I have been resistant to writing without realizing it until now. I kept telling myself, I will write tomorrow.....tomorrow turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. I want to say that I had writer's block but that wouldn't be very honest of me. More like an emotional block, I would say. Maybe I was resistant to sitting down and confronting my emotions of the last few months. Like many of you, I have a family of my own with real life personal struggles and things are not always as perfect as I would like them to be. That is unrealistic. Being a mom and a wife is most important to me....I am so passionate with every fiber of my being in my role as a mom and wife that I would sacrifice anything for my family. And that includes taking the focus off my training with my "new ear". Would I do it again? Yes. But maybe differently. As difficult as some of those personal struggles were and the harder I fought, I learned along the way that I had to let go and let God take control. I am so thankful for His grace. Because I also learned how strong my family really is and how we can overcome anything as long as we have each other. Through one of the most difficult trials we've ever had to face, our family came through it stronger than ever. I am so humbled that God's grace is so sufficient.....he lifted our family up with strength that we could not draw on our own alone. How great is that?
With that said, I am also very mindful of my progress and my dream of writing a book about my journey. I've reflected on that the last few days and I've had to really dig deep and reignite the little fire I had in me some time ago. I am going to do this. I am grateful for the many messages and inquiries about how I am doing.....it means a lot to me to have a great support system among friends and family. I haven't forgotten any of you and I thank you.
It's hard to believe it was one year ago that I found out I was a candidate and six months ago that my ear was "turned on". It surely has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride! There were times I felt like my progress was so slow that I didn't feel like I was making much progress. Those were the times I would get frustrated with myself. I wanted more. I always want more and now. I'm still learning patience. I believe there is a reason for everything. Although others may progress faster than I in some areas, my journey and my progress is meant for me. And I will take that but it pushes me to work harder. One of my goals is to be able to listen without lipreading.....that is what I am shooting for! I know it will happen one day. When I look at the big picture of where I started and where I am now, I realize how FAR I've come and I take pride in that. It gives me FAITH in how much farther I can go. It is possible!
One of the the things I've had to overcome in the last few months is the way certain people are and how they "test" me without realizing that it touches a sensitive nerve in me. Even though I know they are not intentionally hurting me, it brings up certain feelings that I experienced when I was a young girl wearing box hearing aids on my chest. Some would say they are ignorant, but I know it's because they just don't know. I don't want to call them ignorant.....I just want to be able to educate people more in what is involved with a cochlear implant and hearing loss. Some people think once it is turned on, voila, I can hear everything and it all happens in one day. I even thought that myself! Not so.....it is a long process that can take months to a year or more. I've had someone stand behind me and clap to see if I would react. I've had someone come up to me and cover their mouth with a piece of paper and talk to me to see if I could understand what they were saying. I've had someone yell at me behind my back to see if I would respond. This all happened in the first two months of being turned on. It was hard. I heard each one of the sounds but because they were new to me, I did not know what they were and where they were coming from. It takes time to learn all of these new sounds, sounds that I have never heard of before. My brain was adapting. I am getting there. I've made tremendous strides in the last three months. I still see my audiologist for adjustments. I was seeing her every two to four weeks but I've used up all of my adjustment visits covered by my insurance.The visits are very costly until I use up my deductible so I've had to spread out my visits every six to eight weeks. If I had my way, I would see her every month so I can progress faster. However, I am working very hard at home and everywhere I go. This is a very noisy world and there are so many new sounds that I learn every week! I am learning to distinguish between different sounds and what they are. My dental office is probably the noisest place of all! I can remember the first weeks and months were extremely difficult and exhausting at my office. I was in sensory overload with all of the high pitches of the instruments and the machines. It's amazing that now I am able to to know what the sound is without looking where it is coming from. I can hear when my boss is running his high speed drill in the next room. I can hear when the suction is being turned on in his room. I know exactly when my coworker is working on preparing the crowns. It used to drive me crazy when she would blow air on the crown to dry it out. I now know when the instruments are being taken out of the sterilizer because I can hear the clanging of the instruments. My boss's voice is the most pronounced of all. He can be very animated and profound with his voice. My boss doesn't know this but he is a great practice for me. When he comes in