more than 20 years of not hearing things most of us take for
granted, Eva Dahmm is celebrating everyday sounds again. She’s
heard the squawk of a baby robin, the rustle of a mourning dove’s
wings, the squeak of train wheels and the sizzle of eggs cooking
in a skillet. This dramatic improvement came on July 13, when she
got the headset to go with her new cochlear implant.
she and husband George left the Carle Clinic in Champaign to drive
home to Lincoln, she began hearing all kinds of new sounds.
"I kept saying, ‘What is that? What is that?’" she
things sounded natural, as I remembered them, and some I couldn’t
identify. When I got home I heard something strange. Then I
realized I was hearing myself walking on the floor. I can hear the
microwave. I can hear the beep of the remote phone. I know now
that when you type on the computer it clicks, and the mouse
been such a silent world for so long."
doesn’t know why she lost most of her hearing, but about 30
years ago she realized she wasn’t picking up everything that was
going on around her. When her oldest grandchild was born 20 years
ago, she couldn’t hear him cry until he was three months old. In
1988 she got a hearing aid.
my right ear, everything was gone. With my left ear and the
hearing aid, I could hear one-on-one, but when I was in a crowd
there was too much background noise."
could understand her four daughters – Muriel Barnard, who lives not far from
her in Lincoln, Laura Tomlinson of Beason, and Vivian Valdes and
Georgia Allison of Lincoln – and she had to depend on them to help
her keep in touch with the hearing world.
with his brother Wallace, has been a contractor for many years,
and when he wasn’t home, Eva had to have her daughters help her
with telephone calls. To make a doctor’s appointment, she would
call one of her daughters, the daughter would call the doctor and
get the appointment, and then call Eva back.
felt isolated because I couldn’t contact people by
telephone," she says. "I hadn’t been able to use the
phone for 15 years."
Later she joined a group called SHHH (Self Help for Hard of
Hearing People) and learned about a telecommunication device which
would help her overcome that isolation. Called a TTY, it looks
like a typewriter with a small screen on top and a holder for a
telephone handset. Eva calls a relay operator and types in her
message, and the relay operator calls the number Eva wants, relays
the message and types a reply that Eva can read on the screen and
also print out. It is a free service, offered through the
Springfield Center for Independent Living.
she was interested when a friend from Decatur came by to talk
about her new cochlear implant. "She was ecstatic; she couldn’t
say enough good things about it," Eva says. The friend also
told the Dahmms the implant was in her worst ear, and she still
could wear her hearing aid in the better ear.
came back a second time. "After she left, George and I talked
it over. He said, ‘It sounds like a good idea.’ I said, ‘But
it’s not your head.’"
learn more, George called the Carle Clinic in Champaign and set up
a visit with an audiologist. On March 30, Eva had tests to find
out how much hearing was left. She had her second appointment on
April 18, a talk with surgeon Dr. Michael Novak and a CT scan of
and daughters Vivian and Muriel, both registered nurses ("my
local medical advisers," Eva calls them), were impressed with
the doctor. "He was very enthusiastic and upbeat. I had a
feeling of confidence in him. He told me the good points and the
bad points about the surgery."