Last Wednesday I had my sixth mapping. I spent two hours with my audiologist, and I realized something that truly makes a great audiologist is one who can also play the role of therapist once in a while as well. Not many audiologists seem to spend as much time paying attention to the client's psyche as much as the numbers and data and gadgetry and knick knacks.
My afternoon with Michelle reminded me of a lesson that my state director for the Miss Deaf Tennessee Pageant, Marty Dunnagan, taught me years ago: "The only person you are competing with is yourself." She drilled that in my head that it was all about me doing my personal best and not sitting around getting eaten up by what talents or skills someone else might possess.
Having a new cochlear implant is life changing and stressful, although it's a good kind of stress. It still involves dealing with personal expectations, excitement, disappointment, frustration, and anxiety. I can read other experiences and blogs until the cows come home, but Michelle is concerned I'm going to (or *ahem* already have) become impatient with myself when I, unwittingly, compare myself to others and their experiences.
Usually I find other blogs EXTREMELY inspiring and enlightening on the real experience as opposed to the advertised experience of being a cochlear implant user, but once in a while there might be something said on another blog post that makes me second guess myself or feel like I'm not up to par with where I should be. Usually though, I feel a kindred of spirit with a small group of people that are right now going through this journey as newbies too, and I look to the more experienced posters for encouragement and an idea of what to expect down the road. However, if I find that one thing that makes me doubt myself, it might take me some time to find perspective, and that's when I'll ask Michelle questions..."well, what about this... or what about that??? Was this the right choice? Should I be able to do this?" I'm not bad about bothering her (I don't think anyway), but I do think she is just insightful and pays close attention to what her clients are thinking and saying.
Michelle likes to remind me of what I've accomplished in a short time, what I've had to overcome, what limitations I might have started with that someone else might not have had, and she also reminds me how much I want this to work. Above everything else, she truly believes it's the time, training, and desire to do well that makes successful CI users. She explained why brand name is a factor but in the end, if someone is going to succeed with Nucleus Freedom, they probably would succeed with the Med-el or Advanced Bionics. Likewise, if someone wasn't successful with one, they probably wouldn't have been successful with any. Food for thought. At least I'd never thought of it that way.
I guess a good analogy for Michelle's theory would be that it's like driving a car. Hondas and Toyotas are great, but there's a difference between a 16 year old driver and a 30 year old driver (or should be!) It doesn't matter which one either drives which brand. The 30 year old will most likely adapt most easily due to previous experience driving, while the 16 year old will not have the years of experience of driving in either brand and will have to gain experience one day at a time. The 16 year old shouldn't feel compelled to be as talented a driver as a more experienced one. No type of car is going to put that 16 year old on the same playing field as the 30 year old.
I love my audiologist. She spends more time pepping and educating me than she does testing in booths or plotting points on paper, but her positivity and practical advice is what I take with me and use to keep my goals realistic (or to celebrate when the phenomenal happens!) She also takes her time with the mappings and never rushes. It's great because I will leave there wondering if it's tweaked just right, and then bam, the little things just start rolling and I have to take notes (or blog) to keep up with what happens every time I get a new tune-up after visiting her. I also like to email her little things here and there like "I heard crickets last night!!!" I know she can appreciate it more than anyone.
Even though I left there feeling like I didn't have much more oomph to my CI this time, she did a HINT sentence test just before I left and I scored 79%! I was very nervous for some reason, my own personal expectations, I think. This was just wearing the CI and no hearing aid sitting in a sound proof booth listening to the recorded sentences from the speakers. Before I had the CI surgery, I had scored 43% on the same test. She also re-tested my hearing and it was similar to my first test after activation. All frequencies between 250-6000 were either 20 or 25 dB. Last time there was actually a 15dB in the higher frequencies, but she accuses me of being "trigger happy" (can I help it if my ears ring after one pitch???) and says the most recent test is going to be more accurate. I'm still dumbfounded that it is MY test that has that line right going across the top of the paper instead of curving off the right side of the paper into a dead man's ski drop and fading off into oblivion to never be seen again. Amazing.
Like I said, I didn't feel much power or oomph... mostly it seemed the same but with slightly more static (of sounds I guess I need to process?) However, I've been hearing some really cool stuff in the last few days (plus Michelle also says that's just a life time hearing aid user thing wanting to max out the volume on their new CIs while later deafened people tend to go much easier on that... interesting, yes?) That same night, I heard my VRS (video phone) ringing when my friend, Crissie, called. I've never heard that. I was looking at the ceiling trying to figure out what the ringing sound was when I realized that...holy torpedo...my bat signal was going off in the computer room.
The next day, I noticed that in EVERY room of the house I could hear the birds singing loudly. all. day. long. At one point, I was about to fling open the door (at least in my head) and scream "don't you chicks have some worms to dig???" I had to grin knowing that I was kinda, sorta whining to myself about hearing birds take over the house. I wasn't really that annoyed, but I was amused and in awe of this new mapping that seemed so subtle yet was still hitting like a ton of bricks... this sucker had some serious power.
I left my son and husband at the airport to fly to a wedding in Tennessee on Friday afternoon, two days after my mapping. On the plane I thought I'd relax a bit being child-free (and missing him already) and very tired. However five year old, Giovanni, sitting in front of me begged to differ and talked to me the entire flight peeking over his armrest back at me about his summer plans (five weeks in Chicago) and his Gravedigger monster truck (Aidan has the same one, but Giovanni has FOUR trucks!) he was playing with on armrest or passing back to me to "play" with too and all about the monster truck show we both had the uh... joy?... of attending a few months ago in Houston. :-P He offered me candy and wasn't going to take no for an answer. We looked out our windows at the clouds, and when we landed he pointed out the tractors and trucks on the runway. Of course his dad slept through all of this. My seatmate was of no help either. Since I was already missing my son I was a sucker for this thoroughly exhausting conversation anyway.
Just before we landed this child had tapped me for the umpteenth time. I looked up.... "yes????" Giovanni (who also goes by G-man) says most precociously, "I'm not allowed to talk to strangers." Say what, buddy? Oh no you didn't.... Me *shaking head* and maybe ever so slightly impatient after over 2 hours of ongoing conversation with the little guy.... "well, why are you talking to me?" G-man replies, "you aren't a stranger." *SHAKING HEAD AGAIN* "...you don't know me!" G-man says??? (do I even need to say it?) "Yes, I do!!!"
Who can argue with the wisdom of a five year old missing most of his top front teeth? Certainly not the lady blessed enough to understand almost every word he spoke even though he was half hidden by his seat in front of her on a very loud airplane ride from Houston to Chicago. I hope the little G-man is having a fabulous summer vacation!