Sunday, July 10, 2011

The First Month

To be honest, I didn't want to blog about this part but my mom was very encouraging.  I tend to gloss over the not so good parts or skip them all together, but in reality, this is a normal part of a cochlear journey.  To be fair to myself and to you - the reader, I need to be honest and complete.  I always try to keep a positive spirit and approach everything with an open mind.  I knew that this journey wasn't going to be easy and I need to be patient with myself.  Someone once told me that I have the patience of a saint.  But for some reason, I have no patience for me and I really need to cut myself some slack, especially now.  This is a frustrating time right now.  Sometimes I just don't see how it will get better, but then something would happen and I would see the glimmer of possibility.

My mother recently shared a story with me that my sister Heidi had shared with her and this keeps me going.  Heidi has a friend who had a cochlear implant done awhile ago and they were attending a college orientation with their daughters.  The daughters are going to attend a college in the Appalachian Mountains.  At some point during the orientation speech, Heidi asked her friend if she heard all of that and her friend said that she heard everything.  Wow.  That blew me away.

Let me put that into perspective.  When I am listening to a speaker at a large gathering, I usually make an effort to sit as close to the speaker as I can and try to face them so that I can read their lips.  This can be an exercise in futility sometimes because the speaker winds up having a large microphone in their face which completely covers their lips.  I do not usually hear or understand everything that has been said, sometimes I will hear enough words in a sentence to be able to figure out what has been said.   This is largely why I would avoid this type of setting unless someone was there with me to share the information with me.  I look forward to the day where I am in some situation like that and suddenly realize "I heard that!".

Listening is a process for someone with a severe hearing loss.  First I have to really listen for the words, sometimes I hear just enough of the syllables and vowels to know which word has been said.  It takes concentration and complete focus on my part.  I can usually put enough of those words together to form a sentence, then I try to comprehend what has just been said.  I am pretty smart, so I am good at filling in the blanks, but there are times when I need more words in those blanks!  It's hard to convey how difficult it is for someone like me to listen, all I can say is that it requires serious effort on my part and this can be exhausting.

I wish I could say that I would hear all these new sounds and would ask somebody to help me identify what it is.  Sometimes it is like that.  Mostly, I could be looking directly at the source of the sound and it would be completely undecipherable to me.  So many things sound so completely different to me that I have to relearn how to put that sound into perspective.  I am really struggling with listening to people talk, the voice is there but it sounds so muffled and jumbled, I just can't seem to decipher those syllables and vowels that make up the words.  I am straining to hear them, but I cannot quite grasp them.

I can say though, that I heard a bird singing for the first time.  I was enjoying one of the few sunny days I had off and was laying out in the sun.  I heard what was obviously a bird singing.  I realized then that I could hear it in it's high frequency sound and it sounded so much more musical to me than it ever did in my entire lifetime.  I wouldn't go so far to say that it was the most beautiful sound I ever heard, just that it was prettier than before.  In the past, I either didn't hear it or it sounded like squawking. (Yes, I know, some birds only squawk anyway - like crows)  I couldn't quite make out the tune, I don't think I'm quite there yet, but this is one of the few times I saw the glimmer of possibility.

I was up at the cabin with my family over the Fourth of July.  My mother loves listening to birds and was looking forward to helping me identify birds by their song.  I didn't hear a lot of them, but suddenly one bird song came into focus and I could hear it.  Unfortunately, this bird was a first time visitor and my mom was unfamiliar with it.  She named it Gina's bird.

There are a lot of sounds up there in the woods, some I could hear and others weren't quite there.  I could hear the flap of the loon's wings against the water as it flew off the lake, but I couldn't hear it's wailing in the early morning hours.  I thought I heard the rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker pecking against the tree, but later thought that it sounded a lot like a loon taking off in flight, but then maybe it was a woodpecker.  No one was around to tell me differently at that particular moment in time.

The one sound that didn't sound completely different was the crackling of the fire. The snap, crackle and hissing were all there.  I could hear the snap followed by a small ember escaping from the fire.  I wonder if it hisses as the ember grows cold?  I didn't hear it.  I love campfires.  Isn't it the most beautiful thing?  A color that emits a warm glow and envelopes everyone around that fire.  Sometimes you see that same glow in the evening sun just before it fades beneath the horizon.  That same glow appears in candles.  A candle emits no warmth, but it certainly evokes the feeling.  A gentle reminder of those warm summer campfires especially during the dark hours of winter.

My surgeon said that everything makes a sound.  So even when there isn't any perceivable sound, I hear ringing tones and sounds.  Unfocused noise that I haven't been able to define.  Not yet anyway.

It just takes time.

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