Saturday, October 12, 2013

My Third Ear Anniversary

Three years ago I had my left ear implanted.  I could not have looked into a crystal ball and envisioned just how profoundly cochlear implants would change my life.  I had my right ear implanted 15 months after the first one.

Yesterday I attended the retirement of a family friend and her husband - the couple were retiring after 34 years of military service. It took place at a location unaffected by the Federal Government Shutdown.  That was good.

For the past two days we experienced unrelenting, torrential rain accompanied by wind - poor visibility and lots of accidents all over the metropolitan area.  What saved me - was my Magellan Roadmate portable GPS.  I have a poor sense of direction, especially during weather with poor visibility.  Cochlear Implants allow me to understand and hear the directions on the GPS.  I also can hear the alerts as I am prompted to make my turn by turn instructions.  There were a few mistakes as I attempted to locate the hotel.  I made it, and a good time was had by all.

Earlier in the week, I returned to the Cochlear Clinic for new software mapping. This software mapping has helped with speech discrimination and increased battery life. So far, so good!  I return to  the Cochlear Clinic in a year.

The week before that, I was on the West Coast attending mentorship training which my cochlear implant company paid for.  It was invaluable, the training, the tour of the manufacturing floor, talking with the staff, the audiologists, and finally meeting face to face, some members of my cochlear implanted community.  My cochlear implant company launched a new BTE CI Processor late this summer called the Naida with wireless connectivity.  The technological advances are awesome!

There were lots of stories, laughter, tears and sharing of what we call "WOW"! moments.  I loved seeing the commitment, the vision, the passion this company demonstrated for cochlear implants and the miracle of hearing technology that can be offered to deaf people.

As I grew up deaf in a hearing world, Deaf Culture was not a part of my life.  I went to deaf schools quite young, and was mainstreamed into schools with hearing peers by second grade.

You hear comments about "finding one's tribe."  I never understood the clannishness experienced among Deaf people who grew up in Deaf Culture with deaf neighbors, families, children, a hearing community who communicated with Deaf people in American Sign Language (ASL).

Well.  In my cochlear-implanted community, or the cyborgs as we call ourselves, I have found my "tribe."  We know and share our experiences in hearing with cochlear implants.  We offer hope, encouragement and cheer each other on.  We crack jokes and tell each other stories about how people react to cochlear implants.  One priceless story was told by two women who had traveled together on the airplane.  They had told the airline they were deaf.  At their destination, they were greeted by airport personnel with two wheelchairs!!!  These women were not mobility impaired but DEAF!
We all got a good laugh out of that one!  These women were quite young and not at all senior!

My cyborg community is my tribe and my extended family.  They are my rock.

As 24 year old Jacob Landis put it, "The world is wide open to me because of cochlear implants."

I wholeheartedly agree.  I am still a deaf person who hears with bilateral cochlear implants, but oh, wow! what an amazing three years it has been!

Here's a heartfelt thanks to my surgeon, who is now based on the West Coast.  Thank you for my miracle of hearing with cochlear implants.  I never will get tired of saying thank you to this talented, humble, world famous doctor.

Hearing with bilateral cochlear implants is such a joy, a blessing and a wonder of technology.  I am blessed!

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I work in a building that was built in the 1930's.  It is made of granite, marble and houses about five thousand employees in the building.  I always wondered why sounds, voices, phones, everyday noise sounds so loud in this work environment. Voices often sound distorted.

Acoustics!  It took me nearly three years to figure this out. Being deaf with cochlear implants, with no hearing memory aside of what I remember what hearing with hearing aids were like, acoustics make a huge difference.

When I am outside of the building, while everyday sounds are still noisy, it doesn't bounce off walls or floors. I can hear just about everything in this building, from the squeaking wheels of the mail cart to the clicking of high heels, to the soft squishing sounds of rubber soles on shoes, to phones ringing in nearby offices, to the squeak from the hinges on my office door, paper being shuffled.

