A few weeks ago I went to a cochlear implant support group. I’ve had some mixed experiences with these support groups. After attending my first one, I vowed I’d never come back. However, I since changed my mind and even had some pretty good experiences since then like the time I went to the cochlear implant support group about hearing preservation (and met the incredibly attractive Dr. Pelosi…but that’s another story ;)).
Since they have been getting better, I decided to make an effort to go to them on a more regular basis. The topic for the January 7, 2016 meeting was on training your implanted ear (or in my case, ears). Med-El was sponsoring the meeting and presenting and discussing their new training cds and books. Since I was just recently implanted with my second cochlear implant, I thought this would be a great meeting for me to attend.
I’ve always been a little skeptical of Med-EL to be completely honest. When it came to choosing a cochlear implant brand I narrowed my choices between Cochlear and Advanced Bionics. Med-EL was the only brand I was sure I DID NOT want because I felt they were too outdated. I always leaned more towards Advanced Bionics. Jefferson didn’t give me a choice so I was glad they chose Advanced Bionics for me, naturally, as it’s what I would’ve chosen anyway.
I had some faith in Med-El for this meeting though. I mean, aren’t all speech therapy training supplies essentially the same? How could you mess that up?
The presentation was given by a woman who worked for Med-El and who I believe was also a licensed audiologist at John Hopkins. She had one of her patients with her who was upgraded to a new processor and/or had a new mapping done that morning. They went through some words and she tried to demonstrate how the cochlear implant is a process and it’s not perfect, he might still mess up. It was a nice presentation, pretty accurate.
She also took some time to go over the new Med-El training book, cds, and online resources. She had a copy of the book. It was very expensive to buy (like $70) but said she’d leave a copy with the group and that we could make copies if we wanted, which my mom and I ultimately did. The book has been incredibly helpful/beneficial for us. That alone made going to this meeting worth it.
Towards the end of the meeting she went back to her earlier point on how cochlear implants help deaf individuals, but it’s not a miracle cure. We’re still deaf. She then used one single word to refer to us all that ruined her entire presentation for me:
She told us we were all handicapped.
I was enraged. We are DEAF but DEAFinitely NOT Handicapped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I didn’t just let this go, either. I made sure to talk to her at the end of the presentation to let her know I didn’t like that she told us we were handicapped. She apologized and said she knew and that she was really referring to children with multiple disabilities like those who are deaf-blind, deaf and autistic, etc.
It was a nice try, but I didn’t buy it because there wasn’t a single kid there and 90% of the adults lost their hearing later in life. I’m pretty sure none of us had multiple disabilities…it was just her cover.
There are few things in life that infuriate me more than being referred to as being handicapped because I am far from being handicapped. Most of us deaf individuals are always labeled as being handicapped and for most of us that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Deaf individuals like myself face a lot of hardships and much discrimination. We have to fight on a daily basis to have our voices heard and to be viewed as being equal to our hearing counterparts. We get denied employment, entrance into public schools and universities, and most of society tries to exclude us on the grounds that we are “deaf and dumb”.
I am a lot of things in life. I am far from perfect. I have done dumb things in life, but I am not a dumb person and I am far from being handicapped. I have NEVER once allowed my hearing loss to get in the way of my success in life.
I’m really not that much different from a hearing person. I don’t know ASL. I used to lipread (I still do, but I don’t HAVE to anymore). I speak pretty clearly. While I did attend speech therapy as a kid, my speech has never been that bad to begin with. I went to public schools growing up (which my parents and I had to fight very hard for as the school thought I was handicapped when in reality I simply couldn’t hear…). I played on many sports teams and was involved in many clubs. I attended a public university and earned an associate’s degree and later two bachelor’s degrees. Now I am employed for a digital marketing agency as a manager. I have had this job for 2 and a half years. I speak on the phone on a regular basis for work. I have no interpreters or special accommodations. I am really no different from a hearing person.
Society is constantly trying to put a label on deaf individuals and make us feel like we are broken or flawed or not worthy of the same opportunities as hearing individuals. “Handicapped” is far from being an innocent mistake or simply “just a word” used to describe us; it’s become a nice way of telling us that we’re “not worthy”, “not normal”, or “not good enough”.
Deaf individuals fight the stigma and the misinformation and all of these stereotypes on a daily basis. It’s rarely an easy fight. And one thing we absolutely don’t need is audiologists and representatives from cochlear implant and/or hearing aid companies fighting against us and feeding into the stigmas and stereotypes.
These individuals should be fighting alongside of us. They should understand us more than anyone and want to work to show people how the deaf really aren’t that different than the hearing.
