Hey guys! I’m back with draft three (or is it four) of chapter 6 which at this point I’ll just refer to simply as “the music chapter” considering how many revisions I have done of it and how many times I’ve already changed the title lol.
Every time I revise it it gets drastically different. The last time I posted about my revisions I worked on creating stronger scenes and making it more of a love story between my ex-boyfriend, Larry and I discovered music with him for the first time post-cochlear implant activation. However, much of the feedback I received from my peers was that I didn’t make it very clear what it was like to hear music before I had cochlear implants and to discuss how it differed. I tried to make that more clear this time around with my references to Good Charlotte and how I knew my hearing was declining and what it was like to regain it and to have it better than ever before.
It’s still a tough challenge for me to write about what it’s like to not hear and what it’s like to hear some things but not everything and to know you can hear things but maybe not quite the way you’re supposed to be hearing it. I think what makes it difficult is it’s such a strong part of me that I don’t always think about it. It’s my identity. So when I do stop and think about it, let alone write about it, I don’t always know how to put it into words. It’s hard to explain to someone who’s always heard what it’s like to not hear when much of your life was spent not being able to hear, if that makes any sense at all?
I realized as I wrote this revision that the love story exists far beyond what I had with my ex, Larry. The real love story I would suggest wasn’t with him at all; but rather with music. I fell in love with music at a really early age, and that love was only strengthened in my middle school years when I discovered Good Charlotte. Like all good love stories, this one wasn’t without heartbreak, which I experienced as I began to lose my ability to hear music. However, love always triumphs, hence my ability to regain my hearing and ability to listen to music.
I’m not sure if any of those 400 or so words I wrote above make any sense at all but regardless, the latest revision is below. This is likely what I’ll be submitting as my final for Seminar I, because after four of five revisions I’m getting a little tired of revising this and also running out of time. :). This is still a work in progress though and I expect there will still be many more revisions to come as I go through Seminar II next semester, so feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions, questions, or any other feedback!
Chapter 6: The Memory and Memorization of Music
My middle school years were some of the toughest years in my life. I didn’t have many friends, but what I did have was music. Music was my friend. Good Charlotte was there for me when no one else was. Songs like “The Anthem” told me it was okay to be an outcast, to not be with the “in” crowd and that I should be proud to be different and not like my peers. Not to sound meta or anything, but “The Anthem” literally did become my anthem throughout middle school. I’d come home from school and play Good Charlotte on my stereo in my room for hours.
I also saw them live every chance that I got. My first time seeing them live was on June 20, 2010. It was Father’s Day, and I felt kind of bad leaving my dad home alone for the holiday while Mom and I made the journey to Philadelphia to surround ourselves with a bunch of hot, sweaty, and drunk 20-somethings who were all pushing and shoving each other to the rhythm of early 00’s alternative rock bands, but I knew my dad would understand. My world always stopped for Good Charlotte.
Mom was disappointed that we wouldn’t be home with dad for Father’s Day, but she understood. In fact, when the car broke down just a few days prior to the show and we didn’t have the money to get it fixed right away, she did what any crazy mom would do and rather than chalking it up as a lost and selling the tickets, she looked up bus schedules and mapped out our plan. It would be a long bus ride with a 10-15 minute walk each way. No big deal, except for one small problem:
It was over 100 degrees.
Father’s Day. No car. An outdoor concert. In 100-degree heat. But for Good Charlotte, it was worth it. For the band who has given me so much in my life, any amount of suffering faced in order to see them perform live was worth it.
The show started with a familiar set of what I assumed were guitar riffs I have memorized and fallen in love with over the years, followed by the opening lines of “It’s a new day, but it all feels old…”
“The Anthem”. I know this, I thought. Singing, or rather screaming, along while jumping up and down and pushing my way closer and closer to the stage was no problem. I knew this song from the back of my hand. I could remember the song length, the lyrics, and the basic structure of the song.
“Move back.” Mom warned, “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I’m fine. I can always move away if people start a mosh pit,” I said.
“It’s LOUD. I don’t want you to hurt your ears,” mom said.
I rolled my eyes. I was already about as deaf as one could be and she was worried about me hurting my ears. Really?
“I’m fine,” I contested.
“Do you want to take one of your hearing aids off?” Mom asked.
“No really, I’m fine and if I do that I won’t hear anything. It’s really not that loud to me,” I said. It wasn’t a total lie. I could hear the music and the volume felt comfortable. I could feel the vibrations from the speakers, but it still didn’t seem dangerously loud, just average.
At this point, my hearing while bad, wasn’t yet completely disabling. I was able to comfortably identify and follow along with a majority of Good Charlotte’s songs. The only time I struggled with a little bit was towards the end when Good Charlotte announced that they would be debuting their new song, “Like It’s Her Birthday”. Since this was a brand new song, I haven’t had the opportunity to hear it in the past, let alone memorize the lyrics and song structure. I could see Benji and Paul strumming along with their guitars while Dean banged along on his drums. I could watch Benji play his bass, although I had no way of deciphering its sounds from Benji and Paul’s electric guitars. I could hear Joel singing, but I was only able to make out the first few words of the main chorus, “Acting crazy, like it’s her birthday….” Still, being able to get the gist of the song was better than nothing at this point. However, by the time I attended my third Good Charlotte concert nearly a year later, I’d see this ability rapidly diminish.
In November of 2010 after much anticipation, Good Charlotte finally released their fifth studio album, Cardiology. Every song on this album was beautifully crafted and one of my all time favorite albums from them. I purchased the album from Best Buy the day it was released and spent the next several weeks listening to it on repeat, studying every single music note (or what I believed them to be) and memorizing all of the lyrics. When they announced that they would be going on tour in March I couldn’t buy the tickets fast enough.
On March 9, 2011, I attended what was the most depressing concert of my life: Good Charlotte’s Cardiology Tour at the Theater of Living Arts (TLA) in Philadelphia. This concert was depressing not because of the show itself (it looked like a great show!) but because of one major problem: I could barely hear or understand anything that was being said and any song that was being performed.
