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Des Moines Businesswoman Climbs to Top despite Hearing Loss

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DES MOINES, Iowa  -- A Des Moines businesswomen proved she can make it big in the concrete business but there was another major hurdle she still had to overcome.

Keri Storjohann is the only female at MAKO Enterprises, a concrete accessory manufacturing and distribution company. Storjohann is also the company’s chief executive officer.

“It was interesting that there was this stigma that there couldn`t be a woman CEO in the construction industry especially the concrete industry.”

Storjohann says she can easily point to the times when she was reminded the construction field was that of a man’s world. She quickly learned to tune out the naysayers despite having a hard time actually hearing them.

“It was just so frustrating because I had so much to say but I had to rely on other people to be my voice on the phone or to hear for me. it was a struggle. It was tough. It was very exhausting,” she says.

A car accident several years ago left  her with severe hearing loss. She struggled to communicate with her colleagues and hearing aids didn't work. At one point, she considered stepping down from her position.

“I thought about that but I thought who is going to hire me? I can’t hear. I can`t talk on the phone. I can’t work in meetings.”

Last spring, Storjohann was introduced to cochlear implants; a small device that sends electrical sound signal to the brain. The device has been FDA approved for close to 30 years however audiologists say many people with hearing loss don’t know anything about it.

Sarah Fugleberg, an audiologist at Iowa Ear Center says new technology continues to help her clients hear better, quicker.

“Two weeks after Keri’s implant was turned on, she went from around 34 -  percent word understanding to 74 -  percent word understanding,” she says. Now Storjohann has a word understanding of 97 percent.

Often feeling trapped between the deaf world and hearing world, Storjohaan calls the implants life changing.

“I’m hearing things I hadn’t heard for 40 years. I remember coming back after they activated the implant. I was like what is that sound, that’s the turn signal on the car, she smiles.

For other people struggling to overcome their own obstacles, Storjohaan says it’s about finding a way to adapt and preserver.

“Just keep going and never quit. We all get dealt challenge cards but it’s how you deal with them is what really counts.”

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