Also, as is the case for this woman from Med-El, if you’re trying to sell us cochlear implants, you should speak in a way that gives us hope. Training your cochlear implant and your ear to hear is no easy task, as you’ve seen in my last blog post. It can be frustrating and discouraging. Labeling us as handicapped isn’t going to help matters at all, but it could make things worst. When you call us handicapped you remind us that we’re different, but if we have a cochlear implant it’s most likely because we want to hear and be like those that can hear, at least to an extent. Calling us handicapped can put a damper on all of that because you’re saying we’re different, we’re not able of doing something the hearing can do — we can’t hear. But the goal of the cochlear implant is to gives us what we don’t have that they do have — the ability to hear! Calling us handicapped is basically a nice way of telling us to not work hard and to just give up because we’ll never be like them anyway.
The idea that the deaf are handicapped is a lie. It’s a myth. It’s a diversion of the truth. It is not at all right.
To quote King Jordan, the former president of the famous deaf university, Gallaudet, “The Deaf can do anything but hear.”
We’re deaf, yes, but DEAFinitely NOT handicapped.
Got that, Med-El? Good.
Hey guys! Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed your holiday!
I had a pretty enjoyable New Year’s with it being my first New Year’s as a bilateral cyborg! I didn’t have too crazy of plans. I always just stay in with my family and we eat 7 different types of Seafood at midnight as the ball drops and make predictions on the year to come and reflect on the year that passed. I also enjoy a drink. I’m not much of a drinker and don’t like bars, so staying in and just making one drink is more than enough for me.
Last year was my first New Year’s living in the condo in Washington Township, so I knew from last year not to expect much in the way of sound. Our neighbors are pretty quiet and boring; there’s no running out with pots and pains and noise makers at midnight like there was back in Pitman and Woodbury where I used to live. There’s not that much noise to hear on NYE’s at all, so I knew not to get my hopes up too much about hearing different kinds of sounds.
But overall I’ve noticed a huge improvement with my progress with my 2nd cochlear implant over the past week and a half. I moved on to program 2 on Wednesday and it sounded much more comfortable, so I’m gaining sounds with that. I have been practicing words with my mom and playing with Angel Sound diligently. I am almost on level 2 for all programs on Angel Sound now. My biggest struggles have been vowel and consonant (especially consonant) recognition so far, but they are arguably the hardest programs and I still feel like I’m making good progress on them. I feel much more optimistic with it now than I did when I was first activated. I am seeing that this is a progress that takes time.
Pastor’s oldest daughter, Jessica,has been coming to our church with her husband the past few week. Last week she played the flute during service. I have mentioned previously how I wanted to hear a flute with my cochlear, but this is one of the first times I’ve been up close and really able to hear it. I could distinguish it from the other instruments pretty well. It was so beautiful. I was completely mesmerized by it just as I was the first time I heard a violin at church after I was activated with my first implant.
On New Year’s Eve I went to the liquor store to pick up some drinks for the holiday. I went to Hops and Grapes in Glassboro and if there’s one thing I learned about this particular liquor store over the years it’s that you’re almost guaranteed to run into someone you know. First I ran into my childhood best friend, Zach. We were very good friends growing up; he was like a brother to me. This was my first time seeing him in about 10 years so that alone made my night.
Next I ran into someone from one of the cochlear implant support group meetings that I talked to a few times before. My mom spotted him first and said “I just saw another bilateral cyborg! We got to find him and talk to him!” because that is apparently what bilateral cyborgs do. I mean, we’re a rare bunch so when we run into each other it’s like “Hey, sup, bro?” lol. But no, seriously.
As we were looking for him he ran into us and pointed out my cochlears. I didn’t immediately recognize him from the meetings, and I’m unsure if he recognized me, so we kind of both played it off as having not met before. We talked about the progress with our cochlears. He received his 2nd one last March and his is also from Advanced Bionics so he was able to tell me about his experience and he said he had a bit more trouble training his 2nd ear as well but that it’s pretty much there now so that made me feel a lot better. I told him about the Q90 processor and how I like it. He’s due for his upgrade soon, probably in Spring. It was definitely a nice little conversation!
Thinking of the cochlear implant support group…I’ll probably be seeing him again this week! There’s a support group meeting on Thursday. Med-El is going to be talking about their new listening/auditory program which could be a huge help for me training my 2nd implant. I look forward to possibly seeing him again and attending the meeting!
I noticed on New Year’s day I was really starting to make progress as well. The weird thing with my 2nd implant is that I feel like I’m getting music quicker than I did with my first one. Sometimes I think I’m making more progress with music than I am with general words and sounds. However, as a huge music lover, I’m definitely not complaining.