I did okay with some of the newer songs. The good part about their new album that they were promoting, Cardiology is that the songs were so unique and distinct from any of their other songs that it was easy to study the structure of the songs and to distinguish one from another. “Silver Screen Romance” was milder and laid back than many of their other works and had an almost old-fashioned kind of sound that none of their other songs did. I could pick that song out easily. “Introduction to Cardiology” was another easy song to pick out simply because it was first. It only made sense that they would perform it first. Also, the song was one of the only instrumental songs that Good Charlotte had. However, it was hard to tell when the song ended and moved into another song, “The Anthem”. I could not hear the words that Benji and Joel were singing. I only knew the song was different a few minutes in when I noticed that the tone seemed to have changed not just with the song, but the concert atmosphere in general. Everyone was rather calm when Introduction to Cardiology was playing. No one was really jumping up or down or singing along to anything. Now suddenly, the girls were going crazy jumping up and down while the men were forming their own mosh pits. Everyone was singing along to something, but what exactly were they singing along to? I couldn’t tell, and I was afraid to ask. I should know this, I thought to myself. Better luck with the next songs I thought as I hoped for the best.
Song after song after song kept playing, and I wasn’t getting any better. In fact, if anything I was getting worse. What were they performing? Was this “Bloody Valentine”? No, I think they did that already. “Lifestyles of the Rich an Famous”? No, it couldn’t be; that’s their biggest hit and the one they always save for the encore. Would I get any of these songs right? Am I really this deaf?
The music stopped and Benji and Joel talked to the audience. They were laughing. Why were they laughing? What was even going on? I looked at my mom and she was laughing and smiling, too. “I love watching them talk. They always make fun of each other,” she said. Not only was this my third Good Charlotte concert, it was her third one, too. She had become my concert buddy and was beginning to enjoy the Good Charlotte concerts every bit as much as I did, if not more so. Or at least as much as I did before this night… I wanted to cry. I had no idea what was being said, what was being performed, and I didn’t even know why I was there. Would I ever be able to enjoy a Good Charlotte concert ever again? I didn’t want to let her know how bad of a time I was having or how I couldn’t actually hear anything. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, but above all else, I felt defeated. Instead I just said, “Yeah, me too. I love them, they’re hilarious.” I figured pretending I could hear them and giving a vague response was my best bet.
March 9, 2011 was the first night I realized that maybe I was deafer than I ever imagined. It was the first time that I was ever a little bit afraid of my deafness. Up until that night, I thought I was doing an excellent job of existing in the hearing world and “getting by” despite my deafness. But music has always been such a huge part of my life. If I was going to lose my ability to hear music, what did I even have left in my life?
I couldn’t accept the fact that music may only be a past memory for me. Even though I was struggling to hear it, I never gave up. I saw many concerts in 2010 – 2014 including Simple Plan, Yellowcard, The Ataris, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Pat Benatar, and Rick Springfield. Many of these musicians sounded very different from one another, but each concert had one thing in common:
I couldn’t hear them.
I tried to focus more on the experience I was having at each concert rather than on the fact that I couldn’t hear the music at all. Sometimes the experience was great, and other times not so great. Simple Plan’s concert was one of the worst concerts I ever been to in my life, despite them being one of my all-time favorite bands. I couldn’t hear any of the songs and throughout the night.
Avril Lavigne was a concert even more depressing than the March 9, 2011 Good Charlotte concert I attended. At least with Good Charlotte I could remember what it was like to attend their concerts and to be able to hear them. I waited over 10 years to see her perform live and she has always been one of my all time favorite musicians. However, I couldn’t hear a word she said. I couldn’t understand what any of the songs she sang were. I didn’t know if she was good live, not good, or even in between.
I was bored. Concerts become less fun when you have no idea what is going on. Not only was I bored, I was downright depressed. One of the most anticipated concerts in my entire life and I couldn’t even hear anything.
Unfortunately, it only got worse from then on out. Not only was I losing my ability to hear live music and to enjoy going to concerts, something that has become a favorite pastime of mine, but I was losing the ability to hear music on the radio, too. Catching a song mid-way through on the radio and I’d have absolutely no idea who sung it or what the song was called, even if it was a song I’ve heard millions of times before. The only way I knew what it was is if I knew the name and artist ahead of time, but even that was becoming more and more difficult. I couldn’t hear or understand what the radio DJ’s were saying; the only way for me to know would be to have someone tell me such as my mom or dad if they were in the car with me at the time, or to look it up on their website to see what was “Now Playing” and hope it was updated (it usually wasn’t).
Listening to my own personal music collection via CDs or my iPod was a bit easier for me, because then I could select the songs on my own I wanted to listen to. I knew exactly what the song was called and who it was by. I could use my memory of how I thought the song was supposed to sound, the lyrics and the basic song structure to figure out what the song was and to almost enjoy it. It was at times an exhausting process. Music was becoming less of an enjoyable activity to me and more of a chore. Because it took so much work for me to “study” the music and to be able to listen to it based off my memory, I found myself listening to it less and less. I used to love finding new music and discovering local, unsigned bands, but that hobby became a thing of the past as my hearing continued to decline. Hearing music was only working for songs I had a past memory of hearing, not something I’d need to discover for the very first time.
My ability to hold on to my memories of music and the way I thought it was supposed to sound would come in handy a few years later after I received my first cochlear implant.
“Don’t be too discouraged if music doesn’t sound like how you remember it at first. Remember, for some people they are never able to hear music at all even with the cochlear implant,” I remembered Wayne’s words, but I chose not to accept them. Music has always been such a huge part of who I am, and I refused to accept the idea that I may not ever be able to enjoy it again. I wanted to not only hear it the way I remembered it, but I wanted to hear it the way it was supposed to sound, too. I didn’t want music to consist only of memories; I wanted music to be exactly what it was – music.
“Can you tell what this?” Dad asked as he turned on the car radio.
“Jesse’s Girl?” I asked. We had the song burned on one of our car CDs and my dad knew it was my favorite, so we played it often.
My mom shot my dad a concerned look before whispering something. I’ll never know what was said, but if I had to take a guess it was probably something along the lines of “Why can’t she hear it?”
“No – it’s the Grinch,” my dad corrected.
“What?” I asked.
“The Grinch,” my dad repeated.
“I can’t really hear you. I mean I can, but I can’t understand what you’re saying – everything still sounds like a baby crying,” I said.
“The GRINCH. GUR-INCHHH,” my mom said. In between the sounds of a baby crying, her voice squeaked through. She still sounded like she was sucking on helium, but I could read her lips well enough to tell she was saying “the Grinch”.
“Oh, the Grinch!” I said, “yeah, I didn’t get that at all.”
