My Cochlear Implant: Week 2 or so

This  was what I thought would happen at my  cochlear implant switch on: I would hear, with wonder and excitement, all the sounds that Carol, my audiologist played. I would hear simple environmental sounds, and would leave the session amazed by the sudden loudness around me.

It did happen –  a week later at my first re-mapping session!

So I missed out on that powerful “WOW! I can hear!” switch on moment with my family. But I have been privately (and sometimes not-so-privately) marvelling at the ever-increasing number of sounds I can hear with the implant.

There have been a few surprises, the biggest being that buttering bread makes a sound – a very, very subtle sound, but it qualifies.

After my second re-mapping session, I started to hear even more sounds with just my implant: my hand dipping into the washing-up water; the swish of a broom; cars passing on the street; water boiling in a pot.  I could even hear my daughter playing violin two rooms away!

I have progressed with my rehabilitation programme from understanding individual animal names (what is a chinchilla??) to full, allegedly commonly used, sentences (“A sullen smile makes few friends”).

Still, I get frustrated when I make mistakes, as I did during my last visit with Carol. To reassure me, she admitted that I had exceeded her expectations: she thought that at this stage, we would be in the children’s room trying to identify sounds using toys.  She did not expect that I would be up to words and sentences. Yay, me!

It’s not all roses: because I am hearing a lot more through the implant, and the quality of the hearing is a little muffled and electronic, my comprehension when wearing both my hearing aid and implant is actually reduced. In some ways, it feels like a step backwards. I need to persevere and be patient: it can take many months for the brain to normalise the sound from the implant.

Having said that, some of the simple sounds I started to hear after switch on already seem normal.

What I need is motivation! I have been reading about neuroplasticity and have picked out these two points that I think are relevant to my situation:

  • Achieving plastic change in the brain requires focussed attention. So just walking around wearing the implant isn’t going to cut it.
  • It seems that after a stroke, the brain can be forced into using an injured limb by constraining the good one. By taking the good limb out of the picture, the brain is compelled to re-learn how to use the damaged limb.

So… I’m spending as much time as I can at home wearing just the implant, forcing the brain to rely on the bad ear… and I’m still plugging myself into the computer, focussing on my rehabilitation. You should see my poor kids trying to talk to me when I am just wearing the implant! “Uh… about 11, sir.”*

A lot of people ask me how the implant is going, with such a hopeful look – they want me to say that it is fantastic and life-changing. I want to say that too, and maybe I will be able to in a few months. Right now, I feel as though I am studying for the mother of all exams.

So I am standing in the kitchen, listening to the kids’ breakfast cooking, marvelling at how far I have come in two weeks…. And realise that one sound I can’t yet hear is the egg timer. Oops…

* Just in case you don’t get that reference

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Related posts:

  1. Listening in Stereo with my Cochlear Implant

4 Comments

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4 Responses to My Cochlear Implant: Week 2 or so

  1. Hey nice post. Saw this via the cochlear twitter feed. I was just thinking about my daughter Ava who is nearing 8 years of age. Ava has had bilateral implants since she was about 3. We don’t think too much about her hearing. Yes it is part of our rhythm to check batteries and worry around water, do what signing we can when she doesn’t have them on and try to include her when she doesn’t have them on.

    But I just caught myself tonight thinking…how amazing….how utterly amazing…I don’t know what she hears, it probably isn’t how I hear but how amazing she does hear, sing (to 1D mainly) and continue to grow.

    I will bookmark your blog Julia to read some more. Keep working hard to hear those sounds.

    • Hi Adam. Sorry I didn’t notice your comment earlier. It’s so wonderful that kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to hear, now can. And it’s very good that she had the implants early. You should ask her to describe sounds she’s hearing – I’d love to hear what she says! 🙂

  2. Julia,
    Wonderful to read of your experience with the implant -especially the ability to appreciate subtle sounds we all take for granted. Very touching to read. Hope all goes well and that the violin playing will forever be music to your ears! Congratulations to you and all at home.
    Enid

  3. Hi Julia,
    Buttering bread does have a sound, but so many of us no longer hear this and so many other sounds of every day life.
    I am working to encourage Fashion Designers to create Stylish, professional, quality adaptive clothing for Individuals with disabilities. I understand that some people with hearing loss or limited hearing do not like tops that pull tightly over the head, yet may still like a tight neck line once the garment is on. In your early weeks with the implants, and possibly now, what sounds do you notice as you dress, handle clothing made from different fabrics, etc. I find this a fascinating new way to look at clothing and textiles. Thanks for sharing.
    Ruth J Clark
    Fashion Moves Inclusive Designs

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