First of all, please excuse me for over-promoting Cochlear™, but I just happened to be born deaf at the time when Cochlear™ was the only brand available. So, as someone who happens to hear utilizing Cochlear’s cochlear implants, it’s crucial for me to have a close relationship with them, as if the employees are my family members because I live with their products every second of the day. If I see a crack in my processor, I call them to order a new processor so that I’m ensured that I’m not living without hearing. If I have a question about improving my quality of hearing through mapping, I contact Cochlear™ for their advice. If I have a question about assistive listening devices, I contact them for their advice. For instance, a few years ago, I contacted one of the employees about which cell phone brands are the best for Cochlear cochlear implant users. I’ve grown up with their products. I’ve lived through five generations of their processors, including the transition from the big, bulky body worn processor to the behind the ear (BTE) processor and two generations of internal cochlear implants. Just like anybody who is eager to know the next generation of iPods, Playstations, Nintendo DS, I am eager to know what is Cochlear™’s next generation of external processor because I will eventually wear it, and I want to know what quality of hearing I will have and what the design will look like. This is why it is so important for me to go to Cochlear Celebration, not only to know the latest updates on Cochlear™’s products and its accessories, but also to give all the employees thanks for their hard work to ensure that everyone lives with the best quality of life. I am beyond impressed by Cochlear™’s employees showing their caring and high values to their customers and by the fact that all of their customers are a big part of their family! They took the time to listen to our stories as cochlear implant users, complaints that we have, and suggestions on how to improve their processors. At the workshop, Your Future with Cochlear, the first thing that the employees presented was, “What improvements would you like to see?” I immediately raised my hand and said, “I’ve been hearing rumors that a new processor is going to come out that is going to be slimmer and sleeker, and it’s going to have a remote control. While I love the idea that is going to be slimmer and sleeker, I would like to make sure that there will be some basic buttons on the processor because I’m not a fan of having a remote control because I’m already carrying my cell phone and my iPod in my pockets, and the last thing I want is to have another technology in my pocket, and I would not be able to keep up with all the devices and perhaps lose the remote control!” They wrote down my suggestion on a big piece of a paper, and also everyone else’s suggestions!
I had the pleasure to meet Chris Roberts, the CEO of Cochlear, and tell him my story briefly about the fact that I received my cochlear implant in 1989 and was raised with AVT, and I had the opportunity to tell him about Cochlear Implant Online. I also met up with Jim Patrick again, and I was grateful to do so as I’ve read articles that he’s working on an implant for people who are blind. So, I asked him where he was in his research studies with this treatment, and he said that it’s about in the same stage where Graeme Clark was in the 60′s and early 70′s when he was working on the cochlear implant. What’s also so incredible is that a good number of the employees are also cochlear implant users, and it’s a huge asset to the company because they’re not only sitting in the office, but also they are living their lives like me and other cochlear implant users. Thus, they understand how we live our life every second because they are in our shoes.
As always, I also came to catch up with old friends and to meet new faces. Elizabeth and I both met each other again for the second time within two weeks, and having Elizabeth being present was a real treat, especially seeing her tears at the first presentation. Meeting Amy Bigley, Elizabeth’s co-worker at the Hearing School and a cochlear implant user, hit the spot as she had the opportunity to meet other adult cochlear implant users, an opportunity that she rarely has.
I enjoyed seeing Naomi, co-founder of CICircle, coming all the way from Australia and watching her experience what any parent of deaf children with cochlear implants should also experience – the enjoyment of being with people who “get it.”
Meeting Camille Jones, the former president of an organization that once existed, Cochlear Implant Club International, and who is late-deafened, for the first time since I was ten years old when she handed me the “Dr. Bill Award” in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, was a real treat as we had a chance to talk about the great ol’ times when Cochlear Implant Club International existed and when I met her for the first time in Washington D.C. when I was the Better Hearing Speech Month Poster Child of the Year in 1994.
Me with Camille in 1994
Me and Camille at Cochlear Celebration
Chatting with Linn Tearney, a cochlear implant employee who has been around since a few years after I received my first cochlear implant and who also happens to be a cochlear implant user, is always a pleasure because I learn so much from her, including great bluetooth devices to use as a cochlear implant user. Meeting up with Brandy Harvey and Scott Rienhart, my Cochlear Awareness Network managers, always hit the spot because whenever I speak to them, I’m always brainstorming new ideas to create a better awareness of cochlear implants.
Then there were many new faces - Jennifer Eng, a senior student at UCLA who was raised with the Auditory-Oral approach and has been wearing a cochlear implant since the age of 6 years old, was a bright spot in my day! Her being there with me, Elizabeth, and Amy added beats to the fun as we discussed things that we would normally not talk about with normal hearing people and people who don’t wear cochlear implants. Michelle, an AGBell member who was John Tracy Clinic’s client, kicked in even more dynamics to our social life with her great sense of humor. Then, there were also several others from my age group including Leah and Nichole.
It was also a pleasure to meet Diane Browne, a mom of an adult cochlear implant user and one of the earliest CICircle members. I also enjoyed meeting Rene Courtney, the head of the Cochlear Awareness Network program, and sharing my stories about my volunteer work. Best of all, I enjoyed meeting Brandy Harvey’s most adorable children who both have cochlear implants, Megan and Dylan. They are absolutely full of energy and absolutely affectionate. They truly do show their confidence in being cochlear implant user by sporting dazzles and stickers on their processors.
Watching the fireworks at Disneyland last Saturday night was the moment of everyone coming together to celebrate the incredible, miraculous invention, to honor all of the Cochlear employees, and to all of the families who have worked hard to raise their children to hear and to speak, and to celebrate those who have watched their family members regain hearing utilizing cochlear implants after suddenly becoming deaf or who have worn hearing aids throughout their lives, which provided little benefits, and saw tremendous improvement in their quality of life.
Another best of all – seeing HUNDREDS of cochlear implant users in the same location at the same time!
More pictures and details about the rest of the celebraiton will come soon – just please bear with me as I have way too much to say! I just had to write my overall thoughts now while they were spinning in my mind.