“It will probably take time. You’ll get it eventually,” my dad said.
“Yeah. Wayne and everyone in the Facebook groups said that music is the hardest thing to learn,” I said. I left out the second half of the sentence, some of them never learn to hear music at all or at least not the way it was before being implanted.
“You can try some more when we get home. Remember, we have the new Mandisa CDs I got from G triple C,” my mom reminded me.
“Yeah, I’ll try those,” I said.
Once I got home I was so excited to make noise and to hear literally anything I could. Gizmo, my Maine Coon cat meowing. The sound of running water. The clicking noise that light switches apparently make. Even the sounds of ice cubes cackling in a cup of soda amused me. But the thing I wanted to hear most of all was music, so I wasted little time popping a CD in the stereo and pressing play.
I started with Mandisa as my mom suggested. It was a brand-new CD that I’ve had for a month but have yet to open since I couldn’t hear anything before my activation. I have been eager to open it as a sort of “gift” for my new bionic ear. I wasn’t that familiar with Mandisa’s music other than the occasional song here or there that played on K-Love, so I was excited to discover her music for the first time with my new bionic ear.
However, when I pressed play all that I could hear was the sound of a baby crying blocking the sounds of Mandisa’s voice. Since I had little to no previous experience with listening to Mandisa, my brain was unable to process the sounds of her voice and the instruments in the background. Everything was completely new and overwhelming. Still, I didn’t want to give up just yet. I hit “next” and choose another song. Same results. I kept on trying and trying and trying until more than an hour passed by and I had still made no progress.
“It still sounds so weird. All I can hear is the sound of a baby crying,” I said.
“Why don’t you try something else that you’re more familiar with?” my dad suggested.
I look around a bit before spotting the Kelly Clarkson “Thankful” CD sitting by the stereo. Kelly Clarkson was never someone I’d say was my favorite musician, but I did always like and appreciate her music. I looked at the back of the CD case to refresh my memory on what songs were on that album.
“’Miss Independent’. ‘Low’. ‘A Moment Like This’. Hmm. Okay I think I know these pretty well,” I said to myself before swapping CDs and pressing play.
I couldn’t understand it all at first, but by my third time through I could pick out words like “Miss independent” or “What is this feeling taking over” from her songs. The music was slowly beginning to filter through the noise and sound like actual music. It wasn’t yet pretty, but it was a glimpse of what music is supposed to sound like – actual music.
The more I listen to it, the more familiar it becomes. It’s like a new way of studying and learning to hear music. I thought to myself. But this is going to take a lot of work.
I was exhausted. The one thing nobody tells you about hearing or being activated with a cochlear implant is how truly exhausting it can all be. Once activated, you need to really think hard about what you’re hearing and give your brain a lot of time to process the sounds and figure out what it is. After listening to music for several hours, I needed a break.
I guess that’s a little bit of progress. I thought. I’ll try again tomorrow.
For the rest of the week I focused almost all my attention on learning how to hear music the way it was supposed to sound. I learned quickly that the more familiar a band or song was, the better the chances I had of hearing it properly. Good Charlotte was my band of choice, for obvious reasons. There was no band I knew better than Good Charlotte. Still, for the first few days post-activation I struggled. However, I was determined to not become another statistic; I didn’t want to turn into a cochlear implant recipient that lost their ability to enjoy music post-activation. I was determined to defy the odds and to not only hear music, but for it to be completely and mesmerizingly beautiful; like I’ve never heard it before.
By the third day post-activation, after spending countless hours listening to Good Charlotte on repeat, it finally began to click. I was working from home for an advertising agency, WebiMax, and listening to my iPod as I worked on my assigned tasks. I had Good Charlotte’s complete discography playing on repeat. The song that was playing at that moment was Good Charlotte’s “Predictable”. Suddenly, I recognized an entirely new sound. It wasn’t the sound of a baby crying or someone sucking on helium or any other “side effect” kind of sound. It was beautiful.
Duhn duhn. Duhn duhn. Duhn duhn.
What was that?
I backed up and hit play again.
Duhn duhn. Duhn duhn. Duhn duhn.
Is that a drum? No, it couldn’t be. It wasn’t quite loud or hard enough to be a drum.
Guitar? No, I was fairly sure I was already hearing the guitar, and this was something different.
What other options were left?
I decided to take to Google and look up facts about Good Charlotte’s “Predictable” to see if I could find anything that stated what instruments were used.
BAM! Found it.
It was a bass.
The one instrument I have always known of and knew Good Charlotte could play, but could never actually hear. Up until that moment I thought that the bass and the regular guitars were synonymous. For the first time ever, I was hearing the bass the way it was supposed to sound and it was so beautiful. I’ve always enjoyed listening to “Predictable”, but I’d never quite referred to it as being one of my all-time favorite Good Charlotte songs. That is, not until that moment. At this particular moment, I knew I was making extreme progress. I was so happy and excited I could cry.
I spent the rest of the afternoon playing “Predictable” on repeat. I was in complete awe by the sound of the bass and I was excited to see what else I could hear.
By the end of the day I could sing along to most of the words in “Predictable”.
The best part? I was singing along because I could hear and follow the song, not simply because I had it memorized.
On day four of post-cochlear implant activation, I had plans to see Larry for what would be our first date in over a month and I couldn’t have been more excited.
Larry picked me up at around 6pm in his trusty old, beat up green truck. I was never a big fan of the truck, but for the first time in my life I was thrilled by the sight of that truck because I knew what it meant: I was finally going somewhere. Alone. With Larry. At last.
“I’m here.” read the latest text on my Android phone, but I already knew and had the door wide open before the message even came through. I mapped out his route and knew exactly when to expect him at my condo and watched him pull up. I was excited to see him, but I really couldn’t wait to finally hear him.
He looked so handsome. For once, he actually made an effort and traded in his faded, worn out t-shirts and dirty jeans for a nice collared shirt and a pair of jeans that at least didn’t have any dirt on them (so what if they were a little faded?). The smell of his British Sterling cologne was intoxicating.
“Your voice is beautiful,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I meant it or if I was just saying it because of how in love I was and how happy I was to finally be able to hear him speak and to have a conversation that existed outside of writing down notes or texting each other. It’s been a rough month as far as communication went.
“Thank you,” Larry said, as we both laughed together.
