Happy Birthday to me. Today is my 40th birthday. Funny, I always had a feeling that I would be deaf by the time I hit 40. Ironic that I’m celebrating my 3rd week “hearing” today. Sounds are beginning to seem more natural and I am enjoying hearing again. That said, I have a long ways to go and at times I find myself getting frustrated with my head for not working right. Voices are still the worst.
I really wish I could sit down and have a little chat with my brain and make it start listening properly. When I hear strangers speak, it’s nothing but chipmunk chatter. Sure, I can usually understand the words they’re saying, but it all sounds so unnatural. It’s frustrating because I can remember what voices sound like and I find I am getting mad at myself for not hearing the way I should. But then again, I “shouldn’t” be hearing anything at all but thanks to technology, I can! I am by no means complaining or regretting my decision to get this implant, but simply being honest about the process. Even with a “rockstar” activation, it’s not all sunshine and roses. I went to a support group meeting on Saturday and one thing that was very clear, is that no two people have the same journey or the same results and I truly am blessed with how well I’m coping thus far. The one thing we all have in common? We all had to work to improve our ability to hear.
I do have some great technology that works hand-in-hand with my processor; namely my Compilot. This is a small Bluetooth enabled device that pairs with other Bluetooth devices and streams sounds directly to my processor. I also have the TVLink and remote mic that pair up with my Compilot. The TVLink hooks up to my TV and the remote mic can be used to hear any individual person at a distance, or up close when there’s lots of background noise. The Compilot also pairs with my iPhone and tablet for direct streaming of audio to my processor.
This tool has been integral to my success thus far. The beauty of the compilot is it can stream audio direct to the processor without all the background noise. If you’ve ever worn noise cancelling headphones, that’s probably close to what it’s like – just the sound you want to hear without all the background chatter. My brain hasn’t figured out how to filter all those unneeded sounds yet, so the compilot accomplishes that for me. It’s remarkable to hear all the small sounds on TV that I’ve never heard, like footsteps as someone walks or sighs or even just breathing. I call it my ninja sound, especially when I’m streaming from my iPhone as no one has a clue that I have music playing in my head. It’s pretty cool!
At this point in my journey, I have to really focus in order to understand speech. It’s as if I have to actively tune my hearing at all times. Regular everyday sounds come in, no problem, but to catch what someone is saying, I really have to work at it. I notice this mostly when I pass by people conversing – I hear their voices but unless I actively “tune” my hearing I won’t catch a single word they’re saying. Maybe it’s just because I’m out of practice when it comes to listening, or perhaps it’s because my hearing is more mechanical, I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s an exhausting process. When I do engage in conversation, I still have to work extra hard to actively listen. It really is like a switch, when I get tired, that switch flips off and I could be right there facing someone talking and miss everything they say, but with a little focus, their speech becomes perfectly clear. It’s like I have a super power and have to work on honing my skills. Regardless, I really look forward to the day when listening becomes natural again. Until that day, I’ll keep working on my ninja/superhero hearing and loving every step of the process!