For more than 30 years, Michael Kalinowsky struggled with hearing difficulties in both ears. Now, the engineer from Hesse, Germany, explains how his first cochlear implant helped him to cope with stress at work.
Michael, you had hearing difficulties that gradually became worse over time. How did that affect you?
I first had hearing problems in both ears when I was a student in 1980. I was just starting out in my career and I was worried that people would notice and I wouldn’t be hired as a result of it. But the problems would come and go, so I’d hear better for a while, then it would get worse again. It was very stressful.
How did you deal with it?
I’d try to make up for it by working extra hard. It was extremely tiring, especially when I felt that my colleagues sometimes doubted my intelligence, or my family sometimes doubted my interest. But I just didn’t hear what was said so I couldn’t respond to it.
When did you get help?
I tried various hearing aids over the years but my hearing gradually got worse. Then in May 2011 I went to a counselling session for people with hearing difficulties at the University Clinic of Frankfurt. It was there that I met a doctor who, very enthusiastically, recommended a cochlear implant (CI). I remember thinking: “Well, I’ve got nothing to lose,” and so I decided to go for the operation. After the first adjustment, I could hear my wife Beate’s voice. That was wonderful! The decision to have a CI in the second ear as soon as possible was easy to make, and one year later that was accomplished too. In hindsight, I think it’s sad that so many doctors weren’t familiar with CIs at the time, and that I lived without one for so many years.
What advice would you give to other people with hearing implants when it comes to dealing with stress?
Take a step back from your own performance, consciously take breaks at work, and think about yourself more. It’s important to find a way to balance the stresses of everyday life. For me, doing sports has really helped, as well as listening to music. These things let me switch off and rejuvenate.