“This is weird. I know. But I can hear now.” I said.
“What do I sound like?” he asked.
“Pretty much the same.” I said, “But your voice is a little deeper.”
“I got a Spotify playlist,” Larry said. “Do you want to hook it up?”
“Sure,” I said. “What do you got on here?”
“Take a look.” he said as he handed me his phone and pulled out of the parking lot.
I scrolled down the list searching frantically for a familiar song. Celtic music. Scottish music. What in the world? Only my boyfriend would have music this weird on Spotify…I thought.
Finally, I found something I recognized: “As Long As You Love Me” by the Backstreet Boys. Music still sounded terrible to me, but better than it did on day one at least. I just wanted to impress Larry with all the things I could suddenly hear, even if I couldn’t understand them.
Larry joined me and we sang together, “Who you are…where you’re from…don’t care what you did…as long as you love me…” and it felt like he was singing directly to me, serenading me with his love. Larry’s always sung to me, but now that I could hear him and almost understand him, his voice sounded ten times sweeter.
When we arrived in Smithville I was immediately overwhelmed by all the noise and it looked like Santa came through town and painted everything with Christmas cheer. It looked like a cute little Christmas village with lights everywhere I looked, a train going by every 10 minutes, and Christmas music constantly playing.
“Look at the lights!” I said.
“It’s a Christmas lights show,” Larry explained after reading the sign. “Want to watch?”
“Sure!” I said.
We watched as the Christmas trees lite up and flashed new colors every few seconds. Some were purple, others were blue or orange.
“Can you hear that?” Larry asked.
“Christmas music?” I guessed. It was an obvious answer; we were in Christmas town, after all.
“Yes.” he said.
“I can’t tell what song it is.” I admitted, “But I know it’s Christmas music.
“It’s Rudolph.” He said as he began to hum the tune.
I nodded along, wondering if there were any songs I’d “get” that night. I haven’t really been able to understand any of the songs on the radio since we’ve arrived, but I was enjoying the sensation of hearing sounds and being able to at least tell there was music playing.
“Do you want to go in the shops?” I asked. The lights were cool, but I was ready to explore everything else.
“Ok. That one looks cool,” he said as he pointed to a native American shop. Larry has always been interested in Indians, just like me.
We entered the shop and looked around before heading to the back of the shop and Larry discovered an old-fashioned rack of CDs with a little machine that allowed you to play samples of the music. He read from the choices and pushed one of the buttons. “Indian music,” he said. “Can you hear it?”
“I can.” I said. There weren’t any words, so it was easier to follow along.
“What do you hear?” he asked.
“Drums?” I guessed.
“Yes. What else?” he asked.
“Uhm. I want to say guitar?” I guessed.
“Mmhmm.” He said.
“I know there’s other stuff, too, but I am not sure what else it is.” I admitted. “I want to hear a flute.” I say.
“I don’t think we’re going to find that in Indian music.” he admitted, almost apologetically.
“It’s okay.” I said as I push another button.
Larry and I pushed every single button until we run out of songs. “The people in here must hate us.” I said, “Oh well I’m having fun.”
“That’s all that matters then.” Larry said. “Love you.”
“Love you too.” I said. “Let’s go somewhere else.”
We made our way from shop to shop. Most of the shops were filled with homemade goods that we had no intention of ever buying, but it was fun to look at them all anyway.
“Check this out.” Larry said as he picked up a bell. “Can you hear it?”
I listened carefully, it’s a sound I’ve always wanted to hear but never could. “I can. Oh my god. I can.” I said. “Let me see it.”
I picked up the bell and held it to my ear, ringing it over and over again. Tears began to fill in my eyes. I can’t believe that I was really able to hear a bell. I may not have been able to hear everything clearly yet, but this was huge. I’ve never been able to hear high frequency sounds before and now I was clearly hearing one of the highest forms of high frequency sounds.
“There’s some more over here.” Larry said.
I walked over to the table where Larry was and carefully pick up each and every bell and rang it to my ear. They all sounded the same, but I had to ring them all just to be sure. I picked them up and placed them down carefully, being cautious not to break any of the glass or porcelain materials. The shop owner glared at me. Surely, she didn’t understand or appreciate this little routine.
“Let’s go somewhere I else,” I whispered to Larry. “I don’t think she likes us doing this.” I said as I glanced up at the shop owner.
“Great idea.” he said.
Our next stop was a little punk rock shop known simply as “Underground”. Underground didn’t look like any of the other shops we’ve been too. The outside of the building was green like all the other shops, but the bright red doors made it stand out. There were no handmade goods or bells or frilly things. Everything almost looked like it was dead and there was hundreds of thousands of old records everywhere you looked and walls adorned with famous concert posters from heavy metal bands.
“I feel like I’m home!” I yelled over the heavy metal music blaring through the speakers.
“What? I CANNOT HEAR YOU!” Larry yelled back. He looked horrified.
“I LOVE THIS PLACE. IT REMINDS ME OF THAT RECORD STORE IN OCEAN CITY!” I said. I was pretty sure this was what heaven looked like, or at the very least, sounded like.
“I can’t do this – I’ll wait for you outside,” Larry said. I was afraid I may have broken my country boyfriend, but I was in no hurry to leave. I was in my element, whether he chose to be a part of that or not. I nodded back and said, “I’ll just be a few minutes.”
I browsed through the stacks of records, but I didn’t recognize any of the names. This really is underground, I thought to myself. I reminiscenced on my middle school days back when I’d spend hours searching for local punk rock bands that no one has ever heard of, dedicating my life to being their little groupie, whether they wanted it or not (most of them didn’t). I focused on the songs blaring from the radio. I could feel all of the vibrations and could understand why Larry had to leave…it was LOUD! I had no idea what they were shouting through those speakers, but I didn’t mind. I was in pure bliss simply by the fact that I knew there was music playing, a feeling I hadn’t experienced in several years. Besides, wasn’t the point of heavy metal music to shout things in a mic and pair it with heavy drumming and guitars so no one knew what you were saying any way?
I spent a few more minutes soaking in the entire experience and all of the sounds before spotting and purchasing an Edgar Allan Poe shirt. It was a nod to my Bachelor’s degree in English, but also a little memento to help me to forever remember this moment.
“We better get going,” I said to Larry when I reunited with him outside of the shop. “It’s getting late and we still need to stop for dinner.”
“Okay, where to?” he asked.