According to my decibel meter app on my iPhone, what I am "hearing" is what one would hear on a normally quiet street or in normally "quiet" conversation.

There's nothing quiet about working in this ancient building, trust me on this one.

Who knew Acoustics would be such a big deal? 

I am so deaf without CI's, that I no longer hear thunder, or the roar of jet engines when I fly.

My world isn't totally silent without CI's.  I still have Tinnitus, but it is more like white noise.

Acoustics IS a big deal.  Music played on my cheap factory installed stereo radio/cd player sounds lousy.  If I listen to Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio on my iPhone or my laptop, it sounds far better to my CI implanted ears.

I never cease to be astounded at cochlear implant technology and what I discover, like Acoustics for instance.

Next month I return to the Cochlear Center for mappings.  The brain is an amazing thing.  While it takes a couple of weeks to get used to mappings, it is nothing like Activation Day, where everything I heard was a strange sensory experience!

I think back on that November day in 2010 and just laugh.  What is true about CI users is the fact that you constantly change and evolve in hearing with cochlear implants.  I am recognizing more and more without captioning, especially watching television news.  While using the phone and refilling prescription medicines, I am familiar with the menu prompts.

But Acoustics!?  What a hearing concept!

Amazing what one learns!  What a hearing surprise!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer's End - August 31, 2013

It is hard to believe that this is the last day of August, let alone the fact that summer is ending. It has been a very hectic, busy summer.  I continue to progress in hearing with bilateral cochlear implants.

Recently I traveled to a nearby city to meet some friends for dinner.  It was late when I returned home around midnight, and it was dark.  This was my second nighttime solo trip on a busy interstate with four to six to eight lanes. I dropped two of my friends off at a light rail station before returning home, and while it was kind of touch and go, I didn't do too badly in understanding my friend's instructions on which exit to take. Her husband was in the back seat.

My trusty portable GPS was a lot more accurate than her iPhone GPS!  I can hear and understand the GPS pretty well now, although I do travel with a Google Maps or MapQuest printout from my computer for back-ups.

Three years ago, I would not have dared drive on a major interstate at night.  I also could not understand verbal directions other than turn left, right, let alone understand verbal instructions from a portable GPS. When I dropped my friends off, I programmed the GPS to go home, and did not have any back up.  I just followed the GPS and I was home about an hour and fifteen minutes later, with absolutely no problems.  I did not get lost.

I thought it was pretty funny that all three of us were people with hearing disabilities. I mean that's pretty comic: three deaf adults in a car on a major interstate, it is pitch black outside, and me receiving verbal directions on how to reach a light rail station??  My friend has bilateral CI's, her husband does not, he wears hearing aids for now.

With bilateral CI's, I have a lot more confidence, and definitely gained more independence.
More and more, I am trusting my cochlear implants to do their job, and still discovering new sounds.

Earlier this month, I had dinner with a friend who also has a cochlear implant and she was visiting.  I drove her back to her hotel so she could take an early morning flight back home. I drove on the interstate in pouring rain at night.  I ordinarily would not have done that before cochlear implants.

I am a better driver in the daytime than I am at night.  I do not enjoy night time driving, but I will and can do it.

As for recognizing new sounds, even with bilateral CI's, I am hearing new sounds.  Last night I was at my computer going through e-mails, and I heard a tinkling melody.  I was in my home office, and realized the tinkling melody was coming from an ice cream truck several blocks away, and smiled.  Another sound of summer.

Slowly, but surely, I am gaining more confidence as a bilateral CI user.

After living with deafness for many years, it has been an experience shifting from a mindset of a deaf woman who wore hearing aids with limitations, to a mindset of a independent deaf woman who wears bilateral cochlear implants, with little to no limitations.

Conversations are easier, even in restaurants.  Phone usage on captioned phones is easier. phone usage on my iPhone 4S is easier, and with the few uncaptioned phone conversations I have tried, it is the phone menu prompts and voice messages that trip me up.

