Marissa Grobler from Pretoria became deaf after contracting meningitis at the age of two. But now she has been given the unique opportunity by Widex, a company that produces hearing aids, to become part of the hearing world again. This is her story.
"Before I could be accepted for this project, I had to undergo some testing. Luckily the decision was made to provide me with the Widex hearing aids, a decision about which I was very excited and for which I am truly grateful.
A light was switched on in the darkness
"That day, now almost five weeks ago, when they switched on these hearing aids, it was as if a light was switched on in the darkness. On the way home, I could hear passing cars, I could hear my family's voices, my own voice, the TV, the radio – in short, it was wonderful and a completely new experience.
"During the following few weeks, a new world became accessible to me – the world of sound. I hear everything that is happening around me and daily discover new sounds, because my brain now has to adapt to its new function of discerning sounds. I still don't understand everything I am hearing, but it is wonderful to hear something and then to discover where the sound comes from.
The wonderful sounds of slurping and buzzing
"Since then I have discovered what hard rain sounds like, the ocean (a little disappointing, it is only a continues sssshhhhhing, I expected a little more), the microwave, etc. Just the other day I was hearing this buzzing sound. Thinking it was probably the TV, I decided to investigate. It turned out to be a fly buzzing around the house. I'm sure it sounds a little ridiculous to anyone who's always been able to hear, but to me even the smallest sound is extremely valuable.
"The hearing aid makes it possible for me to distinguish between different sounds. Since getting the hearing aids, I no longer enjoy silence and I want to hear everything. When it gets too quiet, I make a noise myself, so that I have something to listen to.
"A week or so ago I was driving with my father and drinking a soda. When the can was nearly empty, it made a slurping sound. It was the first time I heard that sound, and kept making it over and over. My dad said it was rude and that I should stop, but I just kept on making that sound. Quite a funny sound and I loved being able to hear it!
No more living in a glass house
"When I switch off the hearing aid, everything feels dark and dead and I feel cut off from the world around me. For the first time, now that I have this hearing aid, I feel part of everything that goes on around me. Previously it was like living in a glass house: you look at everything around you through the glass, observe everything, but are not really a part of it. Now the door from that isolation has opened and I have become a part of the world I previously could only observe from a distance.
"I am, together with my parents, friends and the whole Widex team, very excited about this life-changing experience I have been offered.