“Up to you,” I said.
“How about Applebees?” he suggested. I never liked Applebees in the past because it was always too loud for me, but with my new bionic ears, I’m more than willing to give them another chance tonight.
“Sounds good.” I said as we walked back to his trusty green truck.
It was a long way from Galloway to Deptford. I was sure there must have been another Applebees in a closer town to us, but Deptford was all that either of us knew, and we didn’t mind spending some extra time together. It was our first night out in over a month, and with Larry on the road all the time as a truck driver, we knew that opportunities like tonight would be rare and far between in the months to come.
“I have something for you to listen to,” Larry said.
“Hm. What’s that?” I asked.
“Listen.” he said as he pushed play on a Spotify playlist on his phone.
I listened closely for a few seconds before realizing there were no words to the song.
“Instrumental?” I asked.
“Yes.” Larry admitted.
“Drums?” I questioned. I was confident that whatever I was hearing must be drums.
“What? No.” he said.
“I could swear I heard drums.” I said. I knew I was learning sounds, especially for instruments, but I didn’t trust Larry’s words at that moment. A drum was a drum was a drum. This was not a high frequency sound. I knew what a drum was. Or did I?
“Nope. It’s 100% bagpipes.” He said.
“Oh wow. That’s different.” I said. I was impressed that he remembered my love for bagpipes. I WAS Scottish and Irish after all. Bagpipes were what we did.
“Yeah, thought you’d appreciate it. I know you said you wanted them at your wedding when we get married.” He said.
“Yes, I do. I always thought they were cool.” I admitted, “they sound beautiful, but I could swear I heard drums. It’s weird.”
When we left Applebees and finally arrived back home, it was after 10. Larry parked the car in the back lot, away from all the houses and other cars so as to not disturb my elderly neighbors who may have been trying to sleep. “Let’s not go inside,” I said.
“Why? Mom asleep?” he asked.
“No…” I admitted. “I just want to talk.”
“About what?” he asked.
“I dunno. Can you sing to me?” I asked.
Larry knew exactly what I was asking for. I was asking for more noise. More sound. More of him and his voice and to experience him in a way that was still foreign to me. I wanted to learn what music REALLY sounded like. I wanted to learn his voice. I wanted this night with just the two of us to last forever.
He put his Spotify playlist on and we listened to each and every song. He moved our seats back so we could cuddle. I rested my head against his chest and felt his heartbeat as he sang along to the radio, holding me as tight as he could. He only stopped singing every few minutes to kiss me above my eyes.
When the last song played, it was Brad Paisely’s “She’s Everything” and I could swear he was singing each and every line from the bottom of his heart directly to me.
“Love you, Angel,” Larry whispered in my ear. A soft, delicate whisper, and perhaps one of the only whispers I’ve ever actually heard in my life.
We fell asleep that night in his trusty, beat up green truck under a full night of stars to the sounds of Braid Paisley. Our own version of a Christmas song.
Last night I attended Advanced Bionics’ online webinar that was all about the new Q90 processor. This was really important for me since I recently found out that I am eligible for an early upgrade to trade in my current Q70 processor for the new Q90.
The webinar was very informative. The Q90 looks almost identical to the Q70 but it is smaller and thinner. It also comes with a few new features to help you to adjust to different sound environments and to block out distracting background noise better. It comes with the option of using a smaller battery that is about half the size of the smallest battery used by the Q70, but all of the sizes used with the Q70 are still compatible with the Q90 as well. The battery life is the same in the Q90 as it was in the Q70. One of the biggest advantages with the smaller battery size option (other than the obvious comfort) is that it will fit inside the AquaCase better.
The three new programs offered in the Q90 are the AutoSound, SoundRelax and EchoBlock.
The Auto Sound feature adapts automatically to the environment you are in. It helps you to better manage noise for more comfortable listening. Sound Relax makes sudden sounds more comfortable to hear. Advanced Bionics gave the example of a golf club hitting the golf ball or dishes clanking together. These sounds can be a bit annoying for a cochlear implant user, so with the automatic Auto Sound feature, this noise is softened a bit to be more comfortable. It doesn’t affect alarms or safety sounds though, so you won’t have to worry about missing something important with this feature. Lastly, EchoBack is the one program that is not automatic. EchoBack allows users to hear better in noisy environments.
The Q90 makes me really excited about going bilateral in less than 10 days. I liked hearing about how there were some features that would be only available for bilateral cochlear implant recipients like the StereoZoom feature. There will be features that will allow users to stream sounds through both cochlear implants. They will work simultaneously together to support each other. This will help to create an overall better listening experience.
I asked one of the women doing the webinar if I would be receiving the new Q90 when I received my second implant on November 3oth (It’s not widely available yet, I’m just lucky to have been chosen to upgrade my Naida Q70 from my first implant for it ahead of time) and she said yes so I’m very excited about that.
Overall the webinar was very informative. I’m excited about the new Q90 processor. It doesn’t sound like it will be drastically different from the Q70, so it should be easy to adjust to.It sounds like it will help to give me clearer sound and an even better listening experience (if that’s even possible).
This picture was taken just a few hours before activation. Yes… I am magnetic.
Hey guys I finally have time to update this after being activated on Wednesday, December 17th. It has been such a crazy and overwhelming past four days, but definitely a very exciting time.
I honestly didn’t hear too well the first day. Yes, things were loud and I did hear some sounds for the first time like the music playing on snow globes and light switches. But I also heard a weird like background noise that sounded like a baby crying and that sound dominated everything. I couldn’t hear my mom much at all. I heard my own voice and realized I never heard it much before and that was so incredibly weird to me. I didn’t like it! It was annoying! I felt like everything was echoing! I also had trouble with my volume on the first day. My mom kept saying I was talking very loudly with the audiologists. I was so not used to hearing my voice that I guess I felt like I had to talk over it. It was weird.
Here’s a picture of my implant taken on day 1! It took over a half hour to find the magnet on day 1. Now it takes a matter of seconds. 🙂
Day 2 was a million times better. People’s voices sounded more normal to me. I heard my mom’s voice better but it didn’t sound the way it was supposed to. Most of my hearing loss is for high-frequency sounds which is like how my mom’s is. My brain is still working to process those sounds. My mom sounded just like Minnie Mouse on day 2 and I couldn’t stop laughing at her. It was hilarious. I also discovered “squeak” is a very funny word especially when you make your voice squeak as you say it. Squeak. Squeak. Squeakkkkkkk. I can hear squeaking like I never could before and it’s hilarious to me lol.
