Read to see how Caroline S.’ activation day went! Want to read her first blog to hear about her life leading up to her cochlear implant surgery? Click here.
“On my activation day, we invited my referring audiologist and she kindly brought huge coffees for everyone. The morning was very exciting! It takes a few minutes to be ‘hooked up;’ I remember my audiologist asking me to let her know how many beeps I heard. Wait, I do not hear beeps. Finally there were some faint sounds way in the background, were those beeps???
After the ‘beeps,’ she switched me on. Whoa! What is all that noise? I had no idea what I was hearing. There was definitely sound, but it did not seem to relate to anything around me. At one point, I wanted to say something, but each time I began to speak there was some noise I wanted to hear, so I stopped speaking. I think it took three false starts before I realized the ‘noise’ was my voice.
We looked at some pictures which related to the sounds my audiologist was making, sounds like ‘mmmmm’ ‘eeeeee’ ‘ooooo’ ‘aaaaaaaaaah’ ‘sssssss’ and ‘shhhhhh.’ They all sounded the same. Okay, I thought, this might take a lot of work.
All the new sounds in the world
I am not sure how much time passed, but each moment was interesting so time flew by. At one point, my audiologist started counting aloud, slowly, clearly. By the middle of the third round of ten, I was able to decipher numbers; this was my ‘aha!’ moment. I was able to recognize the frequency of a human voice! After that, sounds began making more sense. By the time we left that day, I could hear Andreas better than I had in many years. Do not get me wrong, he did not quite sound ‘normal’ yet, but I could decipher his speech and make out consonants – CONSONANTS!!!
Most implant recipients talk about the ‘Mickey Mouse Phase.’ I can relate. Even male voices have high frequency characteristics and because I could now hear a huge scope of frequencies, my brain could hear the high end of male voices. Female voices were comically high, but I could understand what was being said!!! This was new.
On the drive home, at the first left turn I heard the signal indicator. Coooooooool! I had not heard that in so many years. We stopped at Staples on the way home and I heard Andreas whisper that he loves me. I heard him whisper. Gulp. Tears. Joy!!!
Arriving home, I was curious about ALL the sounds in the house; the key unlocking the door, my footsteps on the kitchen, the fridge door opening and closing and best of all, the creaking of the hardwood floors. I think I stood rocking my body weight back and forth on the hardwood for about half an hour. It just sounded so neat!
Tapping glass sounded different than tapping wood. The counter top, metal kitchen rack, wall, wood, glass, metal…tap it again! I felt like an infant and it was absolutely wonderful. I was beside myself with gratitude to God, my referring audiologist, my surgeon, the cochlear implant team (and my cochlear implant surgery) and to my husband, even to those who went before me, making cochlear implants possible.
Eager for every sound
I went to bed waaaaaay too late that night, because I could actually make out speech *blind* off the TV and computer. From everything we know, this is NOT normal. I was anticipating six months of work and intense rehab. As it turned out for me, the day after activation I could hear what my guests were saying better than I had in 20 years. It was incredible and emotional and I was jacked up on adrenaline, eager for every sound.
I remember the next night Andreas brought his drum sticks up from the basement. We sat on the floor in the kitchen drumming on everything, the floor, wooden cutting board, metal baking tray, plastic board, wooden cupboard and the floor. Back and forth and back again until those sounds began to sound familiar. It was incredible! I could tell the difference between the sounds of various surfaces and materials.
From there it just got better. Everyone says ‘it gets better and better,’ believe it because it is true.
Everything is easier and faster
Now, I can hear Andreas without looking at him. Sometimes I can understand what he says from another room! When we are in the car, I can watch the road and scenery AND hear what he is saying. We can have a ‘normal’ conversation in a restaurant. I can speak with strangers and not even mention that I am hearing impaired. Yup. Believe it.
Everything is easier and faster. We stopped on the way home one day and I popped into a store, grabbed what we needed, and paid, without any of the usual clunky, difficult challenges that go with being hearing impaired. Transactions are so much smoother now, and faster.
I listen to music regularly. Music is challenging, but well worth the effort. Andreas discovered that I like older electronic music best. In the beginning, listening to familiar songs from the 1980s, it was difficult to sift through all the frequencies to find the singer’s voice. It gets easier though and now I am flabbergasted that I can recognize a tune within a bar of music! I can hear lyrics. I CAN HEAR LYRICS!!!
I am addicted to the TED Radio Hour and most often spend the morning of my days off listening to radio. I also enjoy listening to online sermons. Now, the whole world of podcasts has opened up to me!
I can tell my brain is lighting up. When you cannot discern speech, you lack ‘input.’ There just are not enough new ideas coming in. Despite the fact that I enjoy reading, it was not enough intellectual stimulation. Now I have input, AND I can hear my own voice, so ideas build on ideas.
I still struggle with hearing new people, sometimes, but usually it only takes a sentence and then I can ‘tune in’ to the voice, speech pattern, accent, etc.
My dream come true
When I met my surgeon the first time, he asked me what I was hoping for. I told him that I love having the family over to our place. I love cooking and we enjoy entertaining at home. Even though I could never be part of the dinner conversation, I still enjoyed a house full of loud voices and laughter. I enjoy the time spent prepping food and setting the table, but occasionally I felt very sad that I only had a cursory role in the festivities, even though we were hosting. Often I would spend the bulk of the visit in the kitchen cleaning up and ‘hiding’ where it is ‘safe’ because it was so much easier. Fighting tears, I told my surgeon that it would be really amazing if I could just follow the dinner conversation. I did not think I needed to take part necessarily, but to at least know what everyone was talking about would be really nice. His reply was ‘Oh I think we can do better than that.’
At Easter, my dream came true. I was immersed in the dinner conversation and lounged on the sofa after our meal, visiting with my nieces, my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law. I spent less time in the kitchen than I ever have at any family gathering. Later this month, I will be heading back to Ontario to visit my family there. I will be the person in the family with the most hearing…what a crazy thought. I am looking forward to walking arm in arm with my Mom, and actually hearing her ramble on about her garden, what kind of ice cream she loves best and what a pretty sunset she saw from the bedroom window last night.
Every moment of hearing is fantastic. There are no sounds I do not like.
This is my dream come true.”
Is it time for a change? Take the first step towards a new life of hearing today.