That's really okay.  I used to be a deaf person who couldn't hear on a cellular or smart phone at all.

Bilateral Cochlear Implants are something else. My world has just exploded by leaps and bounds in nearly three short years.

What a technological miracle.  My joy in hearing knows no bounds.  My heart is full.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Choices, July 4, 2013

I just finished watching an episode on "Switched At Birth".  The episode was titled: "He did what he wanted".  It touched briefly on the subject of cochlear implants.  There was a scene played by Sean Berdy, a Deaf son angrily signing to his TV Deaf Dad, "So being deaf isn't good enough for you,"?

The turf wars between Deaf and people who are deaf have been going on since Mother Nature and Father Time.

You have some Deaf folks passionately saying they would NEVER choose to hear with something "artificial" like a cochlear implant.  Well, there's nothing artificial about hearing.

God made ears for humans, and ears serve a purpose.

I grew up deaf in a Hearing World.  I am still in a Hearing World and I am still deaf, in spite of being able to hear bilaterally with cochlear implants.  Deafness has been a part of my life for a very long time.

I have a hearing family.  Many of my friends are hearing. I have Hard of Hearing friends, I have deaf friends and I have Deaf friends.

I'm not about to reject my long-standing hearing friends or my hearing family or my Hard of Hearing Friends or my deaf friends or my Deaf friends who have been my friends through the test of time. 

I know who my friends are. Hearing, Hard of Hearing, Deaf or deaf people like me who grew up in a hearing world.

See, as a bionic "cyborg" friend put it recently, it truly is about choices.  It really and truly is about the CHOICE to have a cochlear implant, as much as it is about the CHOICE to be Deaf and embrace Deaf Culture. It is also about the CHOICE to hear with nothing: no hearing aids, no cochlear implants, nothing.

I made a personal choice to hear with cochlear implants and I have absolutely no regrets.

I have more choices before me post-cochlear implants than I did before I was implanted with cochlear implants.

These past few years post-cochlear implants, have been so life changing, I could not have dreamed this.

This is what the 4th of July represents to me:  The choice to hear.  That to me, IS freedom.

Amazing. For that, I am truly thankful for the freedom to hear.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Privacy, Deafness and Freedoms we take for granted, July 3, 2013

Due to recent events and the fact that tomorrow is the 4th of July, I started thinking about freedoms that Americans enjoy or take for granted, deafness and privacy.  You see, there's been a lot of brouhaha about our telephone conversations being "monitored."  Being deaf, I gave up privacy involving telephone conversations years ago.  I really had to laugh at hearing people having an absolute hissy fit about this.  I began losing my ability to understand speech over a voice telephone in late 1979 - through the early 2000's. By 2000, I was using either TTY's or text pagers.  All were telephone conversations that required a third party to read my text speech to a hearing person.  Nothing was spared.  Health information, credit card information, sensitive conversations.  The Caller Assistant (CA) could have easily shared sensitive information to anyone but didn't.

I will observe my third CI anniversary on October 12, 2013, and I have been bilateral for a little over 17 months.  I don't use TTY's anymore.  I use a captioned phone and a voice-data smartphone.  Today I made some business-related calls using my captioned phone and the connection from the business I was speaking with was not the greatest quality.  I suspect the customer representative was using a wireless headset because the audio kept cutting in and out.  Thank God for voice recognition software.  There was absolutely no privacy during this phone conversation.  There was still a third party using voice recognition software in transcribing the phone conversation for me.

I'm still a deaf person with two cochlear implants.  You think monitoring telephone conversations is lacking in privacy?  What about deaf people whose first language is American Sign Language (ASL)?  Now THAT's an "open conversation"!  Signing for all the world to see. There's nothing secret or private about ASL.  Everybody knows your business.

