It has been one year since my initial activation. I find it overwhelming to think where I was a year ago. I was absolutely MISERABLE when this sucker was turned on. I think I was miserable with a pounding headache for about a week at least. I remember wondering if this thingamajig was really going to work for me and supersede my trusty old analog hearing aid and being a little afraid of the residual hearing I'd lost if it didn't work out. I was also foolishly thinking before activation I was going to go home and get *something* out of my first night of watching American Idol other than screeching bells and whistles going off in my head. Yes, it has been one glorious year!
One year later I can say that hearing aid really is crap! :-P I just got a brand new digital aid.... top of the line expensive doo-dad that is supposed to be the hearing aid equivalent to a cochlear implant for my unimplanted left ear.... and unfortunately, it's absolutely craptacular in comparison to the sounds I hear from my implanted ear. I thought a hearing aid would give me a little more support, but I have found that I can easily take it off without missing it too much. Since I just got it, I'm not writing it off yet. I have another session with my audiologist coming up for a tune up, but seriously, I'm deaf. That poor hearing aid doesn't have much to work with so I can hardly blame it. On the other hand (or should that be "on the other ear"?) my right ear keeps discovering new sounds that continue to amaze me. I've leveled out quite a bit, but occasionally there is something new that leaves me in awe that I heard. I think the latest bit of cool quirky hearing involves listening to a DJ on the local supercheese mellow pop radio station talk to the people that call in with song requests. I have to concentrate a bit (not too difficult though) to follow, but I get a kick out of her callers calling in with sob stories and seriously cheesy song requests while she does her best to sound like a radio Oprah giving advice prior to doling out the songs. Just the other day she ended up telling a caller that her boyfriend didn't deserve a song because of the way he treated the girl and convinced her to play a song for another guy friend instead. Like I said... cheesy stuff!
My favorite thing to hear in the last year is, hands down, my two year old's witty banter. Before I had the implant I worried how much conversation I would miss with him in the first years. Now I can drive down the road and hold conversations with him sitting in the back. I do peek at him in the rear view mirror because my hearing isn't to the point that we can hold lengthy conversations without any visual contact, especially over the sounds of a running car, but I follow him easily, so I'll take it! We talk about everything from airplanes to what he ate for lunch and where our cats are and where we are going next or what we'll do this weekend. He often pauses, looks at me carefully and asks, "Did you hear THAT?" Ha! How many times I must say that to him, I know. We talk about the birds singing and planes flying. This past week we talked about the huge full moon as we drove home from grocery shopping at Walmart, and he declared that the moon was following him home. I've been privy to some really cute thoughts he has, and he is so entertaining! I have also had many exasperated conversations in the last year regarding his battery operated Thomas and Percy trains that he sends under furniture only to get stuck running in place against the wall making annoying clicking sounds. It's amazing! I must admit though that his temper tantrums in high def are no fun, and sometimes I turn him off when he's pitching a fit loudly in high decibels. He'll learn. Mommy has secret super powers and does not HAVE to listen. It's optional. :-D I also love knowing when I'm across the house if he's sleeping or not during his nap without having to open the door. I can hear his lullaby music easily, and I know if he's having conversations or Monster Truck Jam re-enactments with his Grave Digger pillow. I can hear him summon me after almost every nap with hysterics as if I've left him in his crib to run away to the beach without him. Pre-cochlear implant my problem was that I thought I would hear him when he was actually nearly asleep and not making a peep. So of course when I'd go in his room he'd perk up and I would wake my little almost sleeping giant while silently cursing myself for listening to the voices in my head since they weren't real. :-P
I also enjoy having much easier conversations with my extremely shy preteen stepdaughter without constantly asking her to speak up. We are both much less frustrated when we communicate and it's made life much more mellow when we spend time together. I love being able to talk to her without having to strain just to understand a single sentence. When we are together now conversation flows more easily, and I'm sure she's much more relaxed when talking to me just as I am more relaxed kicking back with her and talking about all the little things in life.
I recently had a doctor's appointment and showed up to find an interpreter I didn't request waiting for me. Bless her heart and bless the heart of the staff member that requested her for me. Rarely will someone take the initiative to call an interpreter for a patient without being reminded, so I felt special and hoped I didn't discourage that staff member from going the extra mile for someone else in the future. I also felt bad when I told the interpreter I honestly didn't need her. It was Friday, and thankfully she was just happy to go home early anyway. The crazy thing is when I first was activated 12 months ago I HAD to have an interpreter there with me. I also had an interpreter in my real estate class that only lasted a few classes before I just couldn't stand it. Watching her while I was listening to my professor totally confused me. I was all too aware of the time delay of what she was signing. It was overwhelming to watch a conversation two sentences behind what is being said verbally. If the speaker was signing, that would be so different since I could follow the conversation and signing simultaneously. I still miss out things being said in group settings or in church but I am getting somewhat better at following those conversations enough to get the gist of what's being said.
This last year has been really great for so many reasons. I love listening to the birds. It NEVER gets old going outside and hearing them calling to each other. I can tell when different birds sing. I love the variety of music in my backyard. I may get used to some things but I will always fully appreciate the birds I can hear now because it has been many many years since I've heard one at all, and I've never heard them as crisply asI hear them now. I am looking forward to the grasshoppers return this spring as well!
Sometimes I'm so fixated on wanting to perfect my cochlear implant through mappings and practice so that I can hear the words to songs or understand on the phone a little better that I forget how far I've come. When I got my new hearing aid after not wearing an aid for a couple of months, it really hit me as to what the difference is between before and after. It's stunning. My confidence has gone up more in the last year. I used to rely on my video phone, but I challenge myself to make calls to people I'm not used to hearing without an interpreter. I have my first cell phone which is far from perfect, but it's still delightfully strange to be able to call my husband from the store and ask if he needs something or call my friends to just say hi.
I feel so blessed to be able to rely on myself a bit more in the hearing world. When I was a deaf education teacher, I didn't need to be able to hear that well because I had interpreters available all day long and I had no problems communicating with my students in sign language. Now that I'm not teaching and am pursuing a career in real estate that demands being able to communicate with people that don't sign or trying to follow the unpredictable speech of a two year old, it is liberating to have this option in my life now. However, I must say at the end of the day when all is said and done, it's equally liberating to tune out the noisy world and relax. There's just nothing like it! What a fabulous year it has been!