I hit the one-year mark on the left side feeling very positive and grateful for what I have accomplished.
I’m continuing to perform well and have started to take for granted my hearing abilities to the point that I need to stop and remember how things used to be. I know that with my implant just on the left side I have gained so much.
As I reflect, here are some of the improvements:
I can hear in the car without having to lipread and I can hold entire conversations with my husband without facing him. The amazing part is that there is road noise in the car and normally, that would completely drown out everything, but with the cochlear implant, it’s just not an issue.
I can hear a friend while walking side by side without lipreading. Again, the amazing part here is that I don’t have to lipread and rarely have to ask for repeats. I make a point to have people on my “good” side (my implant side). I can remember when my other ear used to be my “good” ear. How things have changed!
I can have a conversation in a restaurant. The majority of the time when I sit in a restaurant with another person, I can hear the conversation. I do have to concentrate more and sometimes I need to lipread, but the effort is halved. I still struggle to hear the server and I can’t make out the background music… so restaurant situations are still difficult, but not insurmountably so I didn’t think this would happen — I expected to always struggle on the phone. The amazing thing about the phone is that I can understand without captioning! Before the implant, I not only used captioning and amplification on the phone, but I asked people to speak slowly and I still didn’t understand what they were saying. I missed so many subtle cues, emotional inflections, small talk, extension of niceties, and much more. I would apologize constantly for my ineffectual phone communication. I was often exhausted and embarrassed after calls and I had a real phone-phobia. That all changed. The phone is no longer the enemy. I still don’t want to have long conversations but now I can function, and it is such a relief.
I can also hear random sounds in the environment. Just the other day while staying in a hotel I heard a machine running. I commented several times to my husband, and he said it was probably the wind outside. The following morning, he was standing closer to where I heard the noise and said that the fridge was running. I was hearing a machine after all and I heard it before he did, and his hearing is normal!
Being more aware of the environmental sounds has been very helpful for my awareness and has reduced how often I get startled. Hearing the world’s noises keeps me grounded. I don’t feel as though I’m on the sidelines all the time. It used to be that when people stopped to listen to anything, I would have to ask what they heard, never hearing it for myself… but now I am hearing many of the sounds, not always understanding what they are, but at least hearing them.
Part 13: Deciding to Get a Second Cochlear Implant