Day 2 was a big improvement from day 1, but day 3 was even better. I was really nervous because it was my first day back in the office after being activated and I had an interview for an APM position and I wasn’t sure how well I would do with being able to hear and understand things. I did surprisingly well! Unfortunately, there weren’t many people in the office to hear, though. We have been working in a small temporary location where people work in the office on different days and Fridays are always pretty deserted, especially this past Friday. I could hear a lot of little things though like typing, people talking to each other and on the phones, papers shuffling, and people eating lol. I realized I hate the sounds of foil and people slurping soup lol they are so annoying. It also made me a bit self-conscious of the noise I make especially since I had a sandwich wrapped in foil for lunch lol I felt like I was being too loud.
I heard my boss’s voice for the first time. I mean I talked to him in person before and I guess I always heard his voice in the past, but he has a very different kind of tone to his voice and I could never understand him before. I could hear him very clearly on Friday and I picked up on just about everything he said to me which was exciting. I heard just about every word people spoke in my interview as well and I thought the interview went extremely well and I have a great feeling about it.
I did a bit better with word recognition and high frequency sounds on day 3. I got more used to hearing my mom’s voice. She didn’t sound like Minnie Mouse anymore. Her voice sounded just as I remembered it sounding.
Day 4 was a really big day for me. It was my first time seeing my boyfriend, Larry since being activated! It was also our first real date in a month (we didn’t go out at all for the month after my surgery since I couldn’t hear). I was so excited to hear his voice for the first time! We made plans to go to Smithville. I really wanted to go somewhere where I could hear a lot of different sounds and do something kinda Christmasy. Longwood Gardens was my first choice until I found out about the required time tickets purchase…yeah no thanks.
Larry and I in Smithville. That’s a talking tree in the background…though if you think it looks like a crown over my head I won’t complain. Afterall, I am the princess. 😉
Larry was so excited about my implant. He loved that it was blue like his favorite color. We hooked up spotify and played that on the way to Smithville. I didn’t hear a lot of the songs well but it’s still important for me to listen to them and try to hear them. He did play “As Long as You Love Me” by the Backstreet Boys and I was able to hear that one clearly and sing along to it well though. We could also carry on a conversation in car. I always struggled with that in the past. The car would be too loud and if the window was down the wind would overpower things and the music would too. Now we had the loud car, spotify playing, and other background noise and I could still catch almost every word! And his voice sounded beautiful! It wasn’t robotic at all. It did sound a bit different than I remembered it. A different kind of tone but I really liked it. I think it might be a bit deeper than I thought it was before.
Smithville was really cool. We both had such a great time together. A lot of my friends suggested it to me when we first started dating and it reminded me a lot of Wheaton Village minus the glass. Wheaton Village is very special to us since that was the day we became official boyfriend/girlfriend (September 13, 2014)! It was cute. There was a lot of things for me to hear too. There was a lot of Christmas music playing outside especially where they had the lightshow. I couldn’t hear it well enough to tell what the songs were, but I was at least aware of how there was music playing. It didn’t just sound like noise to me. There was also a train that had a bell and I could hear the bell very well and I loved the sound of the bell.
The train went throughout Smithville all night long. I loved hearing the bell!
We had so much fun in the shops too. One shop we went to was an Indian store. They had a bunch of Indian music and headphones to listen to it set up. We played one of the songs and put it up loud so we both could hear (I didn’t want to actually put the headphones on because I was so afraid of knocking my magnet off). It sounded so awesome! I could hear the rhythm of all of the drums and it was awesome!
Another shop we went to was an old fashioned punk rock record store…my poor country boyfriend hahaha. He’s not quite into the whole punk rock scene like I am. I’m not sure he’d like me too much if he knew me back in my tie-wearing, spiked-collar, blue-hair wearing days. :-p. I was very “at home” there whereas I’m pretty sure he’s never looked more uncomfortable and out of place in his entire life. Anyway, getting to the point…being a punk rock record store they played you guessed it— punk rock music. And it wasn’t the pop-punk kind I really love like Good Charlotte…it was real, old-fashioned punk rock music that was very LOUD with a lot of screaming. I’m pretty sure it made Larry’s ears bleed lol. I have to admit it was even a bit too loud/hard rock for me too, but I enjoyed being able to actually hear that and distinguish it as being actual music and not just noise.
A lot of the shops I went into had Christmas ornaments including bells. How I didn’t get myself into trouble or break anything I’ll never know lol. Of course I had to ring allllll of the bells I saw haha. Poor Larry looked like he was going to have a mild heart attack. He was so afraid I was going to break something since I’m naturally a very clumsy person. But it was neat being able to hear the bells — something that is normally too high pitched for me to hear.
There was also a small arcade on the boardwalk. They had a crane machine filled with rubber ducks. I spotted one that was a panda so of course I wanted it lol. Larry tried to win it for me but ended up with a unicorn and a cheetah instead. 2 for 1…can’t beat that lol. I can’t complain. Plus they SQUEAKKKK! And I can hear it. And don’t think I didn’t make them squeak like 50,000 times lol.
The rubber ducks Larry won for me in Smithville
When we left Smithville as we were passing through Galloway Santa passed us in a firetruck. The firetruck had its sirens on and I could actually hear it! It was really exciting to hear! Larry also played a bunch of bagpipes songs he had on spotify for me. Being both Irish and Scottish I’m a big fan of bagpipes and I got to hear them in a whole new way. There was some times when I was sure I was hearing drums but nope Larry ensured me it was all strictly bagpipes. I didn’t realize they could have so many sounds and tones to them. It definitely helped me to develop a greater appreciation for them!
Before heading home Larry and I stopped at Applebees for dinner. I don’t usually like going to Applebees because it’s usually way too loud for me between other people’s conversations and all of the tvs…especially on a weekend night during Football season but I did great! I could hear him talking to me perfectly, I could hear other people’s conversations and the tv. I could even hear him playing his Transport Empire game on his phone! The only thing I struggle with a little is hearing the waitress. She had a very high pitched voice but I still did much better than normal. It was exciting to hear all the different sounds and to be able to separate one sound from another instead of hearing just a bunch of overlapping noise that I usually hear.