I recently attended a convention in the Pacific Northwest, and for the first time post cochlear implants, got taken aside by a TSA Agent. I was surprised - I didn't hear any warning bells or see any flashing lights - I am old enough to remember when my Behind The Ear Hearing Aids used to trip magnometers at the airports (pre-9-11) and I would tell security that I wore BTE's and was deaf.  That was the time I usually got "wanded."

Well, Post 9-11, security at the airports has changed, so here's what happened.  I was shown a picture of a human body with "hot squares" that had lit up the wave technology scanner.  It reminded me of Star Trek.  The TSA Agent, who was a woman, patted me down, using the edge of her blue gloved hand. I wasn't embarrassed, but it did make me think about all the fuss about the body scanners allegedly showing the size of body parts, particularly what the guys call "their junk."  The TSA Agent was very professional and no, I didn't feel violated.

Next, she took me over to this machine that spit out a strip of paper and she took the strip of paper and tested me for residue.  Nothing.  I was cleared and I went on my way to my gate to wait for my flight. Now I don't doubt the horror stories of passengers who have been humiliated by improperly trained TSA agents who required the passenger to reveal a colostomy bag in the open or whatever.  Fortunately, these incidents are few and between, and the exception.

I grew up a deaf person in a hearing family.  My view of "privacy" is different than that of Hearing people. 

The revelation that the National Security Agency has been monitoring phone calls or phone numbers is not funny.  I get that.  But as someone who is deaf, uses bilateral cochlear implants, I gave up privacy to a certain extent. Does it bother me?  No.  It is simply a way of life for me as a deaf person with two cochlear implants.  I would rather forfeit a little privacy in order to keep my country safe from terrorists and others who would do us harm.

There were people who died to give us the right to vote, practice what religion we choose, free speech, the right to criticize our own government, and as a deaf person, to choose to hear with cochlear implants.  We now have rights that we didn't have 40 years ago.

As you celebrate the 4th of July, remember, Freedom is not Free.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Residual Hearing: Is it usable?

People who have qualified for cochlear implants often have concerns about losing residual hearing after implantation.

Prior to being implanted with cochlear implants, my body felt like it was in "hyperdrive" all the time.  I was constantly in a state of alert, as I had to work to hear with what little hearing I had left.

That takes energy and it was wearing me out.

Hearing people tend to want to "preserve" residual hearing of their deaf family member.

But is residual hearing usable?

In my case, I heard nothing without my hearing aids.  It had to be the mother of all thunderstorms for me to "hear" thunder without hearing aids. 

Here's what my residual hearing was not doing for me, prior to cochlear implants.  I definitely didn't have any hearing in the speech range, and I couldn't understand speech unseen over the telephone, and depended 100% on lipreading by the time I qualified for CI's.

With my CI processors on, I can hear the doorbell, the heat pump coming on and shutting off.  I can hear traffic go by from inside my townhouse. I can hear birds.  I can hear dogs barking, the phone ring, the ticking of a second hand sweeping a clock.

I am still deaf without my CI processors on.  My silence isn't totally silent.  I hear tinnitus in my ears - it used to be really bad, roaring, hissing, hooting noises.  Now it is more like white noise.  I can hear my Sonicare toothbrush vibrate as I am brushing my teeth.  That's what is left of my residual hearing.

It isn't much.

Over time, I am getting more relaxed in using cochlear implant processors.  I can trust what I am hearing with my cochlear implants.  I rarely startle when people walk into my office (unless I have had too much coffee!)

Hearing with cochlear implants is still a process.  I may not hear a new sound each and every day, but my brain picks it up.  I can hear things as they drop, like the tip of a ball point pen, or a nail, or even pieces of food dropping on the floor. After it has rained, I can hear the squeaking of shoes.  I can hear my feet squishing through already saturated grass.  I definitely hear rain, and yes, I can tell a light rain from a heavy rain.

In my view, cochlear implant processors pick up where hearing aids leave off.  I hear far better with cochlear implants than I ever did with hearing aids, and with CI's, I don't even miss residual hearing.

