There’s so much running through my mind as I sit down to put this post together. Some regret for not posting more, but realizing that’s in large part because of being selfish. Selfish because writing isn’t solely for me any longer, it’s for a much larger crowd who will hopefully read some of my posts in years to come as they are seeking advice and knowledge like I did. Initially writing was meant to help me chronical my journey, to help me remember the pain and joy, the details that as some point I’d surely forget. There’s also some longing for the enjoyment I get from organizing my thoughts into what becomes my blog posts because, you see, I’ve never considered myself very good at writing, but here I am. Most of what’s running through my mind is about what I want this 2 year “ear”versary message to say.
So, here I am. 2 years from my single greatest life change when my first cochlear implant was activated (connected, turned on).
I scour crowds today looking for people wearing cochlear implants. It’s a rare occurrence to find someone, even when I’m traveling in larger cities. That tells you how small the group of cochlear implant recipients is. In Southern Indiana, where I live, there are no cochlear implant programs, so it’s not surprising to seldom see someone here. I try very hard to stay in contact with the few people I do know with CIs near me, since we are such a small group. This still saddens me because there are candidates for cochear implants walking around me, probably every day. They just don’t know it.
I have several friends who now talk more opening about their hearing challenges, some had pursued getting hearing aids, which makes me so happy. Nobody should struggle to hear.
I have a long time friend who has a granddaughter that is getting ready to be implanted soon. She’s not yet a year old! She will have sound introduced at an early enough age that she may not miss any language developmental milestones. Hearing the sound of her parents voice singing to her. Hearing the laughter of her family and friends and all that life has to offer her.
Ok, 2 years later. What’s it like?
Most days I don’t think about being deaf because of how well I can hear and interact in all settings. Life is good. I think that more of my prior extroverted personally is emerging all the time. I spend a lot of time on my phone for work, without ANY hesitation to answer or make a call. And, most importantly to me, unless I’m in my car and talking through it’s speakers, my calls are made by holding my phone up to my ear. That’s due to the amazing feature from Advanced Bionics called the t-mic. The microphone actually hangs in the front of the opening to my ear allowing sounds to be picked up in a “natural” manner. By aligning my phone with the t-mic, which naturally happens just by holding the phone to my head as anyone would, I pick up the conversation just as anyone using a cell phone would. Also, and I can’t remember if I’ve ever shared this, I use earbuds a lot now. The t-mic is flexible and can be tucked a little inside the opening to my ear, right in front of an earbud. I’ve also used headphones, and while they certainly work, they are bulkier than I like usually. Earbuds are perfect for the treadmill or bike and I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to podcasts recently. While I’m learning, I’m also doing rehab. Listening to the spoken word is excellent therapy, and understanding the spoken word is an amazing gift!
Time for short break for a commercial.
Advanced Bionics is the manufacture of my cochlear implants and everything about them, from their products to their people, is A+! I realize that there are people who will be reading this post because they are considering cochlear implants and I want you to know that you have 3 options to consider. If you are making your decision based upon technology, I’d challenge you to find more depth or built in capacity for expansion. If you are making your decision based upon support, from the clinical and customer service representatives, to the online forum Hearing Journey, to the amazing group of AB evangelists, like myself, who take time nearly every day to encourage, comfort, educate, console and congratulate others on this journey, I’d challenge you to find better support. If you are making your decision based on features, I challenge you to think about function over form – what are your needs today and what will they be tomorrow. Obviously, this will differ based upon age, but the freedom of living that comes with the features from Advanced Bionics have allowed me to remain in my current field and given me the added advantage of not being limited in any capacity.
I wish my 40 year old self could have known more about the options for hearing loss, thinking about the unimaginable at the time, that I’d find myself in a world where hearing aids were mostly only providing noise over meaningful, interpretable sounds. I wish I would have know to spend more time then educating myself about technology beyond hearing aids, to be my own advocate for my future. I think in some ways because cochlear implants weren’t brought up, and they weren’t done in my community, and I didn’t really know anyone with one, I assumed that they were for people “much” worse than I was and that they were reserved for a group of people I’d never found myself to be a part of. I have to say that as a nurse, a healthcare professional who has personally counseled and advocated for hundreds of patients to do just what I’m saying, I hold an element of disappointment within myself for this, but realistically so. As long as I can now spend time trying to spread the word to others and advocate for them, I can forgive it within myself.
I wish my 40 year old self would have been more compassionate about the suffering I’d go through. I was hard on myself at times, sure that I wasn’t doing all I could to hear as good as I should have with hearing aids.
Finally, I wish my 40 year old self would have known how amazing life would be 10 years later (well 11, since I’m 51 now). Through the pain and suffering, the struggles and tears has re-emerged a passion for advocacy, living and helping.
Thank you to all who have taken time to read my ramblings, offered encouraging words, answered my questions, walked beside me, and continue to push me to keep climbing. It’s been an amazing couple of damn years!!