widely acknowledged. The window of opportunity is open for just so long, and then closes, never to open again. I am truly thankful my parents were able to get appropriate intervention for me during that window of opportunity in an era when little was known about this critical period for language acquisition.

1 Comment

Darth Vader of the Deaf community

February 9, 2008 at 1:07 pm

You go lady, Mardie! Woo!