“You are talking to a woman who is deaf. But I can hear and understand you. Isn’t that amazing?” says Sieglinde Wetterauer, smiling. She stares intently at the person sitting opposite who had just begun to speak. The woman with the blonde bob is wearing cochlear implants. But without being aware of them, no-one would ever know. “Using a cochlear implant is like reading a text with some of the words missing – the brain fills in the gaps. But it takes much more effort and needs constant practice,” says Wetterauer. In Germany, roughly 40,000 people use a cochlear implant, and the number is rising. Innovative medical technology from the Freudenberg Group makes this possible.
The Freudenberg Medical Business Group uses its HelixMicro technology for precision liquid silicone molding. “Our HelixMicro product portfolio allows us to produce molded components weighing less than 0.001 grams. We can extrude tubes with diameters as small as 0.2 millimeters, too,” says Kai Opdenwinkel, Freudenberg Medical Europe General Manager. Freudenberg components also fix an implant’s individual components in place and seal the prosthesis.
Even as a child, Wetterauer had hearing difficulties. As an adult, she suffered significant hearing loss twice within one year. As a result, she lost her hearing in both ears and suffered her own personal crisis. No longer able to hear the splash of the morning shower, the hairdryer silent. “Since I wasn't able to hear or communicate, I was really concerned that I might lose my friends and my job,” she says, with a serious look on her face. “In our goal-driven society, I had always defined myself by my abilities and had the feeling I couldn’t achieve anything anymore.” Today, her feet are firmly back under the table. She runs a self-help group, has retired after 35 years at the company, and is even able to make phone calls again using additional technology. The device transmits the caller’s voice directly into her ear. “Making a phone call is still challenging; even whispering feels as though I'm running a marathon,” says Wetterauer. “Out of tragedy, I’ve experienced a completely different world – a world of silence. I’ve made new friends; old friends are still there for me. There have been moments when I've been unable to understand things and when I've wanted to withdraw from the world. But now I have a new and important task: To raise awareness about hearing loss and help others who are affected.”