Well, today was activation day! I went in and first they tested my ear to see what of my residual hearing was saved. I had a touch of ringing in my ear, so I was worried about what the results would be, but most of my hearing that I had before is still there. There were just a few spots where it had dropped down, but only by about 10 db and that may be attributed to the tinnitus.
After the quick hearing test, we went back into the cochlear implant office and the audiologist explained the next step. She had to do a test of the internal device and she explained that I may or may not hear anything. It was a weird feeling to have the magnet placed on my head! The test was over pretty quickly and I was able to hear some sounds, though they were just quick beeps.
Next, she placed the processor and magnet from my own processor on my head. This was connected to the computer by a cord. I had to listen for sounds (beeps again) and tell the audiologist when I first heard the beeps. Then she would continue until it felt like it was too loud or uncomfortable and then bring the volume down to a more comfortable level. This continued several times, starting with low frequencies and moving up into higher frequencies. The higher frequencies were very weird to hear! That is where the majority of my hearing loss is.
After that was over, she turned the implant on completely. At first, I wasn’t even sure that it was actually on. When she spoke, I didn’t hear anything that even remotely RESEMBLED her voice. We thought the volume may have been too soft, so she turned it up a bit. I soon realized that the beeps and warbles I was hearing were happening when there was sound, like someone talking. I wasn’t able to distinguish any voices during the appointment and the remainder of the appointment was spent going over all of the stuff that I got (TONS) and how to work the processor and the different paperwork and manuals that came with it. I was told to just go out and wear the implant and test out the two programs that were set up to see if I could tell a difference between the two and if i had a preference and to just listen for any sounds that I could hear and distinguish and any sounds that may be overbearing and uncomfortable.
After the activation appointment, I had my post op appointment with the surgeon. It went very well and I was told all restrictions were lifted and I need to go back in three months. He was also happy to see that my residual hearing was saved. All in all, a good appointment!
After I left the doctor’s office, I went back to my hotel room. I noticed that I could hear the turn signal in the car, which is something that I hadn’t really heard before. Music, of course, was unrecognizable. I got back to my room and the first thing I did was listen to more sounds around me: the air conditioner, the water in the sink, the toilet flushing. All sounded warbly and unrecognizable. Then I pulled out my iPad from school and started playing a letter app. This app would show you several letters, a few at first and then more as you played longer, and it would say, “Touch the letter ______.” After you touched the correct letter, it would say, “Good Job,” or “Sweet.” The first time I heard it say “sweet,” I didn’t have my hearing aid on and thought I misunderstood it, since sounds were still cartoonish. So, I turned on my hearing aid and sure enough, I heard it right! I was able to understand a lot of the letters, even when I closed my eyes and didn’t look at the choices. They still didn’t sound normal, still cartoonish, but I understood what the app said. I was excited by this.
Later that night, I went to eat at Noodles and Company and then went to get a piece of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. I noticed that I could hear my keys jingle and that it sounded much like a cowbell, very noisy! I also noticed that the ice clinking in the glass sounded very high pitched. While I was standing in line to order at Noodles and Company, I could sort of hear the cashier directly in front of me, about 3-4 feet away, though I couldn’t understand her. I couldn’t hear the other cashier, who was maybe 7-8 feet away. I went and sat down and ate and didn’t really notice anything more specific, though nothing was uncomfortable sounding, either. Cheesecake Factory was the same way. I had to keep my hearing on so that I could understand the people I was interacting with, though I tried to keep the volume low.
As the night goes on, I’ve needed to take some breaks from wearing it, though I’ve tried not to make them long breaks. The constant warble noise gets a little overwhelming sometimes. I hope to be able to practice some this weekend while I’m around people. This would mostly be trying to distinguish some words and maybe listening to a book while reading it. It’ll be hard not to do too much at first, because I want so badly to be successful and practicing is the best way to get there! I admit, I had hoped during the activation appointment that I would be one of the very rare few who actually understand speech and sounds at their activation appointment, but I certainly didn’t expect it.
I also want to say that a big reason why I made it a point to say that the sound was not normal or that it sounds warbly so often throughout this post is to help dispel the “cochlear implants are cures to deafness” myth. SO many people think that all we have to do is get a deaf person an implant and they will hear and they are cured! First of all, not all Deaf/deaf people want an implant and that is O K! More on that later. Second of all, I am proof that you can’t just give someone an implant and they will hear and be like a hearing person. It’s going to take time and patience and work before I start to be more functional with the implant. And my experiences are not going to be the same as a child who is implanted, when that child never heard before. I may start understanding words tomorrow, or next week, but it could take months or years before a child can understand spoken words. Again, more on that later!