One piece of advice everyone gave me when I was first approved for a cochlear implant was to hold those expectations in check. So I tried. But I kept exceeding them. I thought I would just hear sounds when my implant was first activated. I actually heard words. I was told that even single notes of music would not sound anything like real music for quite some time. I heard the notes to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star barely four weeks into my new hearing life. Hearing on the telephone using my implant would also take a fairly long time to accomplish, so I was told. Just four months after the initial activation, I now have ten-minute conversations with family and friends – albeit only those that speak pretty clearly – on a whole range of topics. And my hearing tests at the third month showed a marked improvement in my ability to understand language using my hearing-aided ear and my implant together. The implant was really making a difference. I was off to the races!
Well, not quite.
I know that a number of you who read my blog do so out of interest and I am very glad you do. But this post is most particularly for others like me – those who are going to have cochlear implant surgery or are perhaps in the first exciting month or so after activation.
Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched!
One particular aspect of my life that I had to pretty much give up as my hearing worsened was doing things in a group. I just could not manage and when I tried, the fatigue of trying to hear was overwhelming.
I have one group of friends that get together for lunch at one of our homes twice a year. We have been doing this for more years than I care to count and, as many live out of town, these lunches are our way of keeping up with one another. I have not been able to join them for more than five years and miss our conversations immensely. Emails just don’t cut it. Our January luncheon was fast approaching and as some of the group could not manage the trip, resulting in a smaller get-together than usual, I thought I might have a go. While I wouldn’t try to stay for the whole afternoon, I could surely manage an hour. So I went, loved seeing everyone and 30 minutes in felt my entire body slump. Thirty minutes! Only six people including me! But it was too much. I had to leave. Back to the drawing board.
One of my friends from this particular lunch group said to me afterwards, “I think we all probably unintentionally set you up to think that the implant would be an instant fix which of course you knew wouldn’t be the case. But it may have made you also expect to get further, faster than was realistic.” I think she is right. I will get there. It just might take a little longer than I thought.
Now even with setbacks, there are unexpected moves forward. The Twinkle Twinkle Little Star song that I heard a few months ago featured all the notes but they sounded fuzzy and were an octave lower than they should have been. Yesterday I was dusting the piano. I clearly heard all but the very highest and lowest notes sounding just as they are supposed to sound. Music to my ears!