SYCAMORE – Cheryl McCoy of Sycamore has always led a busy, active lifestyle: she retired from the Kaneland school district where she taught P.E. and coached track, goes line dancing, plays golf, loves to enjoy the outdoors by taking walks and doing yardwork and exercises every day.
However, two years ago, her active lifestyle came to a halt after sudden hearing loss left her deaf in her left ear. In September 2017, McCoy underwent surgery for a cochlear implant at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital.
A cochlear implant is a prosthetic device that bypasses damaged structures in the inner ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerve to the brain, which translates the signals into sound.
McCoy met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to share her cochlear implant success story during Better Hearing and Speech Month.
Milton: When did you first notice your hearing was getting worse?
McCoy: It started with a family get together, about seven years ago. My family noticed they had to repeat things often and told me, “You need to get your hearing tested.” At that time, I was swimming a lot and had swimmer’s ear. I went to the [ear, nose and throat doctor] and they said that I had holes in my eardrum and my hearing was progressively getting worse. I wore two hearing aids. Then, over a period of one weekend, I had sudden hearing loss in my left ear. My hearing was completely gone.
Milton: What did you do to fix your hearing?
McCoy: About two years ago, I had surgery to fix the perforations in my ear drum. When the surgeon went to fix the holes, they had to take out the ear drum because there was too much scar tissue. In September 2017, I had cochlear implant surgery at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital.
Milton: How much could you hear before the cochlear implant surgery?
McCoy: I had no hearing in my left ear because my ear drum was completely removed. I had poor hearing in my right ear and still wear a hearing aid. The doctors described it as sudden hearing loss. They don’t know or have a cause for what happened. I think it could be from teaching for years in a school gym. I’ve also worked at factories, used my lawn mower and snow blower. I never wore ear protection. I think of it like wearing sunscreen and skin cancer. The damage is irreversible. Once you lose your hearing, you don’t get it back.
Milton: How would you describe what it was like to be deaf?
McCoy: I remember being very lonely and frustrated. I am a social butterfly, I’m outgoing. People had a hard time communicating with me because they didn’t know how to communicate with someone that’s losing their hearing or deaf. I also didn’t know how to read lips or sign.
Milton: Do you know anyone else that went through what you went through?
McCoy: I don’t know anyone local with hearing loss or a cochlear implant. ... I would love to meet with others that live locally that have hearing loss or a cochlear implant to talk and share. It would be great to have a local group for meetings. I want to talk to others and help them.
Milton: What were your results after surgery?
McCoy: They can’t promise results, but you have a better chance of hearing if you once could hear and then lost your hearing than if you were born deaf. They don’t guarantee what percentage of hearing you’ll get back. Your hearing continues to improve one year after the surgery. After waiting one month after the surgery, I received the hearing processor. When the audiologist turned it on, I could hear her voice. After the surgery, I could hear about 60%. I went from 0% to 60% and now have about 93% of my hearing and it’s improving.
Milton: How has your life changed
after cochlear implant surgery?
McCoy: I’ve had a success story. A cochlear implant was for me life-changing because I can hear again. It’s a miracle every day when I wake up. God blessed me, and my faith got me through all of this.