Image Credits: CCDowney.com
Hey everyone, how was your holidays? I’m finally getting around to update this again. I think it’s safe to say my holidays were a bit crazy. Fun and good, but definitely a bit crazy and overwhelming in parts lol.
It’s no secret that my cochlear implant was definitely the greatest gifts I got this Christmas. For those of you who haven’t been following along, I was implanted on November 17th and activated on December 17th of this year — just in time for Christmas.
My cochlear implant has been completely amazing and extremely useful this holiday season. I had about a million things to do on Christmas Eve. My day started with a hearing appointment with my audiologist, Sherry at Miracle Ear. Some of you might remember me mentioning Sherry in the past. She was the one that recommended I look into getting the Cochlear. As a thank you gift I got her a snow globe that plays music and I had it engraved to say “Joy to the World of Hearing”. She loved it so much she cried. She was so excited for me.I was excited too since I could carry on a full conversation with her without the help of my mom and could even hear here when I took out my one remaining hearing aid to have her put the new tube on. This is not something I could do before.
This is the snow globe I had engraved as a thank you present to my audiologist at Miracle Ear, Sherry. It says “Joy to the World of Hearing”. Had it not have been for Sherry and her honesty, I may not have ever gotten my cochlear implant.
I’ve been getting a lot of comments about my speech lately too. People say my speech has already been improving and it’s only been a little over two weeks! I noticed I can hear different syllables and sounds better which helps. I can hear the difference between SH and CH now. Sometimes it’s still a little hard for me to pronounce the sounds properly since I’m not used to it but I’m getting there. I was able to say my audiologist’s name, Sherry correctly which is something I always struggled with in the past so that was exciting.
After my appointment I did a bit of shopping in Walmart since my Miracle Ear is located right in Walmart. It was kind of cool being able to hear all of the small things like even the squeakiness of the wheels on the cart. I bought The Newsboys’s new album, Hallelujah to the Cross at Walmart and was playing that in the car as we left Walmart. It sounded clear and natural and I could even pick out some of the words without having to look them up which was exciting. I’m starting to really do well with music now. Probably because I was so stubborn and persistent with it. I am a huge fan of music so not being able to hear it is unacceptable to me. I played it non-stop after my activation even when it sounded bad. It seems to have paid off since I can hear most of it fairly well now.
My mom and I’s next stop on Christmas Eve was Bob’s Sports Shop — a gun shop in Glassboro. I bought some pepper spray from them. The guy that sold it to me took his time to explain a bunch of laws and regulations and tips regarding the pepper spray and I could hear every word. This usually isn’t my favorite gun shop mainly because it is so loud. I always had trouble hearing the workers in the past because I was unable to filter through all of the noise to hear the conversation but this day I was able to hear everything perfectly. It was so exciting!
I also went to a sandwich shop — Carmen’s Deli to pickup some hoagies on Christmas Eve. I always hated ordering food since I struggled so much to hear people. My mom called in the order ahead of time so we were just picking it up and she did all of the talking, but I could still hear everyone perfectly so that was exciting. I’m still waiting to get the chance to go to like Dunkin Donuts or something and order something on my own and see how well I do.
I went to church twice on Christmas Eve. First there was my church service at Washington Baptist Church that I went to with my boyfriend, Larry. My church service was kind of short and made up mainly of songs of worship with a few verses from Isaiah. Larry had to work and we ended up being a little bit late so we slid into one of the last rows in the back. I usually sit in one of the first three rows so this was a bit different for me but I did fine hearing. I could hear every word. After church I talked to many different people. Everyone was pretty excited to meet Larry. I talk about him all the time to everyone but this was my first time bringing him to church with me. I was able to hear everyone perfectly and carry on conversations. At one point I think there was one person talking to him and 2 or 3 others talking to me and I was still managing just fine. This is yet another thing I wouldn’t have been able to do two weeks ago.
A couple of hours after my church service ended I went to my parent’s church service over at Gloucester County Community Church. Their service was a bit longer and more formal and filled with even more music. I didn’t hear every word of the sermon, but most of them and enough to know what was going on. I did pretty well with the music. It was one of the first times I have been to that church that I could really hear the music and it didn’t just sound like loud noise and I was able to follow through with it perfectly. I could even hear one woman playing the flute. It sounded kinda weird since I’m so not used to hearing the flute, but still beautiful nonetheless.
Christmas day was just as exciting with all of the noise. It was Larry and I’s first Christmas together and we spent the day with his family. I have met a lot of his family before back in October when we went to his Aunt’s Halloween party. But at that time I wasn’t implanted or anything yet and I really struggled to hear everyone especially with all of the background noise from people talking, music playing, etc. Holding a conversation was very difficult. I even struggled with talking to Larry. Christmas was the first time seeing everyone since Halloween and my first time seeing everyone since getting my cochlear implant.