my room, he puts his mask on and he talks a mile a minute with our patients. I use that time to practice listening without lipreading. I am now starting to catch a few words here and there! It's difficult to try to piece a conversation together but I tell myself, this is good.....one word at a time. My office is a great learning place, although exhausting at times. There are so many new sounds that it's amazing how much I can hear already! At wrestling meets, I could hear the referees blowing their whistles. One day I was standing at the railing waiting for Matt's match to come up and I kept hearing this slap, slap, slap sound behind me. I turned around to see what it was and it was a wrestler jump roping! It was the jump rope slapping the concrete. To me, that was amazing. And my Dad was there to witness that moment. There are so many new sounds that I can hear now that it would take longer than a blog to list. I will name a few for now. Music is starting to sound more instrumental to me rather than just one big noise. American Idol was much more enjoyable for me to watch this year as I was able to distinguish different instrumental sounds and different voices. I can now hear my dog, Bentley licking water out of his dish and the crunching sounds of him eating from the next room. I always know when someone is walking in our back door from the tv room because Todd still hasn't fixed our squeaky door! :) I love that I can hear when my microwave timer goes off. One day I was driving in the car with Andrew and we were at a red light. I heard music as if it was in our car but I knew it wasn't and I looked at Andrew and said where in the world is that music coming from? Andrew tells me it's the car next to us. I rolled down my window to see and sure enough, the guy next to us had his music blaring with his sub woofers. Wow! One day, I was in the car in a drive thru with Todd but we were waiting in line. The window was still up and all of a sudden I hear this loud blaring noise constantly going off. I asked Todd what it was.....he couldn't believe I could hear a car alarm going off across the parking lot. Voices are becoming more distinguished to me. I love listening to people talk and I love that I don't have to struggle as hard. One day I was walking across the kitchen and Chris asked me a short question and I answered without looking at him. He said, Mom, did you really hear what I just asked you? I couldn't believe it and just realized what I had done without effort. It's amazing to hear so many different sounds....many that most people take for granted. When I'm on my walks, just the cars going by me......I can now hear the tires treading along the streets. One day as I was walking, from a distance I kept hearing what sounded like a ringing noise. It alarmed me at first but as I got closer to the Oak Creek church by my house, I looked up and realized it was the bell tolling. It was a beautiful sound! It brought tears to my eyes because that was the church I grew up in and I never really heard that before. One evening, I was sitting on our patio with Todd....and I kept hearing loud tapping sounds. Todd said it was our neighbor using a hammer! One day last week, as Matt and I were working outside to prepare for his graduation party, we were burning wood and I had to stop and listen. I kept hearing these sounds every once in awhile and I knew they weren't birds. I told Matt to listen and I lifted my finger each time I heard it. And he said, Mom, that is the cracking and popping of the wood burning in the fire! These are just a few new sounds to name and it's just amazing everyday how much more I learn. I will be sure to post more as I go along. I would say my most favorite sound so far is the birds chirping. That was so exciting to hear a bird chirp for the first time!! Now I know exactly what people mean when they say they love the sounds of spring coming. I loved it to be able to witness it the first time going from the dead of the winter to the sounds of spring coming alive. Spring and summer were always my favorite times of the year because of the sun, blue skies and colorful flowers and now, I love hearing the birds to go along with it. I love walking out my door in the morning and hearing the birds chirping like crazy. It brings a smile to my face.
I had my first post op hearing test in a sound booth three months ago to see where my progress was with my cochlear implant. The first picture below shows my hearing test before my surgery with both of my hearing aids. I was in the severely profound range of hearing loss. The second picture shows my hearing test with my left cochlear implant. Huge difference....my audiologist said I am now in the mild hearing loss range!
If you look closely, you can see where I am just below the solid line. The solid line is normal hearing range. How amazing is that?? I am so close. Several people close to me have told me that my voice is changing. I think it is because I am more aware of speech sounds and I am getting more confident each day. I am still learning everyday and it will only get better as I progress further. My brain is adapting and my cochlear implant has awoken so many of my nerves that were so dormant since I was born. That's the way I look at it.....how far I have come as my hearing senses are coming alive. So much farther than I could ever imagine in this short amount of time and that gives me pride. It gives me so much faith in how far I am going to go. This is my first birthday with my new cochlear implant and I am loving it. It has given me a whole new lease on life and I am just in awe of what I am experiencing each day. What a great gift God has given me and I am so humbled and thankful!