My dinner at Applebees…bourbon chicken and shrimp. Also my first time at Applebees in about 2 or 3 years.
When we got to my house at around 10 we weren’t quite ready for the night to end but my parents weren’t prepared to have people over so we just stayed in his car for about 2 hours. We just laid together and he held me and played Spotify and sang to me a bit and it was such an intimate, romantic moment that was so beautiful. It was definitely my favorite part of the night. He was singing Brad Paisley’s “She’s My Everything” to me. Combine that with someone holding you tight, gently brushing your cheek and your hair and constantly telling you they love you underneath a sky full of stars and a bright moon and I’m not sure I can think of anything in the world that could possibly be better than that. It was absolutely beautiful.
Today is day 5 of my activation and I’m still noticing significant improvements. It was my first day back at church in over a month. I didn’t attend after my surgery because I couldn’t hear anything at all. I missed church and everyone at church so much. They were all so welcoming and excited to have me back. I was so excited to be back and to hear everything too!
I always go to both Sunday school and church service. Sunday school always opens with prayer requests. Hearing the main person take the prayer requests is usually hit or miss for me. Either I hear it all or nothing. Today I pretty much heard it all. I usually can’t hear the actual prayer requests of the people sitting behind me though. I could hear even the most soft-spoken woman today though and it was so awesome.
After taking prayer requests we opened with singing “Joy to the World” w/o the music and it was so beautiful. I heard the people sing many times but I could hear different tones to their voices today that I never noticed before and it sounded so awesome. The song was like I remembered but better.
Sunday school service was a real treat for me since we got into more of the Corinthians — my all-time favorite chapter of the bible. I could hear and follow through with every word of it. Nothing better than listening to the word of God!
The actual sermon was a similar amazing experience except instead of Corinthians we got into Luke for Christmas since it was a lot about the glory of God and the birth of Jesus Christ. I am always at church for Christmas Eve so I heard this kind of sermon many times, but I haven’t actually HEARD it in years. It was awesome to actually hear it all today.
The opening closing of the sermon began with the church band playing music and everyone worshipping in song. I usually struggle to follow the songs due to not being able to hear them clearly. Today I heard every word. A few songs sounded strange to me probably because I’m not so familiar with them but other songs like “Away in a Manger” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain” were absolutely beautiful. I especially enjoyed hearing the violin. I actually used to play the violin in like 4th grade but only for a year and I was terrible at it. Today was the first time I remember hearing it the way it’s supposed to sound. I told the violinist after church that it was so beautiful. I was just completely mesmerized by it.
I really enjoyed talking with and fellowshipping with everyone after church too. I usually get pretty bad anxiety while trying to talk to people because I can’t hear them but I did very well today. I was able to carry full conversations with people. The pastor’s wife even mentioned that my speech sounded better. I thought so too. My speech has always been alright considering how great my hearing loss is but now that I can hear myself I’m more conscious of how I speak and I’m better able to hear and pronounce sounds and words properly.
When I came home from church my mom said I was glowing. And she’s right! I was absolutely pumped. I was so excited to praise and worship the lord in his home again and to be able to really hear the word of god. It’s such a blessing!
Tomorrow will be day 5 and it’s such a big and exciting day! My company,WebiMax, is moving to our new Camden office. There will be many people around and so much going on. I can’t wait to hear everything and I’m praying someone asks to have an in-person meeting with me haha.
Until next time,
Image Credits: Florida National University
It’s hard to believe that it’s already Thanksgiving! Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday I was writing my list of the top 5 things I was thankful for last year. Not much has changed in the past year except that there’s definitely way more than 5 things that I am thankful for. I tried to narrow it down to just the top 10 here.
1. God. I definitely developed a closer relationship with God in the past year. I started going to church on a regular basis (actually I am a member of two churches now — Gloucester County Community Church and Washington Baptist Church). I’ve been reading my bible more and more and really praying. I feel a much stronger connection to God and my life has improved tenfold since I’ve learned not only how to talk to God…
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How do you like my new cone of honor? A bit ridiculous, right? Fortunately, it gets to come off tomorrow. Unfortunately, my hair is only going to look a lot worst in the days to come. Because of the stitches which are all hiding beneath my cone, I can’t wash my hair for the next month. :'(.
I sent this picture to Larry. He said I still look beautiful. I think he’s full of shit, but he always does a good job of making me smile.
I can’t believe that it’s all over already. It went by so fast yesterday. It felt like they put me under anaesthesia and then two seconds later the surgical team or nurses or whoever it was woke me up and it was all over. I didn’t think they did it at first. When I woke up I grabbed at the side of my head and felt the cone – that’s how I knew they did it (I was way too drugged up and groggy to feel any pain yet).
My recovery is going pretty well. I’m in a bit of pain now, but the medicine helps a lot. It makes me really sleepy though. I’m off of work for the next week and already going a bit insane. I can’t watch TV (I mean, technically I can, but I REALLY can’t hear anything now that I’m missing a hearing aid and won’t be activated until next month. Reading captions without any sound isn’t the same), so I ‘ve been reading a lot. It gets boring fast though. I’m already eager to get back to work, even if I will only be working from home for the next month or so.
I think Larry is coming over tomorrow. I felt bad that he wasn’t allowed at the hospital, but they said it was only open for immediate family members (plus, my parents didn’t really want him there anyway). He can’t stay for long because I need to rest/sleep, but I’m really looking forward to seeing him. I really miss him. He says he has a surprise for me.
I can’t believe that it’s all over and done with now…now it’s just the waiting period. My anxiety is going to kill me. What if it doesn’t work? What if the whole thing is a mistake? Will it be everything I’m expecting it to be? What if I still can’t hear – will Larry and my family be disappointed? I’m excited, but also terrified of it all. December 17th can’t come soon enough. I just want to be activated and to find out what my future holds for me – and to learn why God has blessed me with this gift now after 24 years of silence.
Hey guys! Sorry for the lack of updates lately. Everything has been pretty insane.
The whole cochlear implant journey has all been happening so fast. I met with Dr. Willcox at Jefferson on September 19th. The appointment went so well! Mom and I both had like a million questions to ask him and he answered every single one without hesitating. To say that Mom and I were impressed would be an understatement. We were SO impressed that we decided right away to go with Jefferson for the surgery…we cancelled the appointment with UPenn (plus, we weren’t sure if insurance would cover a second consultation appointment anyway).