Our first stop was the Hartka family. This was Larry’s aunt and uncle who are also his godparents and three of Larry’s cousins, plus one of his cousin’s boyfriend. I’ve talked to the family on Facebook a few times since Halloween so I felt a bit more comfortable. I did pretty great with my cochlear and it was so exciting. I could easily carry on a conversation without having to ask everyone to repeat themselves a million times. It definitely allowed me to relax more too. In the past I’d get very nervous and and anxious while trying to talk to people I don’t know too well due to my inability to hear well. I could hear some other sounds around the house too. For example, Larry’s Aunt showed me an ornament that played music from what I believe she said was the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I couldn’t hear it perfectly, but I could at least tell it was playing music and it still hear it somewhat clearly which was exciting.
We left the Hartka’s for about an hour or so to go visit with Larry’s Grandparents. Larry originally told me it was his grandparents and his dad. But actually it was quite a bit more people…tons of Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and other relatives and friends. It was nice to see everyone a bit. A little overwhelming, especially for me being that I don’t have much of a family so I’m not really used to being around so many people like that, but still exciting.
I can’t begin to tell you how many people I talked to that day. Too many to count lol. Larry and I have been together for 3 and a half months now and this was my 2nd time seeing everyone. This is Larry’s longest and most serious relationship and his family is pretty close, so naturally when he brings his girlfriend, me, around people are a bit interested and want to talk to me lol. I was far less nervous this time around than I was at Halloween because I could hear! I spent the most time talking with Larry’s grandparents, particularly his grandmother, and his dad. I really didn’t struggle with anyone. His grandmother had surgery recently which made her voice a little raspy and a little hard to understand but even with that I was able to pick up every word. We had a long conversation about Larry’s childhood and how he liked trains and some places he’s been as a child. At this point Larry left to move his car for a few minutes so I was on my own. At first I was nervous— Larry’s pretty much always been my crutch. When I can’t hear I just look at him and lean on him for help and support and translation but I did fine on my own this time around.
I couldn’t wait to hear his cousin, Izabelle speak. I was hoping she would be there. Here’s the thing: Little kids are very very very hard for me to hear and understand and over the past 10 years or so it’s gotten almost impossible for me to hear them right or talk to them and it’s heartbreaking! I used to work as a summer camp counselor for Summer Playground in Pitman. I did it from the time I was 12 until I was 14 or 15. I really loved working with the younger kids and in my last few years as a counselor I worked exclusively with preschoolers. They were adorable and I loved them, but their voices were so high-pitched and squeaky they were completely out of my range. I couldn’t really hold a conversation with them. Whenever they’d talk to me I’d respond with “That’s cool.” “Wow.” “Okay”, or simply just a smile and I’d pray that nothing was wrong or that they weren’t asking a question. When I first became a camp counselor I loved it so much I decided I wanted to be a daycare worker or an elementary school teacher.
I gave up on those dreams when my hearing decreased. How can you be a teacher when you can’t hear your own students? It didn’t seem possible to me. So I never bothered studying education in college or doing anything I would have needed to do to become a teacher.
That’s kind of sad, right? It gets a bit more depressing, unfortunately.
In 2011 I was in my first serious relationship. Long story short — it was a mess. My boyfriend did not treat me well. He yelled at me, verbally abused me, and pretty much forced me to do things I didn’t want to do. It took me longer than it should have, but eventually I reached my breaking point and gained the strength I needed to leave the relationship. But for years there were words he said to me that have haunted me. Here are those words:
“You’ll never be a mother because you can’t hear. You can’t have kids if you can’t hear them.”
I was 21, going on 22 at the time. I have just had my first hearing test in years and the results were devastating. There was a significant drop in my hearing and my word recognition was about as close to 0 as you can get. I needed support, love, and encouragement. Instead, I got served some more harsh words that I prayed would never be the truth — but at the same time, I started to believe them. I could not hear. Especially not little kids. How could I ever go on to be a mother if I’d never be able to hear my own kids?
It didn’t occur to me at the time that there is technology out there that can help with these kinds of things. It didn’t hit me that a relationship is between two people who should work together to find solutions to these kinds of things. All that I heard and all that hit me was those words. I could never be a mother.
