This post is especially for those with cochlear implants who may be either new to the experience or perhaps feeling that they have reached the maximum capacity of their hearing. Others may enjoy the post too.
I had been told shortly after receiving my cochlear implant that the brain will continue to respond to new sounds coming through the electrodes in my head, providing me with ever-richer sound experiences. After five years, I can say this is definitely true. A couple of for instances…
I was having dinner with friends in a pub when my hearing aid battery died. I had forgotten to put replacement batteries in my purse when I changed it so now had no hearing in this ear. I had to depend on my cochlear implant alone. While I often wear just my implant when at home to encourage it to work harder for me, I had not up to this point attempted to hear a conversation in a noisy pub with only my implant. But I had no choice. And to my surprise, I managed just fine. This particular experience gives me hope, as I anticipate one of these years the hearing I still have left and use a hearing aid to boost, will fade to silence and I will need to rely solely on the implant in my other ear to communicate.
A few weeks ago I was at a preview of an exhibition of artist Florine Stettheimer’s work at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The evening started with a discussion between the curator for this event and another artist. I was just a little too far away to lip read, so relied on hearing alone. The speakers enunciated well and I was amazed at how much I could actually hear. I have avoided going to lectures for many years as often they are given in places, like this particular auditorium, that don’t have infrared systems for enhancing sound. These systems tie the microphone directly into my hearing apparatus and give me a fighting chance to hear the speakers. This time I was able to understand the conversation, although there was no extra help. I have missed the intellectual stimulation and the group connections that experiences like these provide. It is nice to know that I no longer need to be restricted to those venues with infrared, but can enjoy lectures pretty much anywhere.
The proof of the pudding that my brain is still learning new sounds? I had my annual hearing test recently. The sounds I heard with my cochlear implant this time had increased by 15% over last year. Who knows what other new sound experiences there might be? To all my cochlear implant friends, take heart! Apparently the learning never stops.