First Person on the Last Page: Yes, I Can Hear You Now After a years-long struggle with hearing loss, which deepened her empathy for her clients, she finally got her auditory compass back. First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   April 01, 2014
First Person on the Last Page: Yes, I Can Hear You Now
Author Notes
  • Barbara J. Raymonda, MS, CCC-SLP, is a clinician with the Herkimer (N.Y.) Board of Cooperative Educational Services, working with students in regular education, special education, and preschool classrooms. She has also worked in early intervention. Raymonda is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 16, School-Based Issues. ■braymonda3@gmail.com
    Barbara J. Raymonda, MS, CCC-SLP, is a clinician with the Herkimer (N.Y.) Board of Cooperative Educational Services, working with students in regular education, special education, and preschool classrooms. She has also worked in early intervention. Raymonda is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 16, School-Based Issues. ■braymonda3@gmail.com×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / ASHA News & Member Stories / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   April 01, 2014
First Person on the Last Page: Yes, I Can Hear You Now
The ASHA Leader, April 2014, Vol. 19, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19042014.72
The ASHA Leader, April 2014, Vol. 19, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19042014.72

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Barbara Raymonda and her surgeon, John Wayman.

My life has always been defined by sound. My father’s whistling, the croak of a bullfrog waking me up every morning at camp, my sons’ newborn cries ... these are my memories. I don’t know why, but I have never been able to visualize. I have thousands of pictures of my sons’ childhoods because visual memories are almost nonexistent for me.
Consequently, I am hopeless with maps. I cannot make a mental picture of an area, but I can remember the sounds associated with places. The ambient noise of everyday life is my compass.
I made it through college and graduate school by listening to Dan Fogelberg’s “Twin Sons of Different Mothers.” When I studied my notes, I would listen to the album. At exams, when I read a test question, I came as close to “seeing” the notebook pages as my brain could manage, but I could definitely hear the part of the song that related to the information and I would recall it. Worked like a charm.
As a child, I had numerous ear infections. Hearing, however, was something I took for granted. As a graduate student, I had a hearing test—a brainstem evoked response—and told that I had a mild loss in my left ear. I thought nothing of it as I started my career as a speech-language pathologist.
We SLPs are trained listeners. I prided myself on my ability to listen to two conversations simultaneously. When I started to experience significant hearing loss, I tried to ignore it. But in 1999, I had my first surgery—a failed stapedectomy. It had no effect on my hearing loss. My depression was profound as I doubted my ability to continue working as an SLP.
Getting my hearing aid deepened my empathy toward the students on my caseload, who face communication challenges every waking moment. Hearing loss left me rudderless. I could no longer depend on the familiar sounds that allowed me to navigate my way through the world.
Having unilateral loss made localization of sound virtually impossible. Conversation in restaurants or at cocktail parties was difficult. Headphones were for other people, as were winter hats. I always leaned in one direction for hugs. The boost on my hearing aid was so great that it couldn’t be paired with a telephone. Feedback was a problem when I turned my head too far or got too close to a wall.
In June 2013, I was referred to John Wayman, who is affiliated with the University of Rochester. At my consultation, he described the CAT scan of my ear as “atypical,” and told me that he would do exploratory surgery to fix my otosclerosic, disarticulated ossicles and multiply perforated eardrum. I scheduled the surgery for August. I will celebrate August 20 every year: When I woke up from surgery, Dr. Wayman’s words—“I did it”—were as miraculous to me as my sons’ births. I felt as if I had been reborn.
I do not have perfect hearing, but I no longer need a hearing aid. I can talk on the phone on my left ear. I know where sound is coming from. Music brings me great joy and solace. My Facebook post after surgery said it all: “The world is a noisy place and I love it!” I have my compass back.
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April 2014
Volume 19, Issue 4