Taking My Ears on the Road

About a month after my second implant was activated and I was hearing from both ears, I decided to take a short venture away from home. It was not to test my hearing but rather to socialize again with good friends. I was concerned about the logistics of charging my batteries and remembering to carry spare parts more than I was worried about hearing.

The distraction of the trip was quickly broken as I was driving on the highway and suddenly realized, to my complete shock, that I was hearing the radio. I can’t recall the last time I was able to do that! I missed some of the words, but I’d say I caught more than 80% of it — definitely enough to follow along. Music has been harder to enjoy with the implant but, as I traveled, I realized the music was becoming pleasant — not perfect, but not as bad as before. Talk radio came through with enough clarity that I didn’t feel like I was straining.

For the first time in my life, I was able to just casually listen. The keyword being casual. Hearing has not been a casual thing for most of my life. Focus, concentration, fatigue were real issues that I battled daily. I never bothered to listen to talk radio since I couldn’t hear it in any meaningful way. I used to blast music more for the beat than the lyrics. The only music I enjoyed in the car were songs of my childhood and better hearing days. As a child, I memorized the lyrics by reading the cassette covers and CD sleeves so I could sing along. This car ride was an unexpected joy. It was less tedious to travel having the radio for company instead of just noise.

After arriving at my destination, I realized that I was about to converse with a child for the first time since getting both implants. My best friend’s daughter, a chatty and excitable eight-year-old, wanted to talk and talk we did. The fact that I could understand her was a big deal. Children have higher-pitched and softer voices that are often not as easy to understand. Over the years as she learned to talk, I would pick up more and more, but I would need to ask her to repeat herself 2-3 times until I either understood or I had to ask for help. Now, as an eight-year-old, she has more to share than ever before and it was nice to be able to keep up with her.

I did discover something very difficult for me, even with both implants. Time will tell if this continues to be the case. Hearing behind me is nearly impossible, so walking single file with my friend didn’t work out. We have to be either side by side or I need to be the one to fall back in line. This is a situation where my accessories, like the Roger FM system, can help.

At the end of the day, we sat on a patio in the dark with a few candles and chatted. Only a year ago, my previous dependence on visual information would have limited my ability to communicate without a light source. I sat there in awe of the fact that I could hear without seeing, without lipreading, and without facial cues.

How many amazing things can happen to one person? I have lost count of the many ways that my hearing has returned to me.

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