The sound of birds chirping, a plane flying overhead, the laughter of a loved one. For Caroline Schwabe, none of these sounds were distinct. Talking sounded like mumbling – even with the use of her hearing aids. She depended on lip reading or her husband, Andreas, to help her in conversations. As her ears weakened so did her bonds with those around her.
Caroline struggled to have meaningful conversations to forge friendships and often ended up feeling lost or that she was missing something.
In 2017 an audiologist thought that a cochlear implant would be a good option for Caroline and an answer to her communication struggles. A cochlear implant is an electronic device placed inside the skull to stimulate the hearing nerves. After months of testing doctors gave Caroline the answer she was searching for. Feelings of hope washed over Caroline and those she held closest. In surgery there are no promises or guarantees of a positive outcome, yet all she hoped for was something better than what she had before. In December 2017, Caroline went in for surgery, and while it was a success, her brain still had to learn how to decipher the signals.
Imagine learning how to hear for the first time; it is a gradual and difficult process. Caroline struggled to tell the difference between noises and voices. From there she had to learn what everyday sounds were, like an ambulance driving by or the sound of a fridge humming. Caroline and Andreas worked together to help her build a bridge between what she was seeing and what she was hearing.
“When you have been given a gift like this that changes your life for the better, it is so profound.” – Caroline Schwabe
Now, when Caroline speaks to her husband she can look into his eyes instead of deciphering his words through lip reading, strengthening their connection and devotion to each other. The couple is now spreading the kindness and knowledge they received at the Glenrose by educating the public about hearing protection.
Watch Caroline & Andreas Courage Award video here.