A very good book about someone learning to hear with a cochlear implant is Hear Again, by Arlene Romoff. In it the author talks about the first time she heard someone behind her in the supermarket say “excuse me”. Of course, for years and years people in the supermarket would have been asking politely that she move out of their way but she would have ignored them. She would have been completely oblivious that anything had been said at all. So that first time she heard the words and moved smoothly out of someone’s path was a hugely significant moment. “That’s it”, I thought to myself excitedly before the operation. “That’s what I want; someone to say excuse me in Tesco, from behind my back, and I can hear them.” So far, nobody has (not to my knowledge anyway……) but I’m having quite a few of my own significant moments. Here are three.
A couple of weeks ago I was very late for the first week of a class I’ve signed up for. There was a confusion about the venue and, by the time I arrived at the right place, I was twenty five minutes late. I could see through the window that the speaker was in full flow and that all the seats at the front of the room were taken. A few months ago I would have turned round and gone back home but, no, I went in, apologised quietly for being late, took a seat at the back of the room and HEARD EVERYTHING. It wasn’t a very big room, but I could follow relatively easily what the speaker was saying. No loop. No Roger pen. Just implant and me (and hearing aid in the other ear).
Last weekend, I was in a noisy café with Nigel, his brother and my sister-in-law. We all looked at the menu then Nigel said to me “what are you having then, love?” Over time, Nigel (and sometimes close friends) have taken to ordering my food for me when eating out, with my full and wholehearted support. It never stopped feeling very odd, and rather demeaning, but it was a whole lot better than the almost inevitable mess I would get into ordering my own. So I told him I was having egg on toast and a coffee. But when the waitress arrived she looked at me first. I hesitated for a fraction of a second then I gave her my order. She asked some follow-up questions and I gave perfectly appropriate answers. Eureka. I can order my own poached eggs. It doesn’t sound very much, does it? But how I loved it. It became the reason for another poke at Nigel. He is getting used to me saying “did you see that – I heard her?” or “did you notice – I followed all that tricky conversation?” This time I poked him on the way out of the café afterwards and said “did you see THAT? I ordered my own food!” You have to laugh.
OK. Third example. Before the operation I thought a lot about what might happen and decided that I’d be satisfied with the outcome if I could only get back to the level of hearing I’d had just a few years ago. I was deaf then but life was fine and I could cope with most situations quite easily. The other night Nigel and I were talking about this and he said, as he has a couple of times recently, that he is starting to forget how bad things had got. He just speaks to me and I hear. Then he said “I think your hearing is better now that it’s been in living memory actually”. We had a good laugh about how bad his memory is, but that was a very significant moment too.
Finally for today, Patricia Breslin left a comment a couple of weeks ago, asking when you were going to get a picture of me with the new thing on my head, so here we go.
I’m very happy. See the smile. The book I mentioned in the first sentence (Hear Again by Arlene Romoff) was published in 1999. 1999 is a long time ago in cochlear implant terms, and indeed Arlene actually had her implant in 1997. It’s interesting to read the author’s description of her speech processor (the bit behind my ear). It was something the size of a cigarette packet attached to her belt, and she had wires linking it to a microphone clipped to the front of her clothing. How technology progresses……..