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The Greatest Gift I Gave Myself
Posted On 12/18/2020 02:21:31 by azjudy

December 17, 2020


Thought I would write something since I haven’t writen anything for ages. Be prepared for a mini novella. LOL


The Greatest Gift I Gave Myself


This story begins a year and half ago.  It has been a tremendous journey into the world of sound..  At the age of nearly 68, I decided to get a cochlear implant. When I suddenly lost my functional hearing at the age of seven years old and could no longer hear or distinguish words, I never ceased to hope my hearing would return.  As the years passed, I coped but didn’t accept my deafness until I was 21. That’s another story but from that day in 1971, I accepted my deafness and stopped the wishing for something that was gone.. I used hearing aids for many years as my hearing deteriorated so my ability to use hearing aids. In the summer of 1986 my aids were not working so I took them to be repaired but he audiologist assured me they were in working condition.  I then knew that soon I would be in total silence. The time came sooner than I expected and loud noises were a thing of the past for me and just silence.

Fast forward 35 years and I am now retired. One day I met a young woman who recently lost her hearing so got an implant. I was impressed with how small they were now and how improved they were.  I began doing some research and found out that even though my hearing loss was a pre-existing condition that the insurance would pay for everything.  This made no sense to me since insurance won’t shell out $1500-3500 for hearing aids but would pay  nearly two hundred thousand dollars for the implant and surgery.  I called the Mayo hearing clinic and got the ball rolling. I had to wait 6 weeks for an appointment with the audiologist who would evaluate my hearing, main means of communication and expectations for the implant.

The audiologist appointments:   

The first appointment finally arrived and hubby and I make the 45 minute drive to Scottsdale.  The audiologist tested my hearing and afterwards began asking me what I wanted from the implant. Since I had already done so much research, I knew my chances to hear speech was nil or impossible.  I am a realist so just told her that I would like to hear my dog bark and environmental sounds again and didn’t expect normal hearing.  She showed me my audiogram which as pathetic.  I had absolutely no residual hearing so had a higher than average change for the implant to be a complete failure which meant in the end I would have a mini computer with a blank hard drive in my head that was useless. I just said “so what, I won’t be any worse off.”  She gave her approval for the operation. We had three sessions.

The Doctor/surgeon

The doctor was the next step. He kept emphasizing that there was 85% chance of a complete failure. I had him explain and he said worse case scenario is that when they turn on the implant, the result would be zip ,nada, and nothing-  not even environmental sounds. I said I have nothing to lose. His reply was, “your life from the anesthesia.” I didn’t count on that possibility but Paul was a little upset. In the end and out of consideration for Paul I decided to postpone my decision and discuss it w/Paul.  As usual, he said it was my decision. I think he didn’t want to influence me at all. Four days later, I decided to go for it.

The big day

Finally, the big day was here. It was an out patient procedure or surgery.  The operation itself only took an hour and half. Pain was practically non-existence but now I had to wait 30 days before the implant would be turned on.   They do that to give the body time to heal and accept the foreign object. Unknown to me, they already knew the surgery and implant was working.  Later I found out my audiologist tested the device from her office miles from the surgical center.  Have to admit it was a long 30 days.

Turning it on, Did it work?

On a rainy day we headed to Scottsdale. My audiologist did some tinkering then when she thought it was programed enough, she whispered to Paul to say something. I wasn’t paying attention when all of a sudden, I heard aa voice. I looked at Paul and burst out crying.  It was such an emotional thing. I would need to go back to her the very next day for more tuning then the appts would be spaced over time. We went home and I stopped in the women’s restroom. I was overwhelmed with loud and blaring noises.  I went into a stall and hear voices, toilets flushing and even a funny, rather steadily sound that I couldn’t identify.  I found out later that it actually was the ladies urinating. Toilets flushing was the worst.  LOL  Now comes the big test now. Would I be like many deaf folks and give it up because they can’t tolerate it. For me it would be a worse ordeal because I lived in total silence for 35 years. We get home and immediately I fell asleep and in the following days, I suffered extreme fatigue. That was normal because your brain is trying to adapt and so on. A rather strange incident happened on that first day.  I could hear every little patter, click and clack even when sleeping.  I guess it was some time later when I hear this ugly and loud sound I couldn’t stand. I opened my eyes and could see Paul asleep in the next recliner. Sill I could hear that awful noise but what. Finally, I was aggravated and demanded to know what that sound was and stop it. Paul work up and I grumpily asked him what that noise was.  “What noise?”  I replied I didn’t hear it anymore.  Poor guy sheepishly said, “It probably was me snoring.”

Now,nearly two years after My CI

It wasn’t easy to get used to a head full of loud noises that most folks take for granted.   There are still sounds that hearing folks might not like but can tolerate where as I still can’t tolerate and one of those things is the washer/dryer. There are days when I refuse to put on the device and want a day of quiet but those days are fewer.  The most amazing thing is I actually defied the doctor and audiologist’s  declaration that I wouldn’t be able to recognize various sounds or distinguish words but I do and it is so thrilling for me.  I will be doing a puzzle or something and hear a word or two from the TV and will ask Paul if they said such and such. I am not taking the therapy they recommend which usually come with the implants my niece and grand-nephew are taking.  Neither one was totally deaf and my niece had normal hearing most of her life.  She began to lose it with each pregnancy. They need the therapy to learn to hear “normally” with the implant.   I felt I was too old to start all over with therapy and am happy with how well I am doing.

Some thoughts

Many people asked why I didn’t do this before.  For me, it was the fact they improved and were not such bulky and awkward devices like the previous ones. I will also admit to procrastination but again that is another story. Many deaf people who are born deaf or became deaf before the onset of a verbal language do not feel like they need to be “hearing” to be “complete.” Probably around 75% of prelingual deaf people eventually quit using their implants.

The professionals all said sounds would be foreign to me. In other words, in other words, I had nothing to help me recognize and know what I was hearing. This is a tough concept for most people to understand but just imagine being born blind and never seeing colors, shapes or objects. You suddenly are able to see the world around you but would you know what you were seeing? My sound memory was buried too deep after 62 years of deafness and would be of no help. Happy to say the naysayers were wrong. I was walking to the car and asked Paul if I was hearing birds because I heard chirping sounds but couldn’t see any birds because the foliage was too thick. I could go on but will end this with thought that the would of sound is amazing when you never had it.


Viewing 1 - 1 out of 1 Comments

12/18/2020 18:28:00

Thanks for sharing..so many take things for granted..lest we see their world, if only briefly...to fully understand

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