Six Year Post Activation Mapping at Johns Hopkins

(left) 2004 Pre-CI (right) August 17, 2011


(Click on photo above to enlarge)

Today I traveled to Johns Hopkins for my 6 year post-activation mapping of my cochlear implant. A number of things went through my head as I traveled a familiar road to my audiologist at the Listening Center. For one thing, I listened to the GPS give directions and didn’t glance at it once – for I was hearing it. I talked to my assistance dog, Chloe, in the back seat when I pointed out the stadium as we passed and heard her bark in response to let me know she was an Oriole fan.

As I entered the parking deck for Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center, I mashed the button to give me a ticket. I heard the instructions to pay before returning to my vehicle prior to leaving. Walking across the enormous lobby I could hear families chatting while they waiting to check in, and admissions counselors quietly talking to patients ON MY DEAF (implanted) SIDE. As I approached the elevators I heard a series of “dings” as different cars reached the lobby level waiting to take patients “up” or “down”. The elevator announced the floor level on each concourse and warnings to stand clear of the door echoed through the car.

All of these sounds were silent for me in 2005. Six years later I hear them all and do so with relative ease. When I was originally tested to see if I qualified for a CI, I entered the sound-proof booth with my husband. I waited to hear sounds in order to “mash the button” and turned to my husband to say, “Gee… when will it start do you think?” My voice drifted off when I saw the look on his face. SHOCK.

He gestured to the window and then the speakers and said, “Denise, the test has been going for 2 or 3 minutes already”. Neither one of us realized how poorly I was hearing since I relied on speech reading so much. Today I entered the booth with confidence and even took a test “brand new” for me. With crowd noise I had to repeat different voices (male and female) of a conversation. My audiologist was very impressed. She said she could see “the switch turn on” after a sentence or two when my CI picked out the important voices from among all the others.

I realize cochlear implants are not an option for everyone with hearing loss. I also know that some people get a cochlear implant and are not 100% happy with the outcome. For me… the Nucleus Freedom cochlear implant changed my life. I hear SO well, in fact, that I’ve chosen not to go bi-lateral like many in my peer group have done. On my “bad” balance days, I cannot risk having my balance worsen because of a 2nd implant at this time. I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease PRIOR to my first CI, and my family and I cannot tell that it made my symptoms any worse. I have, however, found some research that may indicate a 2nd CI could worsen Meniere’s symptoms – so for now? I wait to see what the future may bring. My audiologist believes I hear as well with one as well or better than many do with two. I’m happy with how I am hearing!

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


Operation Christmas Child and Thankfulness

Chloe and I went shopping for items to put into our Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes on Saturday. Armed with the following list, Chloe and I marched into the retail world:


small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, small Etch A Sketch®, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), Slinky®, etc.

pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.

toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb, washcloth, etc.

Hard candy and lollipops (please double bag all candy), mints, gum, T-shirts, socks, ball caps; sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries)

As a family, we had agreed to do one shoebox for a girl, and one shoebox for a boy. This year we chose to do items for two children ages 10-14 years old. At some point in the shopping trip, I realized how sobering it was to realize that for some children a pad of paper, pencils, and stickers were considered a luxury item. When I purchased some toothbrushes and toothpaste, the idea really came to settle in my heart and mind. We are so blessed here in the United States. Many items to us are necessities and common staples of our every day life. To children in other countries, those same items may be considered true luxuries and priceless gifts.

For the boy package, we purchased stickers, pads of paper, pencils, crayons, small slinky, small book, pencil sharpener, kaleidoscope, kazoo, skipper jump rope, ball, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand puppet of a triceratops, and some other odds and ends.

For the girl package, we purchased much of the same, but instead of a kazoo we included a set of bells and the puppet was a ladybug.

Perhaps it is because this is the week of Thanksgiving, that I am particular thankful for things I normally take for granted. I’ve often thought about how blessed I am that I live where I do in regards to my hearing loss and Meniere’s disease. I live within “spitting distance” of the Listening Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and my cochlear implant surgeon was one of the best in the country. I can easily purchase batteries for my CI, and have access to other assistive listening devices. I live within 65 miles of Fidos For Freedom, who only match assistance dogs with people within a certain radius of their organization. It is one of their commitments to provide follow-up training and support for the life of the dog. Trainers are all volunteers and live locally, so to participate and become matched with one of their special dogs one must live within a certain “workable distance”.

If you are having difficulty finding a way to be thankful this year due to life’s stresses, problems and trials… pack a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child! I think it will quickly help you discover things you are truly grateful for in the end! Plus… you will make a difference to a child who may never know the true meaning of Christmas if not for you! Check out the link and find out where the nearest drop-off location is for YOU!

Operation Christmas Child Link

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal