Music to Her Ears

For 37 years, Keri Shiner could hear next to nothing; but on November 17, 2011, the voices of her three young boys were like music to her ears when she heard them say “Mom, I love you,” for the first time.

The recipient of a cochlear implant—a surgically implanted electronic receiver and stimulator with an external transmitter that allows those severely hard of hearing a sense of sound—Shiner underwent surgery on October 14 after waiting two long years to ensure that she was a suitable candidate for the procedure.

Then on November 17, once she had recovered, her implant was activated and the sounds of the world finally flooded Shiner’s ears.

“It’s amazing,” she says, motioning to the magnetized transmitter located just above her left ear beneath her long blonde locks. “I missed out on a lot of things and noises and sounds, but now I don’t miss much. Like, the clock ticking—I was really thrilled that I found out what that noise was without having to have someone point it out to me.”

Born and raised in Elkhorn to Val and Jerry Shoemaker, Shiner learned how to speak when she was a small child, and learned to lip read shortly after. She wore a phonic ear when she figure skated so the beat of the music would pound against her body, keeping her strides in time to the music.

“I can talk and I could hear faint noises with my hearing aides, but with this… I just love it!” Shiner says, excitedly. “I can hear my boys coughing and the doorbell ringing, and I can tell what cycle washing machine is on from the other room,” she adds with astonishment.

As for her boys, Shiner says they’ve really noticed a difference in how easily they can grab her attention. “They don’t have to tap me as much anymore, and I like that Kayden [3 years] only has to call my name once and I can hear him.”

Though her doctors have informed her that they are impressed with how well she’s responded to the new implant—her hearing has improved from just 6.5 per cent to an incredible 51 per cent since July—Shiner has been making weekly trips to Winnipeg for audio therapy in which her specialists adjust the sound levels in her implant. Shiner also has a remote to switch between different programs on the implant for different noise levels and specific situations.

“The first three days were kind of tough because my ears were very sensitive to all the noise, but now when I hear something, I’ll go looking to see what it is. And when I’m at the rink or in a crowded area, I can hear all the noise in the background but I can actually concentrate on who I’m talking to and all the other noise does go down.” She does admit, however, that she still lip reads quite often, as she finds that she is able to pick up on more sounds if she doesn’t have to concentrate all of her efforts on hearing the words.

“Really, I recommend that all deaf people should go for the implant because it’s amazing. I’m happier now,” she says with a grin.

After 37 years of silence, Shiner has no intention of giving up her new spidey sense. “I can take [the external transmitter] off if I want a moment of quiet, but I don’t think I’ll ever want a quiet moment again!”

Published in the Virden Empire-Advance. December, 2011.