Debbie Entsminger recalls hearing her husband open a bag of potato chips.

“It sounded like a whole bevy of squirrels. It was just crazy,” she said. “Within two hours, I started recognizing words.”

Debbie, 53, was recalling her experience from February, just a few weeks after her Jan. 23 cochlear implant surgery. The procedure corrected 18 years of gradual hearing loss.

“I had never heard the dishwasher before,” she said with a laugh. “It’s probably good I didn’t know how much I was missing before.”

The experience has changed the life of the campus pastor and local missionary. In her earlier years, Debbie wanted to do faith-based mission work overseas. The loss of her hearing made that nearly impossible.

She had her ears tested in college and discovered as a freshman that she already had 10 percent loss. She lost another 10 percent every four years until she was completely deaf.

“God gave me the ability to read lips. That’s hard work,” she said. “One of the hardest things about it is brain fatigue.”

A cochlear implant has given Debbie Entsminger her hearing back.
A cochlear implant has given Debbie Entsminger her hearing back.

Her drive to witness to others never faded. She initiated spiritual conversations despite not knowing if she’d be able to read lips well enough to keep conversations going. She and her husband joined a Christian group called The Navigators, hoping to pour into college-age students in a mentorship role.

“It’s definitely something you notice but it’s not a problem,” said recent University of South Florida graduate Katie Overbo.

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The cochlear implant has rejuvenated Debbie’s outlook on her mission field. She hopes to continue mentoring students, just like she has for 18 years.

“Blindness cuts you off from seeing the world, but deafness cuts you off from people,” she said, quoting Helen Keller. “I love stories because God writes the best ones.”

Debbie and her husband have worked with The Navigators since their college days at the University of Florida. Her cochlear implant surgery was done in Tampa by Dr. Loren Bartels.

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