From: Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Chris is a retired social worker, grandmother, and active member of the Hearing Loss Association of America. Although she was born with hearing loss, she did not treat it until later in life, and it has changed her world for the better!
"I was born with hearing loss, but I did not start wearing hearing aids until I was 36 years old," says Chris. "Like a lot of people with hearing loss, I 'got by' the best I could for as long as I could. I received my cochlear implant in November of 2013 and my hearing has improved greatly since that time."
Before she got hearing aids, Chris struggled in many social situations. She couldn't understand conversations in crowded environments and would even decline invitations due to her hearing difficulties. It wasn't until she was employed at a mental health institution that she decided it was time to treat her hearing.
"When I started working at the mental health institution, I could no longer 'bluff' my way through conversations, and the importance of my exchange with patients was critical," says Chris. "I worked with several medical disciplines and was an integral part of the treatment team. It was absolutely necessary that I heard what was happening around me for safety reasons."
Chris' quality of life has improved greatly with the help of her hearing devices and cochlear implant. She no longer avoids social situations or stresses out over being unable to hear. She is confident, successful, and active in her retirement!
"I am able to hear my grandchildren which means everything to me! I can participate in their activities and go places with them where I can interact and not just be a spectator," says Chris.
"I travel by myself. I navigate airports, take taxi cabs, and my growth in independence has been beyond my expectations. What I do today by speaking to groups and facilitating groups where I teach people how to better utilize their hearing instruments, is beyond what I ever would have guessed I would be capable of doing in retirement."
One moment that really symbolizes the impact hearing better has had on Chris' life is one morning in church when she heard through a hearing loop for the first time. Recalling the experience, she says,
"For the first time in my life, I didn't just 'hear' what was being said. I 'understood' every word that was spoken and every word that was sung. I was not the only one with tears running down my cheeks that day. Sometimes the tears flow just reliving that experience."
As a member (and former vice president of her local and state chapter) of the Hearing Loss Association of America, Chris is using her experience to educate and inspire others. She is a major proponent of hearing loops and often relays her story of her experience in church to encourage the adaptation of loops in public places.
"Since speaking to groups and traveling to promote cochlear implants and hearing devices, I have felt a new purpose in life," she says.
She advises those with hearing loss to ignore the stereotypes that tell us hearing aids are for "old people", and make a change today.
"Do not wait," she says. "Seek assistance immediately and start enjoying life on a different level. I encourage people to embrace their hearing loss and utilize whatever devices improve their hearing and participation in life."
Chris is a HearStrong Champion due to her advocacy and willingness to help others.
"I am honored to be a HearStrong Champion," she says. "When I was a social worker, my motto was, 'If I can say something or do something that helps one person, I have done my job.' I feel that same way now."
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