Happy Cochlear Implant Day! On this day 58 years ago French doctors performed the very first cochlear implant surgery. Since then, the procedure has been performed on thousands of other children and adults, giving them the beautiful gift of hearing. I am lucky and blessed enough to say that since November 17, 2014, I am one of these people.
As of today I have been activated for 2 months and 8 days if my math is corrected (I was activated on December 17, 2014). This is the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. I have been making fast progress and hearing many sounds for the first time in my life. I’m so thankful and appreciative for this new technology and for those French doctors who took the step of performing the very first procedure back in 1957.
It’s been awhile since I last updated. I have been continuing to make great progress. I actually met with my surgeon, Dr. Willcox today for a checkup. He was very happy with how everything’s been healing and the progress I have made so far. He seemed especially impressed by how well I’ve been doing with the phone. He said with his patients being able to use the phone is pretty hit or miss with about 50% of them being able to use them successfully. He also kept saying my mom’s a great mom and I couldn’t agree more.
Every week my mom works with me to help me to train my new bionic ear. She’ll look up words on the internet or make up her own for me to repeat. When I got bored of them she discovered a computer program I could use called Angel Sound. Angel Sound was actually created by Advanced Bionics, the makers of my cochlear implant, to help patients like me to train their implanted ear. There are many different programs including male and female voice recognition, common household sounds, animal sounds, music, consonants, and more to go through. There are also different levels to go through with each level becoming increasingly harder. So far I’ve been having the most trouble with the music (many instruments especially flutes and pianos and sometimes horns sound the same to me) and consonants (I tend to hear the ending of a word but can’t always distinguish between the beginning). But the more I go through the programs the better I get.
My boyfriend has also been working with me a lot even though he’s still off on the road completing his truck driver training. We’ve been talking on the phone whenever possible. This past weekend actually his trainer had off, but since he lives in VA and Larry lives in NJ, Larry couldn’t go home. He had to just stay at a hotel in VA. During this time we spent hoursssss on the phone. I was catching everything he said and loving it. Gaining the ability to hear on the phone has been a true blessing to me especially now that he’s away. I never noticed until now how much more personal and intimate it is. I feel like he’s right there with me most of the time. He also sings me to sleep whenever we talk on the phone. I really love it when he sings to me. We are both huge music fans and he is always subconsciously singing when we’re together. After I got my implant, he jumped at the opportunity to sing to me at the end of our dates before he said goodnight to me. It is probably my favorite thing he does for me and now I beg him to sing to me whenever possible on the phone. Sometimes he helps me in other ways, too like by playing rhyming games with me. I thought it was silly at first when he asked me to give words that rhymed with his words, but when he explained he was working with me and trying to help me so I could get better at distinguishing between the similar but different sounds, I understood.
One of the biggest accomplishes I had with my cochlear was this past weekend. My dad’s birthday is coming up and there is one specific, unique item he really wants. I called the store this past weekend to see if they had it. This was the first time in my entire life I ever called a store to inquire about a product. It was a noisy store but I was able to hear every single word. It was so exciting. I texted my mom who was at work at the time and told her the news. She said she had goosebumps she was so excited. It’s so amazing what kinds of doors my cochlear has opened for me.
I will continue to work through my programs and train my ear to hear the different sounds. My next big goal is that I’d like to be able to hear on the phone without having to use my headphones. I think I am almost there. I answered the phone for a few seconds when Larry’s called to tell him “Hold on, gotta get my headphones” and was able to hear him say things like “Hello” and “Okay”. The next time we talk on the phone I will try it without them and see how they do. It can’t hurt to try, right?
When I saw my surgeon today we talked a bit about the possibility of me implanting my other ear. I’m definitely a candidate for it. My dad is hesitant about me doing it because he fears that if the external equipment fails I’d be screwed with no hearing aid to fall back on. However, my mom and I are pretty for it, especially me. My cochlear can’t compare to my hearing aid. It’s completely different and better. If I have my cochlear on without my hearing aid I can get by just fine. However, if I have my hearing aid but no cochlear, I feel screwed. Dr. Willcox recommended I implant the other ear. He said it was my choice but it would definitely be highly beneficial. It would be a lot easier the second time around, too since I’ll know what to expect and I’ll have 1 implanted ear to fall back on (having no hearing in 1 ear and relying just on my hearing aid for a month after I was implanted with the first one was completely brutal). I’d just have to see if insurance would cover it. I hear from a lot of people that it only covers for the first one, but my mom thinks they might since there’s well documented evidence proving my need for one. But we’ll see. If I do go forward with a second implant it probably won’t be for at least a year. I’d definitely want my first one to be well adjusted and trained first.
Overall I’m extremely happy with my cochlear implant and the progress I’ve made this far in the game. The only regret I have is not getting it done sooner. It’s been truly amazing and I feel so blessed that God has given me such a beautiful gift.