Three years and almost a hundred posts later, it’s time to end the blog. I started blogging in February 2016 and continued until July 2017, then had a bit of a break. I started again in November 2017 when I’d just had my implant operation and now here we are……..
These days I’m definitely running out of ideas for things to write about so I’ve decided it’s time to stop. I’ve loved this blog. I’ve loved it so much I don’t want it to just fizzle out, with a post every several months, as some blogs do. I want to call a definite halt.
So there you go. End! Thank you everyone – for reading, for following, and for your support and feedback. THANK YOU.
But one last thing. Some of you might want to hear how I’m getting on sixteen months after cochlear implant switch-on day. Some of you might want not to miss the last episode of the film. If that applies to you…..read on one last time. If that doesn’t appeal…..all best wishes from me and farewell.
OK faithful people-interested-in-cochlear-implants – here goes!
The last episode of the film is now available on the Med-El website. Here’s the link. (You need Part 6. And don’t forget that clicking on CC at the bottom of the screen gives you the subtitles). They’ve also added a whole series of Snippets, which are bits of film that didn’t make it into the final cut for the relevant chapter but which nevertheless say something interesting (hopefully) about what was happening.
I’m so, so grateful to Med-El. For the implant technology of course. There are other providers out there but I’m so pleased I chose Med-El. I’m also very, very happy that I volunteered to be filmed through the process. It was huge fun, it’s amazing to have a record of what was happening to me at every stage but most importantly I hope the film is useful to other people who’ve been offered an implant or are thinking that they might ask about one. That’s the point. There is so much confusion, and so many myths, about cochlear implants – I’m happy to be part of trying to dispel some of that confusion and show what it’s actually like.
So where am I? What’s happening with my hearing now, sixteen months after switch-on?
Things are pretty steady-state. No dramatic improvements these days. Instead, I put the speech processor on when I wake up in the morning (and the hearing aid in my other ear) and I forget about it. Largely, I forget I’m deaf. I still AM deaf (more on this below) but it doesn’t get in the way of my life any more.
Mainly I live my days without really thinking about how bad things were before, but sometimes I still remember to pause to appreciate it. A few weeks ago Nigel and I went to the Lake District for a day’s fell-walking; Nigel driving. Our starting point was a two hour journey from home and we chatted and talked most of the way. I don’t need the Roger pen these days. Sometimes I looked at Nigel to get a bit of lip-reading help and sometimes I didn’t. Before the implant, communication on a car journey was reduced to information briefings. “I’m stopping for petrol”. “We’ll stop at Tebay for a quick break”. Towards the end of the latest journey we reminisced about that for a while and how horrible it had been; how indescribably lonely. Nigel’s a good mimic and he does a good impression of staring-fixedly-at-the-road-saying-nothing-and-feeling-miserable. Now we can laugh at his re-enactment of the past. How far we have come.
Why do I say I’m still deaf? Well, there are some things I can’t do as well as hearing people can. I can’t follow a quick-fire conversation with a group of people at the same speed as the hearies. Out on the fells, Nigel will call something out to other walkers yards and yards away, just to be friendly, and when they reply I don’t usually catch it. If I’m watching the TV I have the subtitles on. There are some programmes I can follow quite well without subtitles, but others I can’t, so I decided it was much more relaxing to accept that extra help. At night, or when I’m in the shower, I’m reminded that my hearing is technological these days, not natural. Without the thing on the side of my head I’m really, really, really deaf. But these are all trivial annoyances. Minor irritations I occasionally need to think about rather something dominating my whole existence.
And what of the good stuff?? Well, where to begin…….
Hearing not deciphering
These days my brain makes sense of speech pretty instantaneously on the whole. It’s not shuffling options about and coming up with the most likely candidate for the translation, as I once described it. Mainly I’m not “deciphering” – I’m “hearing”.
