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When hearing aids aren't enough, cochlear implants can help


(ARA) - Straining to hear each day, even when using powerful advanced hearing aids? Feeling frustrated and sometimes even exhausted from listening? Whether it happens suddenly or gradually over time, hearing loss can affect physical and emotional health. Being unable to hear impacts one's ability to socialize with friends, communicate with co-workers, and can force people to become more reliant on family members to constantly interpret for them.

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By age 65, one out of three people will have a hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Signs of hearing loss include:

* Difficulty understanding speech on the telephone
* Trouble following a conversation with two or more people talking at the same time
* Difficulty hearing in a noisy background
* Having to strain to understand conversation
* The need to ask people to repeat themselves
* Misunderstanding others and responding inappropriately

If you or someone you know is experiencing more than two of these signs, it could be beneficial to schedule an evaluation with a certified audiologist to learn if you/your loved one has a hearing loss. For people diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss, who no longer benefit from hearing aids, there may be a solution. Unlike a hearing aid that amplifies sound, a cochlear implant is an implantable solution designed to mimic natural hearing using sophisticated software and state-of-the art electronic components.

Ann Dexheimer, a former certified American Sign Language interpreter and teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program in Sonoma County, was diagnosed with hearing loss as a child. Starting at age 12, her progressive loss started to worsen.

Throughout her career, Dexheimer had taken professional courses and learned about cochlear implants, a technology that is often covered by many private health insurance plans and Medicare, and may be covered by Medicaid. Because her own hearing had worsened, it dawned on her in a class one day that she should consider getting a cochlear implant herself. "For me it was a no-brainer. I'd seen the remarkable success of children with cochlear implants."

Having a cochlear implant has become more than a device to assist her in hearing. "It becomes who you are," Dexheimer says. "Some days you don't even realize or notice that you're hearing everything. Then all of sudden you'll have a CI (cochlear implant) moment. You'll hear a leaf hitting the ground and go, 'Wow I heard that!' It's amazing. I'm so fortunate."

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