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Our Patients Say it Best

Your friends and neighbors from throughout southwest Michigan and beyond share their experiences at Spectrum Health Lakeland. Do you have a story to share? Click on the "What's Your Story" button and complete the form. 

Sep 1, 2021 Reporting from Niles, MI
Hearing her granddaughter’s first words - Ingrid Gaul
Sep 1, 2021
If hearing aids are no longer providing you the results you need, talk with a hearing specialist at Spectrum Health Lakeland Ear, Nose, and Throat. Contact our team at 269.687.2910 in Niles or 269.982.3368 in St. Joseph or cl

Hearing her granddaughter’s first words - Ingrid Gaul

SpectrumHealth Lakeland

Hearing her granddaughter’s first words - Ingrid Gaul

Sep, 2021


Paul Judge, MDHeidi Schmeltzer, AuD, CCC-A

If hearing aids are no longer providing you the results you need, talk with a hearing specialist at Spectrum Health Lakeland Ear, Nose, and Throat. Contact our team at 269.687.2910 in Niles or 269.982.3368 in St. Joseph or click here

Hearing is essential to our quality of life. But for Bridgman resident, Ingrid Gaul, hearing was a constant struggle. 

Ingrid—now 65 years old—was diagnosed with 60% hearing loss in her early forties. The signs were there prior to her diagnosis. In conversations, people would ask Ingrid, “Did you hear what I said?” Her response was almost always, “Not really.” 

Ingrid’s hearing loss made it difficult for her to enjoy many aspects of life.

“I didn’t like leaving the house anymore, even with my family,” said Ingrid.

Her hearing had deteriorated so badly that her television would be at 100% volume, but she still could not hear it. The hearing aids she wore were ineffective at that point. 

The COVID-19 pandemic complicated things even more.

“The entire experience was horrible for me,” said Ingrid. “I would go to the grocery store and of course, not only do the cashiers wear masks, but they have an extra barrier of glass in front of them which made it almost impossible for me to communicate. I went to the grocery store as few times as possible.”

Ingrid missed the ease of daily activities but knew her lack of hearing would also have a major impact on a more important part of her life—her relationship with her family.

“I have a new granddaughter and she was one of the biggest reasons I decided to pursue a solution to my hearing loss,” said Ingrid. “I help care for her and want to be able to hear when she cries. I also want to hear her say ‘grandma’ for the first time.”

Ingrid knew her hearing aids were no longer offering the benefits she wanted and decided to pursue alternative treatment options.

Ingrid met with ear, nose, and throat surgeon Paul Judge, MD. During her initial hearing assessment, Ingrid was understanding only 12% of what was being said.

Based on the severity of her condition, Dr. Judge suggested three potential options to Ingrid: 

  1. Read lips—which she felt is virtually impossible with masks.
  2. Learn sign language—which would require whomever she conversed with to know sign language as well. 
  3. Consider a cochlear implant—which is a surgically implanted device that functions with an external sound processor to provide a modified sense of sound in people with severe hearing loss. 

After discussing the options with her family, Ingrid decided a cochlear implant was right for her. She began the surgical process with Dr. Judge and audiologist, Heidi Schmeltzer, AuD, CCC-A.

Unwavering medical and personal support 

As her surgery approached, Ingrid felt comfortable with Dr. Judge and his staff. But she was nervous about the many unknowns. Ultimately, she chose to take comfort in knowing she had finally found a solution. 

Ingrid found Dr. Judge, Heidi Schmeltzer, and the entire surgical team highly supportive.

“They were just all very pleasant,” she said. “They put you at ease.”

In the final minutes before surgery, Ingrid was ready to embark on her new journey toward better hearing.

One month after the implant was placed surgically, Ingrid began the activation process with her audiologist, Heidi Schmeltzer.

“Heidi was great at her job—very patient and always willing to help me understand the process,” said Ingrid. 

Throughout the journey, Ingrid received strong support from her sister, son, stepson, close friends, and other family members. They had all encouraged her to have the surgery, knowing she would be much happier afterward.

“I am much happier knowing I can now hear more than I ever did before,” said Ingrid. 

Since Ingrid’s surgery she is now hearing 80% with her cochlear implant. She’s started to go out in public more and enjoys living a more independent life. 

As an avid quilter, Ingrid is looking forward to attending her first quilt retreat with a cochlear implant.

“My friends in the group have always been patient with my hearing but now that I have the implant, I will be able to hear more of what’s going on around me,” said Ingrid.

A cochlear implant sounds very different from our normal hearing because it utilizes an electrical signal instead of an acoustic signal and requires multiple fine-tuning sessions for each patient’s individual ear throughout the first few months as they adapt and then at least twice a year after the first year.

“I’m still making all the adjustments,” said Ingrid. “But Heidi has reassured me every step of the way.”

“In the end it was a really good experience, and I would highly recommend it to anybody in the position that I was in,” said Ingrid.


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