They tested my hearing at that appointment and it actually did drop a little bit since my last appointment a year ago, which in this case would be a good thing. The audiologist (I forget her name) and Dr. Willcox said so long as I didn’t have anything medically wrong with me they didn’t see why I wouldn’t be approved for surgery.
My next appointment was a physical with my family doctor. It was a pretty annoying appointment. My family doctor is obsessed with the HPV shot, which I don’t agree with at all (but that’s another story…) so most of the appointment was just him telling me I should get a shot that I’m never ever going to get. But it went by fast and he gave me the medical clearance I needed for surgery.
After that I just had to get a CT Scan and an MRI.
The girl who did the MRI was pretty good. I had to remove my hearing aids so naturally I had a hard time hearing. She was very good with working with me and pointing things out/using hand signals to communicate with me (for those who don’t know I never learned sign language, but I definitely rely on my sight to “hear” things…). My mom kept saying “This is the last MRI you’ll ever have” which was a kind of weird thing to think. An exciting kind of weird though. Due to the magnet that they implant inside you, you can’t get an MRI with a cochlear implant. I mean I guess technically you can…but it would require surgery to have the magnet removed. So it’s definitely not advisable.
The CAT Scan was much much much quicker than the MRI. Seriously took them like 10 minutes or less. But it was also much, much, much more annoying. Not the test itself but the part leading up to the test. I had a different technician (or is it nurse? Whatever you call those people that do the tests…) and she wasn’t quite as good at communicating with me as the other one was. She had to verify my date of birth and confirm that I’m definitely not pregnant. These two questions would take any one else two seconds to answer…but…I had to have my hearing aids out for the test. So she had to ask me like ten million times before I could actually figure out what she was asking me. Then I was annoyed. Because I already answered these questions on my paper work. And they asked me like a zillion times if I was or thought I may be pregnant. I hate how if you’re a woman between the ages of 18-30 they think there must be a chance that you could be pregnant. I understand why they have to ask and that it’s their job and blah blah blah but do they have to ask me that like 100 times? If I said no the first time I’m pretty sure I didn’t go and get pregnant in the 10 minutes that went by since you first asked lol but seriously…
Overall the testing went well though and once it was over I had three main thoughts:
- I will never get this done again (unless I have surgery to remove a magnet from my head first.
- Soon I’ll be able to hear doctors and nurses and receptionists when I need a medical procedure done and it won’t be so awkward.
- I’m one step closer to getting my surgery! How exciting!
The MRI/CAT Scan were the last of what I like to refer to as the “stupid, waste of time” tests.
I met with a team of audiologists for the second time on November 6th. This was my final day of pre-surgery testing/evaluations. First I had to answer a long list of questions about what my expectations were for the cochlear implant. This was to ensure that my expectations were in line with what would actually happen and to make sure I understood that getting a cochlear implant would take a lot of work. After they activate me, I’ll need to train my brain to hear the sounds – I won’t just automatically be able to hear and understand everything right away. The audiologists all said that my expectations all were right in line with what would actually happen, so I passed that test.
The audiologist also showed me what the implant will look like and explained how it works and what it comes with. Here are some pictures I took.
The white thing to the left is the processor. It will go behind my ear like my hearing aids do now and then the circle thing is the external magnet that goes onto my head and connects with the internal magnet. The black thing is the battery. The other white thing is a charging station with the batteries. The clear thing is the actual magnet that will be implanted in my head.
Here are some batteries that are being charged. It comes with rechargeable batteries. There are smaller ones that last up to 12 hours and bigger ones 16. I chose the bigger ones because I’d rather have it last longer than have it smaller.
After she was finished talking we did a ton of hearing tests 99%of which were with my hearing aids to see how well the hearing aids work for me now and to try to determine which ear to implant (I’m just getting the implant in one ear now). We started off with just some sounds and I had to raise my hand whenever I heard the sounds. Then I had some words I had to repeat, which of course I messed up pretty good lol. Even with hearing aids my clarity is horrendous. Then I had some sentences to repeat. Some of the sentences were weird. One was about a monkey learning sign language lol. I did better with the sentences but still struggled. Sometimes I could only pick out some words from the sentences. I did so-so. But when she added background noise I couldn’t get hardly any of them. When she mixed it with male and female voices plus background noises it was nearly impossible, especially for the female voice. I have really horrendous hearing when it comes to high-frequency sounds…
My implant is going to be the Advanced Bionics Naida CI Q70. One of the cool things with the cochlear implant is that unlike my hearing aids, it comes in several colors. I got to choose. Here’s a picture of all of the colors to choose from:
I picked the red one with a black cord (the cord comes in either white, black, or beige. I thought black would go the best.). Of course the color I picked has been discontinued. It’s not a big deal but they did tell me there’s a chance that if I ever need my processor to be replaced the replacement may be a different color and it may not match the battery or head piece anymore. Definitely not a big deal. To be honest, it would kind of be cool to have multiple colors lol. I’m definitely not one for being discreet. I’m proud of my implant and I want to stand out!
They also asked me which ear I wanted to have implanted. They said most of the time people choose their worst ear, but for me both of my ears are pretty much exactly the same so it really wouldn’t matter. For awhile my left ear was my worst ear. Something told me to just go with that one, so I did.
As for my most exciting news….
INSURANCE APPROVED OF MY SURGERY 100%
This means that not only do I not have to worry about the costs of surgery, but I was also able to schedule my surgery. My date of surgery is….*drum roll please*…….
NOVEMBER 17, 2014.
Yes, you read that right. I’m going under the knife in as little as 10 days.
I am now going to work to prepare for my surgery. I’ve been going crazy making sure I stay healthy. I have been washing my hands to kill germs so often that they permanently smell of soap and have become red and dried out from constant washing. I have also been eating Airborne tablets like candy. Hooray for Vitamin C! Larry and I were talking about going to a Tenth Avenue North show this weekend but I told him I didn’t think it would be a good idea to be around so many people in a small environment. Instead I told him to surprise me with a fun, romantic weekend especially since after my surgery I won’t have hearing in my implanted ear and won’t want to do much of anything for a month until I am healed and activated. We’ll see what he comes up with.😉
Everything with my surgery has been and is continuing to happen so quickly. I am so excited about it all! I can’t wait to open this chapter of my life and experience more of the hearing world!