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Update… Happy Holidays

2018 UPDATE: Another 2015 post that was unpublished until now.  I hope you enjoy!

Hello everyone!  Happy Holidays!

I certainly count my cochlear implant as one of my blessings of the past year.  It continues to be a journey that’s hard to write about as I don’t quite understand it myself.  That may seem odd to hear, but it is the truth.  The electrical stimulation has enhanced speech understanding, but there have been many moments where I don’t know if I’m hearing as optimally as I “should.”  Naturally, I consult with my audiologist, but it’s a reminder that devices like cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing.  They become a tool to help the person with hearing loss.

But like with any medical device, there are annoyances.  I have experienced multiple short periods where the implant has been louder than optimal – requiring a reprogramming of the implant.  I have a wonderful set up now, where if it becomes too loud I switch the program to a less intense one and am able to finally be less worried about what will happen.

I used to become very worried during these moments where the stimulation would sound too loud… thinking “oh no! It’s not working!”  But I’ve learned with time that everyone’s ears do odd things with these implants.  The brain can do anything it wants!  It’s thus no surprise that for a week the brain may stimulate the ear too much and thus cause adjustments to need to be made.

This makes sense, especially since my auditory nerve’s high frequencies have not been stimulated in ages!  But I work with my audiologist consistently and it’s possible these periods of varying stimulation will become less frequent as time goes on.

I read on forums how people still adjust after years with the cochlear implant.  Their hearing improves after a few years.  It reminds me again that this journey never ends.  The experience of change continues.  I’m still saying “oh, wow, a new sound I haven’t heard before” now and I know that’ll continue.

There was a video with mild background music (air drums) that I wasn’t able to connect to at first as this “sound” didn’t make sense.  It turned out it was air drums, but it was agreed with the person who helped me that it didn’t make sense to use that as background music for the scene.  So much for logical thinking helping to connect new sounds!

I also continually advocate for my needs… much better than I did before the implant.  I’m becoming less self-conscious, although I continue this process as well.  I remember that I still become fatigued if I have a long day of listening in class and most importantly that it’s OK to feel tired!

Being Ready

2018 UPDATE: Another post from 2015 that was sitting in my drafts unpublished.

As I’ve gone through the process of receiving a hybrid cochlear implant, I’ve had the privilege to talk to other people considering the hybrid.  In the beginning I was very much inclined to say to just go for it and have it change your life!  However, as I’ve gone through the process, I realize how much time, effort, and positive thinking must be present in order to remain sane in the journey.

I already consider my device a success.  I have a long way to go in terms of auditory rehabilitation, but I have improved so much since the beginning.  I know that because I sought out formal auditory training and am able to receive that feedback.  Other people who don’t have as much support as I do with training, family, and friends, may very well have a much harder time getting through this journey.

There are many times of worry, what if’s, etc. that can pollute the mind.  However, continuously receiving support throughout the journey and having the time to do so is so vital.

Thus, when interacting with someone who is considering the hybrid, I consider them as a whole and that includes listening to their unique story as well as what their current life looks like in terms of ability to give commitment.  Also, I would never say to go ahead straight away for someone who is worried about the procedure without the reassurance that they are navigating that aspect healthfully.  And to be honest, I believe it’s better to wait rather than rush this huge procedure.

When I decided to do this, I was certain from the beginning that I needed more assistance and this surgery was the way to go.  I was able to arrange everything so that I had extra time to devote to training, fatigue, and the processing that goes along with such a surgery and the after-care.  I’m so glad I gave myself the time.  The adjustment is emotionally and physically tiring.  I have no regrets!

Freeing myself!

Yesterday, I received a haircut that is shorter than I normally ask for and I plan to keep it that way as I am tired of covering up my hearing devices just because I’m afraid people will see them and judge me.  It takes too much energy to focus on that and I am so glad to finally have reached a point in my life where I feel so much freer and able to embrace what I use to maximize my life.

As the journey continues…

It’s interesting how “wow” moments just occur at random. When I’ve watched video clips for example, I’ll catch something that I haven’t before.

I’m blessed that this device has been extremely successful in all of the major ways – the auditory nerve is able to process all the new sensations sent to it and respond with sound, I am able to hear all the frequencies, I am successfully working on my comprehension skills to adjust to hearing these new frequencies with the device (it’s a continuing process that lasts forever really). I also have developed excellent visual compensation tools to use in conjunction with auditory tools to lead me through life. There will always be a benefit to using combined visual and auditory communication – seeing someone’s face and hearing them speak, but the auditory will be so much better now. Also, I’ve so far retained residual hearing so I can continue to amplify my low frequencies rather than depend on new signals from the device to compensate. This is the hopeful outcome of the new hybrid set up.

Right now, the biggest struggle is not what you would think, the adjustment to hearing and the aforementioned, but it’s with the component of the device that amplifies the lower frequencies like a hearing aid does. The acoustic component is still uncomfortable and I have tried 12 different ear pieces in the process to find a comfortable fit. Hopefully, the company will release one that is more comfortable soon. But it’s ridiculous that this continues to be the most tiring part of the process as it’s one that hearing aid companies solved years ago.

In the past, comfortable earmolds for hearing aids were a given. Any issues were a minor fix. With my new hybrid CI, I find myself having to wait months for comfort.

I also now find myself inching closer to coming home to my normal environment, which will be new because of this device. “How will I function?” I often ask myself. I will need to give myself ample time to adjust which leads to a need for continued patience.

Hybrid CI “normalizing” but still very new

Hello everyone!

I’ve been processing and handling a lot of new information with this hybrid cochlear implant!  I haven’t posted with fervor recently because I’ve needed quiet time or rather semi-quiet time in a loud world! ;-).  I’ve been enjoying spending time with my family and letting the adjustments take place while also being engaged in auditory training.

The sounds of the implant are definitely “normalizing.”  Many still sound odd, but rather than throw me off, they are incorporating themselves into my auditory soundscape and enhancing my understanding.  I have been able to regain a lot of energy that was taken up with this device – listening to the new sounds and having my brain interpret them has been quite the energy drainer.  I’m not back at 100%, but I’m extremely well and feel very good!

I just have to remember that this entire thing continues to be a process.  However, the nice thing is that the experience isn’t so overwhelming as it once was that I am able to more readily navigate through my life with the new experiences.  It took a lot of time to reach that stage where I could do that.  I’m beyond thrilled!

Thank you to all of you who have been reading this blog and my postings over the last few months.  It’s been quite the journey and one where no clear answer lies ahead at any stage of the game!  But I’m thrilled to have undergone this process to enhance my life!