I was walking down the side walk of Minneapolis on my way to work one morning and suddenly I noticed so many different sounds at once. I don't know if I have ever noticed that many things at once. The padding of the running feet as a man ran by me hurrying to somewhere. The roar of the bus on the other side of the street and a car thudding over the bumps in the road right by me. I've heard these things before and they are nothing special, it's a lot to hear at one time. The noise of the city used to all blend together into an obnoxious roar of sound. It's a nice perk to start hearing the different things. I can imagine that it takes a lifetime to learn to tell all those sounds apart.
It's still frustrating though that I cannot hear what is being said around me if I am not directly involved in the conversation. At my desk, I could hear people chatting behind me but I just could not make out what they were saying. There was a time that I could do this a little bit with my hearing aid, so it kind of bothers me that I am unable to overhear conversations. I have to remind myself that it's only been about 2 months since activation and it takes up to a year to get used to it. I don't feel like I have a lot of "aha" moments these days. I just want there to be a moment where I noticed a definite improvement in human conversation.
It's hard to get used to the different levels of sound. With the hearing aid, everything was loud, it's sole purpose was to turn up the volume on everything. Now I can hear the soft sounds soft and the loud sounds loud (loud to a degree anyway.) I keep wanting to "turn up the volume", but I have to remember that some sounds are soft.
One loud noise that I could do without and I've shared this story with a few of you already. The public bathroom. Ugh!! I cannot stand using the bathroom at my work. I swear every woman on that floor is taking out their aggression on everything that's in the rest room. The toilet flushing is LOUD!! It wasn't really that loud with a hearing aid and I haven't figured out why. Then the soap dispenser - I swear everyone person in the bathroom is slamming down on those things! They work! Okay!? They work! Then the paper towel dispenser - every person seems to be slamming the lever to test how tough those things are. Man!! One time, all the stalls were busy and I just had to disconnect my cochlear device. I just couldn't handle all that toilet flushing, soap dispenser slamming and the paper towel dispenser. Peace! Please!!!
Oddly I find myself being quieter. At work, I would gently and as quietly as I possibly can open drawers and cabinets and stuff like that. I used to open and shut things without much thought, but with my new hearing some of these things are just unnecessarily loud. I'm even gentle when I go out to lunch and bring something back in a paper or plastic bag. I would carefully reach inside the bag to remove it's contents and pull it out as soundlessly as I can. Seriously, it's quite an effort on my part.
I've talked to my mom a few times on the phone now. It gets easier each time, I need to start practicing with others, but it kind of scares me. I don't like to expose myself to the aggravation and frustration, but on the other hand, I need to practice at it. At least the phone therapy helps. My husband has a trick he likes to use with the phone, if he is trying to reach me by text via the cellphone and I am not responding, he will call the home phone which is jarringly loud. I would check the caller ID to see who is calling then check my cellphone to see if there is a text message from that person. It works, every time. Other people have been using this trick now too. If it's mom I will pick up. She is really good about taking care to speak clearly. She has to wait a few seconds while I frantically look for my remote control to switch my device over to telephone, but once it's found we are chatting away. It's almost normal.
A few weeks ago, my sister was in town with her girls and we were attending a reunion with our childhood neighborhood and my dad's family on the same weekend. My sister's cochlear implant had just been activated about a week before she came so her hearing was really new. Both of us had challenges communicating and I admitted to someone that I was concerned about how difficult it would be to talk to people and she shot back "but you know... we LOVE you!" What a nice thing to say, it reminded me that those who love us know how hard it has always been for us and even though it doesn't seem like it, this hard part of adapting is temporary and everyone is thrilled that at the end of this adjustment period, we will be in a better place. (A special shout out to Mrs. Sherman here - love you too!)
I am really glad that I attended those reunions, I needed to be with those people. People are generally really excited for us. I look forward to the day when I am so involved in communicating with people that I forget that it was ever hard for me to even participate.
That was always the hardest part of being almost deaf, being unable to participate in a conversation even if it's right in front of me. I love talking to people, but I couldn't participate in group conversations. I could be at a holiday party or some other group setting and people are all talking and laughing and generally having a good time, but I can't hear what's being said so I feel very left out. Lots of fake smiles on my part. What would really bother me is when I want to know what has been said (usually because they were laughing so hard) I would ask them to repeat it and they would tell me that it wasn't worth repeating or say never mind. This would hurt, because I took it to mean that it wasn't worth getting me involved in the conversation. I've been shut out. I wasn't worth the effort. Then I would get depressed and I would rather be anywhere else but at that spot. It's a painful place to be.
Let's not end this on a sad note. My next adjustment is coming up quick! I am looking forward to it!
Until next time....