Nigel and I sit and chat in the kitchen and, most times, I hear him even if our backs are turned or if he moves into the next room. Even if I don’t I can say “sorry, what was that” and get it the second time. I’m relaxed about it. It doesn’t feel like another knock to my self-esteem, which it often did before. He asks ME to repeat things surprisingly often too. Sometimes I forget that everyone does that sometimes……
Nigel says I look at people in a different way; I look at their full face instead of their lips because I’m lip reading less. Indeed, sometimes if conditions are difficult and I NEED to lip read I’m conscious of switching to lip reading mode (“OK Vera, really noisy here, switch to lips”).
I’m really very good in noise. Noisy cafes and restaurants? No problem. So long as I remember to breathe……. A few months ago I went to London for the day to have lunch with three people I used to work with in the early 1980s. I hadn’t seen them since and I was really looking forward to it. Walking into the restaurant, though, my heart sank. Massive room, packed to the gills, hard surfaces everywhere, glass everywhere, incredibly noisy. I remembered that these people had never known me with hearing loss, much less severe/profound hearing loss, and I suddenly wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it. But what I’ve learnt is that if I stay calm, I can. Stay calm, breathe, concentrate……and after a few minutes the background noise seems to fade away and there I am, hearing, laughing and chatting to old friends, just like anyone else.
Talks and lectures
Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but I love a good talk on local history or archaeology. These days I don’t need a hearing loop. Indeed, most times even if there IS a loop system I don’t use it – only if the speaker really mumbles. I don’t even mind if they turn the lights off, so long as I’m relatively near the front. Come to think of it, I could probably sit further back and still be fine – I must try.
Radio and podcasts
I listen to the radio and podcasts, sometimes by streaming the sound into my hearing aid (left ear) and speech processor (right ear) but often without needing to. The car radio is very clear and I don’t need to. Podcasts over the internet are easier with streaming.
I think I’m finally cracking the telephone (some things take longer than others). My telephone phobia was massive, an understandable result of multiple humiliating telephone disasters in the past, and I put off tackling it for months and months. Eventually, I introduced a regime. Every day, I’d do one small thing. Make a very short telephone call. Phone a friend. Practice for ten minutes on a very good computer programme designed for the purpose (it changes the sound of the spoken word to mimic the distorting effect of the telephone, caused by there being a narrower band-width than in normal speech).
Slowly, my panic subsided and I realised I was managing quite well. I can phone the hairdresser/optician/dentist to make an appointment. I can have long chats with friends and family. I usually listen on the loop system, because it’s easier, but I can manage without most times.
If it’s a call centre, though, I use Next Generation Text. Why not? It’s a brilliant, free service, the operators are great and it takes all the stress away, especially given that call centre staff are not the people best known for speaking clearly and at a reasonable pace. Why make life hard?
People don’t fully appreciate, in my experience, how totally confidence-sapping severe hearing loss is. Before I retired in 2010 I was a director of a big national housing association. My job often involved speaking to large groups of people; sometimes staff, more often tenants and home owners. I enjoyed it. It came easily.
In late 2016 I was still coping with my hearing loss well enough to plan a short course for our local University of the Third Age – ten weeks of ninety minute lectures on the history of council housing. I know quite a lot about this subject and find it fascinating. But when my hearing took its final sudden dive in January 2017 there was no way I could contemplate it.
My speaking ability hadn’t been affected. It was my ears that didn’t work, not my voice (obvs). I could have set up a system to allow me to answer questions that I couldn’t hear (a friend with a good clear voice in the front row ready to repeat them or even, if all else failed, a flip chart). I could have done it, technically, but emotionally there was no way. My confidence was shot. The class had to be cancelled. I had tipped into the world of living with an entirely different personality – quiet, withdrawn and more than a little nervous of the world – when previously I’d been determined and more than a little gutsy.
After the implant I resurrected the class; it ran in the autumn of last year. My confidence was back. I could hear the questions. I could chat to people in the coffee break. I was “me” again.
Being me again is the nub of it. Mainly, I forget I’m deaf. I live my life. I do the things I want to do. How incredibly wonderful is that?