Monday, March 31, 2014

Five Bionic Ear Years: An Update

Yesterday, I was sitting downstairs with Aidan, my soon to be seven year old, and suddenly, I heard birds. I asked Aidan to turn down his DS at first, thinking it was one of the many animals that are part of his games.  He said, "It's not from my DS!"  ...and then I realized how clear as day the birds outside were singing, even though I was sitting on my couch inside.  I had a insta-flashback to nearly five years prior.  I remembered being in the backyard and hearing birds for the first time since I was a tiny thing on my grandmother's porch as she pointed out the different birds and their melodies.

Nearly five years ago, I began journaling my awe of the birds and the crickets.  I remember the moment hearing water run in the bathroom for the first time and being astonished when I found the source!  I was annoyed with the refrigerator humming so loudly over the tv and the sound of my neighbor's AC unit competing with my husband's voice when we talked outside in the evening.  Those sounds were in decibels unfamiliar to me and came in like a roar until my brain learned to process them. Then there was the gas stove.  I finally knew if I had left it on because I could hear it clicking. There was music.  Hearing layers of music seemed like a 3D experience compared to the one dimensional and muted sounds I'd previously heard. I could recognize voices clearly rising and falling, and different instruments, even if I couldn't always tell which instrument was playing.  Over time, I started recognizing words and picking up conversations from talk radio and sometimes from songs.  The MOST amazing sounds of all were the voice of my child, who had just started talking up a storm, and being able to talk to my quiet stepdaughter and know more about what was going on in her world.

Today is five years since my cochlear implant was activated.  How life has changed since I struggled to make do with hearing aids that could no longer keep up with my need to be a part of the world around me.  I really disliked being on the sidelines trying to follow a conversation, and I couldn't catch a punchline to save my life.  I was terrified but so ready to make that next step.

I treasure the many moments in my life that are more enriched since that activation day. Last night, realizing the date, I spent a while reading some of those truly special moments I'd kept up with in this blog.  My sweet child was so young, and now he's in first grade. My stepdaughter is in high school and talking about *driving* soon....and they both wear the same shoe size! ***insert multiple looks of horror here*** Time has flown!

Last year, James, my husband, would play an Alan Jackson CD often, and I loved his easy, story telling voice.  Over time I picked up more and more from his CD and could finally sing along (in my lovely deaf way! ha!...and usually when no one but Aidan was with me.  He thought I sounded like the rock star I've always known I was!)

Alan Jackson came to the Houston Rodeo, and I insisted we get tickets.  It was, hands down, the *best* concert ever.  I'd never gone to a concert and known almost all the words.  Even Aidan, who was 5 at the time, had heard the songs so often (thanks to my obsession to figuring out each song), was peeved when a song he didn't know came on and made sure to tell us. The concert was captioned but I barely had to look.  That was one of the highlights of the last five years with my family for sure!

One of the biggest joys just may be that I can almost take for granted the sounds around me now, the long lengthy conversations with my bright, bubbly boy or catching up with my stepdaughter on all the high school angst and fun, listening to advice to the lovelorn on the radio or hearing my name called from far away.

James and I play softball. I can hear the groans if I swing and miss (such a rare thing for a player to admit but nonetheless, an experience known to happen), the shouts to wait on the ball, the "Go Michelle!" or the "Run Michelle!" or even better the "Stay Michelle!" (Come to think if it, softball coaches -looking at you hubby- kind of resemble dog trainers...hmm...) Granted, I play with some loud people, but growing up I never could distinguish anything being said to me at a softball game without usually craning my neck at some awkward position and still attempting to keep my eye on what was happening around me.  I love hearing the peanut gallery now....cracks and all!

I'm so grateful to my surgeon, Dr. McReynolds, for his expertise and time five years ago, as well as his passion for helping many people, and my audiologist, Michelle, the best in the business, who would spend hours with me perfecting each little nuance and never got impatient with me.  I'm grateful for my husband who loves me, and all the family, and friends who have supported me over the years.  I thank God for all the experiences I've had.  I'm proud to be deaf, still love basking in the silence (a super power every mama should have), and am grateful for the precious sounds, and even the annoying ones, I've been privy to in the last few years. I look forward to even more new adventures and milestones in next five years!

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