My Cochlear Implant Journey: Preparedness and Hope

The date fast approaches.

With my surgical date just around the corner, I’m reminded of the need for not only physical preparedness but mental preparedness as well.

I went for my second vaccine. As you probably remember, I received the first one eight weeks before. The crazy thing about waiting eight weeks is that I almost forgot the implant is happening. I had to go back to my life and the things I normally do, and it was just easier to forget about it. Just like the first vaccine, there’s something about getting jabbed with a needle to help wake you up to reality.

Thinking about the reality of surgery can be a bit scary, so I know I need to take my mind off my presurgical nerves. Writing out my hopes and dreams seems like a good place to start.

There’s a magical quality to hope. When I found out I was getting an implant, a new sense of hope budded and gave me a little stir of confidence. I even started answering my caption phone without relying on my husband, Phil, to screen the call first. But I discovered the strangest thing: slowly over eight weeks, I started to lose sight of that budding hope and fell back on older habits. I resigned myself to my limitations instead of pushing myself to overcome. Deafness is trying for me; it causes extreme fatigue, so it only makes sense that my energies would putter out.

What I most look forward to with a cochlear implant is renewed hope. I look forward to the possibility of improvement and change for the better. I have aspirations and desires I am working toward with the implant. The first is to hear with ease in quiet situations when facing someone. This may seem like such a simple thing, like I’m setting the bar low, but for me it would be a game changer. Most of my interactions with people are face to face in proximity. What a wonder it would be to hear every word! I’d love to catch all the little side stories that people like to share. I’d really like to be able to hear jokes again and laugh along. Asking people to repeat jokes just doesn’t work out well.

I don’t enjoy my current coping mechanism, it’s not really my style: I strong-arm the conversations and stick with the business at hand. I keep the conversation predictable. It’s not fun for me, and my communication partners would probably like to be able to relax, too.

There are many things I dream of doing, but I don’t want to get my hopes too high. Maybe after my implant activation I’ll feel confident enough to dream higher. I just don’t know if I can count on that, because so much about the process is unknown. Everyone has a different experience with implants.

I do know if I start to hope higher, I have a pretty long list…

I would love to answer the phone and not get all anxious about it. I’d like to talk to my friends when I need a friendly voice. I would love to relax. My current operating method is “high alert”: I constantly scan for visual information to fill in what I don’t hear, and I’m always checking in with other people for clarity and more information. Being on high alert all the time is draining. I dream of not depending on lip reading. It’s a great skill to have, but when relied on heavily it leads to fatigue and a certain level of intensity. People who don’t know me sometimes seem intimidated, and I think it’s because of my nonstop lip reading.

I’d love to hear spontaneous discourse, random things people say in the elevator or the supermarket, the hellos and goodbyes of those I pass in the hall. I’d love to know what people say to each other, the local lingo, the newest slang. I’d like to know what my neighbor is yelling out her window. I’d like to hear some of the softer sounds my cat makes, not the loud meow I hear fine now, but the softer chirps and grunts.

It’s hard for me to flex the optimism muscles, but if even a third of the things I listed were to improve, I’d be so happy. Even if the improvements were incremental and not complete, that would be alright, too. There’s much to gain from and the implant, so I will practice hopefulness over the coming months, as it will motivate me to work hard to learn to use my implant and rehabilitate my mind to hear again.*

Thanks for reading!

*Between the first draft of this post and now, I’ve had the surgery, so I thought I’d update before posting it. It was successful!

More milestones to come! Stay tuned here and on Facebook for future updates on Dr. Yoder’s cochlear implant journey, including recovery, activation, and rehabilitation.

Part 6: Surgery Day

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