Every woman, from the time she is a little girl, dreams of and plans out her future. I am no different. I have my dream wedding all planned out. I have names picked out for my future kids (Leslie Michele for a girl. Jake Ryan or Lucas Gabriel or Noah Christian for a boy.) To hear those words from him — a man who claimed to have loved me or who was supposed to have loved me at the time — it was crushing. And it left a deep scar on me for many years.
My cochlear implant gave me new hope though. I heard many stories of women in similar situations — unable to hear and wanting to hear their children who after being implanted and activated were able to hear their children for the first time and go on and be amazing mothers. And that was exciting for me. Plus, I am now in a relationship with an amazing man who has been with me every step of the way. We are in no way, shape, or form ready for children yet, but in the future, like 5 years down the road or so, maybe we will be and there’s not a doubt in my mind he’d be extremely supportive, loving, and helpful. He’d do everything he could to help me and I know he’d have all of the faith in the world in me and my ability to be a great mother to our children.
Okay well now that I’ve gotten quite a bit sidetrack — back to the point. I couldn’t wait to see and talk to Izabelle on Christmas day. I think she’s about 6 or 7 and the cutest little girl. She has that high voice like all little girls do. I couldn’t really understand her when I met her at Halloween. But on Christmas, I could. And it was so exciting.
Izabelle talked to me quite a bit and I think I did pretty well. I couldn’t hear 100%, but much much better than I could before. I could never have a conversation with her before. She got a kitten for Christmas so she showed it to me and told me all about her. She told me its name and I heard her but forget it now and she drew me a picture. She’s the cutest little girl. And just talking to her made me so happy and relieved me of so much anxiety. I looked at spoke with her and thought “Wow, I’m having a conversation with a little girl. I haven’t been able to do this in years. I am doing pretty well with this. One day I may have my own little girl like Izabelle and I’ll be able to speak with her and raise her and everything will work out fine.” It was such a relief.
There’s another girl who I spoke to as well that also kind of made my day — Larry’s cousin Brianna. I heard of Brianna. Larry’s grandparents and aunt have mentioned her to me in the past but this was my first time actually meeting her. Women are hard for me sometimes especially when I’m not used to their voices. When I first got activated I didn’t do too well with women’s voices. My own mother’s voice was very squeaky and cartoonish and hard to understand. People’s whose voices I never heard before? Forget it. But this was my first time ever speaking to and hearing Brianna’s voice and I did well. I never had to ask her to repeat herself. We had a few full conversations. She asked who I was, naturally, how long Larry and I had been dating and she talked a bit about herself explaining how she plays many different musical instruments. She also noticed Larry and I had matching hoodies on (we bought the same hoodie at Frightland. But in all honestly, we have some similar and/or identical shirts too and we do tend to match a lot because we’re cute like that haha). So I told her all about the time when we went to Frightland. It was so nice to talk to this woman I never spoken to before and carry on a full conversation and not have to apologize for being hearing impaired or ask her to repeat herself 10,000 times. There was a lot of background noise too with all of the people over and the kids playing. I could hear someone playing the drums on the rockband set and could still hear Brianna perfectly fine and carry on our conversation.
We didn’t stay at Larry’s grandparent’s/Dad’s home too long because the Hartkas were nice enough to invite us to stay for dinner and were expecting us back. When we got back there I was still able to talk to everyone well. The Hartka family was watching White Christmas. The TV wasn’t all too loud, at least not compared to what I’m used to, but I could still hear the singing and even the tap-dancing which was exciting. Christmas has so many different sounds. You don’t realize it all until you’re suddenly given the ability to hear them all! It’s really neat and it helps give a whole new meaning to the term “Sounds of Christmas”!
We left their home around 9 and headed back to mine. Once we got back home Larry played a show for me on YouTube on his phone. I forget what it was called. Something Macgee or something lol. I think it was from the early 90’s. I never seen it before. There wasn’t any captioning available but I still did okay. I couldn’t pick up every word, but enough to know what is going on. Before my activation I’d yell at people for playing YouTube on their phones because it would just sound like very loud distorted noise to me that I couldn’t make out. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s still significantly better than it was before. I’m definitely making good progress.
Christmas Eve and Christmas were both very exciting times for Larry and I being our first Christmas together and me having the new and amazing ability to hear. It will definitely be a Christmas we’ll always remember. I’m really looking for New Year’s Eve and all of the noise now lol. I’m just staying in with my family so it shouldn’t be too loud but I’m sure my neighbors in the complex will make at least a little noise at midnight lol. Unfortunately Larry went to Disney with his family and won’t be home for NYE’s. :(. But I’m still planning a little surprise which I won’t write about on here since Larry has his laptop and could very well be reading this now. ;).
I hope all of you guys had a very merry Christmas this year and have a wonderful, blessed New Year!