I had so little left. I would counsel people who are investigating cochlear implants to think about the flip side of the coin.

What ISN'T residual hearing doing for you?  Can you hear the doorbell ring, the teakettle whistle, a child crying, a door knock, an alarm clock ringing WITHOUT hearing aids?  Can you understand speech?  Can you understand speech unseen without a captioned phone?

Again, is residual hearing usable?  If not, and you want to be able to hear, than you owe it to yourself to investigate cochlear implantation if hearing aids are not an option for you.

Technology is growing by leaps and bounds.  We are fast approaching a day where cochlear implants can be implanted and residual hearing can be preserved.

I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Spring of two Bionic Ears, 2013

The month of May has been a busy one.  I cannot believe it is June already!

I recently accomplished my second solo trip of driving on the interstate at night.  It was an hour and a half trip.  As it was the Memorial Day weekend, traffic was busy. I had my Google maps and my Magellan GPS.  I now can hear and understand the GPS telling me directions.  I also had never been to this particular address before, so nothing was familiar.  I didn't get lost going there and didn't get lost coming home. I am getting better with directionality of sound. So far, so good.

I still am discovering new sounds. The other night I was watching a news feature about a dolphin that had surgery to improve its breathing. I didn't know dolphins made clicking sounds. The birds are still calling to each other.  I can hear more different bird calls now.  I also can hear the difference in cars and trucks idling in city traffic. I hear paper shuffling and rustling in offices where I share adjoining doors.

I still can hear a co-worker snap and chew gum all day long, much to my chagrin. 

There are so many things I am doing now that I never would have done before cochlear implants - driving at night on the interstate, for example.

I am an Amy Grant fan, have been for years, and love her music.  I bought her new CD, "How Mercy Looks From Here,"put it in my car stereo, not expecting to understand any of the lyrics, just the music.  Well, to my surprise, I heard "If what I could see what the Angels see..." out of my right ear. Well, that floored me, because my right ear typically did poorly as far as speech comprehension. I thought about how this talented woman started out singing with her guitar as a teenager, and in her latest CD still sings with her guitar.  I could hear the harmonizing on the CD. I always liked Amy's music and the lyrics because she keeps things real. 

So as audio therapy on the drive home from work, I plan to listen to her newest CD some more.

I am listening to traffic and cars driving by from within my townhouse. A dog is intermittently barking/howling somewhere outside - and getting more persistent. I think the dog is bored.  It is funny, because before cochlear implants, my townhouse was a lot quieter! Not any more!!

It has been an amazing journey since October, 2010, when I was first implanted in my left ear. I am still processing new sounds.  I am still stunned by how deaf I am.  Cochlear Implant technology continues to grow by leaps and bounds.  Already, my cochlear implant company has a new BTE CI processor coming out. Computer technology and telephones are now adaptable for the deaf. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Skype, Face Time now bridge the gap between the hearing world and the deaf world.

I always felt there was something missing from my life, even with hearing aids. With cochlear implants, my hunger to hear more sound and to have a better quality of life is being satisfied.  I also have been going through a kind of spiritual healing of sorts, and my spirit is at peace.

Isolation doesn't have to be a part of my life anymore.  Neither does loneliness. Thank you, God for my blessings.  I don't take hearing for granted anymore.

For eight plus hours a day, I hear with my cochlear implant processors and have access to smartphones, ipod nanos. I listen to iheart radio, Spotify, and my downloaded tunes.

"Surround Sound," now makes up my world.  Everything has a sound.

My life is still transitioning...!  I still am profoundly deaf, I still am very visual, but I am hearing speech along with lipreading.  The fact that I can understand the GPS giving me step by step directions and hearing the bell before I make my turns tell me this.

Yes. Everything has a sound. Who would have thought I would be hearing out of both ears with two cochlear implants in three years?

A dream realized.