Bacterial meningitis occurs in about 3 people per 100,000 annually in Western countries, and is almost always fatal if untreated. The disease can cause several potential disabilities which may result from damage to the nervous system, for example hearing loss.
Baha user Meryl Churchill-Boker from New Jersey, USA, lost all hearing in her right ear after suffering a high fever due to spinal meningitis when she was four years old. During her childhood, she learned to hide her hearing loss by lip reading and carefully positioning herself so she could hear what was being said around her.
Meryl suffered from tinnitus for many years and wore a hearing aid to mask the sound of the constant buzzing. She was looking for an alternative to that when her audiologist said she might benefit from a Baha solution. When she was able to try it out in the audiologist’s office and realised she could hear again, she immediately booked an appointment to have the surgery.
“For so many years, I’d wondered what it would be like to hear a full conversation. This was my opportunity to restore my hearing which was lost so long ago.”
After getting her Baha sound processor, Meryl discovered a new, fuller world of sound which she didn’t know existed. Being able to hear from both sides was completely new to her.
“One thing about single-sided deafness is that a lot of people say ‘Oh well, you have another ear that’s really good, so what’s the big deal if you don’t have the two ears?” says Meryl. “Well, the big deal is directional and stereo sound. I didn’t hear anything in stereo for 39 years, now I hear everything in stereo. It’s kind of like when the Wizard of Oz is black and white and then, all of a sudden, it goes to colour. That’s what it felt like to get my Baha. It’s like everything came back to life. It was crisp and clear and just an amazing explosion of sound.”
Meryl has also noticed a difference in parenting her 10 year-old son, Ricky. She can now hear him, even if he’s in another room. Driving with him in the car is now no longer a problem. Her right ear – the deaf ear – is nearest the back seat where her son sits, and while previously she couldn’t hear anything he said, Meryl can now enjoy conversations without having to turn down the radio or risk losing concentration on the traffic around her. It may seem like a small benefit, but it’s had a major impact on both Meryl and her son.
“I can hear every word he says – sometimes to the point where he’ll even say ‘Would you turn that off so you don’t hear everything that I say?’”, Meryl laughs. “I can hear every nuance that’s going on and it makes me feel safer to be able to care for him.”
Read more of Meryl’s story here!