Every year my mom watches at least part of the Mummer’s Parade. One of her relatives (I think her uncle?) used to be a member of the South Philly String Band, so she watches to root for and support them. I always kind of ignore it because I think it’s kind of boring (sorry, mummers!) but I noticed as she had it on this year I could hear the music better than ever. It sounded amazing. I watched Fralinger’s performance and could distinctively pick out the bongos (or whatever kind of drum that was) and the banjos they were playing. It sounded amazing. I don’t think I have ever been able to really hear and understand marching band music like that before. It was so exciting and made me want to hear more band music. I have to get to a Philadelphia Orchestra show after both my cochlears are fully trained — I have a feeling it will blow my mind!
I’m doing much better now with my 2nd cochlear implant and it’s starting to become a very exciting time for me. I go to program 3 on Wednesday and then there’s one more program left after that and then I go back to Jefferson for another mapping. I can see that I am progressing and I know that the best is yet to come.
Today has been quite the day! I took off of work today (although I did check in, answer emails, and comment on tasks as much as possible), but the day has been just as busy if not more so than my usual work days.
At Around 10am, I left for the train station and then took the train into Philly. My first appointment was at Jefferson with Alyssa, an audiology student who was filling in for Louisa. I had met Alyssa once before during my last appointment when I had my 2nd cochlear implant evaluation and really liked her. She is not yet an audiologist as she is still in school, but she said she should be an audiologist in May and she still fills in and helps both Louisa and Paula out.
I was just meeting with Alyssa today to choose a color for my 2nd cochlear implant and to go over the options for the accessories and the package. It was a super quick appointment. I was originally trying to decide between the ruby red and the silver. After seeing it though I was pretty lukewarm to the red; it just looked too dark. I decided to go with the silver. It was pretty easy for me choosing the accessories. I didn’t want the palm pilot thing since I didn’t think it was worth it for me. I hear pretty well on the phone without having to use that tool to stream to both of my cochlears. It made more sense for me to opt for getting more batteries instead so I chose extra batteries with more of the small ones since at the moment I have more large than small. I also choose to get the Aquacase and I ordered it to be in a navy blue called Petrol with a white headpiece and cable.
I choose the Silver/Gray one for my 2nd implant and the Petrol one for the headpiece on my 2nd Aquacase.
I asked Alyssa which processor they will be giving me. The Naida Q90 isn’t available for public distribution yet, but I’m eligible to upgrade my Naida Q70 for it for my first implant, so there’s a chance they’ll be giving it to me for my second one as well. Alyssa will call and find out.
I also set up my activation appointment. I had a little bit of trouble scheduling it since both Louisa and Paula will be out for the holidays for awhile but I ended up scheduling it for…………..
DECEMBER 24TH! Yes, Christmas Eve! What an amazing Christmas gift it will be!
After my appointment with Alyssa I went over to Starbucks since I had about an hour of time left to kill. I was happy they had my seasonal favorite — Peppermint Mocha. I ordered it as a Venti Iced Frappachino. :).
Is there anything better than a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Frappachino? No, there is not.
My second appointment was at 1:30 for pre-testing. It was another very quick, easy appointment. The doctor just asked me some basic questions like if my allergies were still the same, if I had any other surgeries in the last year aside from my first cochlear implant, if I had any medical conditions, yada yada. Then he took my blood pressure which was fine, looked at my throat and gave me a short physical all of which were fine. The last step was having my blood drawn just so they could get my blood cell count or something basic. He said I was healthy and good to go with my surgery. He just reminded me to stop taking all of my medications which I have already begun.
When I got home one of my friends whom I met through the cochlear implant groups on Facebook and the Haddonfield area support groups sent me an email. Apparently the Hearing Association of America is looking for articles for a recent issue from people with cochlear implants. He gave me their contact information and I sent her an email so we’ll see what happens! It would definitely be awesome to collaborate with them on something!
Everything is starting to happen so fast with all of this; it’s so exciting! I think I have all of my appointments now. They are:
- November 30th: Date of Surgery
- December 2nd: Meet with Louisa and Advanced Bionics to upgrade first Naida Q70 Cochlear Implant to the Naida Q90
- December 10th: Stitches Come Out
- December 24th: Activation Day!
Tomorrow Advanced Bionics is hosting an online webinar on the Naida Q90 processor. I signed up to attend, so it should be interesting learning more about it especially since I know I’ll be upgrading early. I’ll be sure to blog about whatever I find out!
I know what you’re thinking…
I thought you said your first cochlear implant support group meeting would be your last.
And you’re right, I did.
Back in May I went to my first cochlear implant support group when they did a discussion on cochlear implants and dementia. It was extremely depressing and I felt the whole atmosphere to be rather negative. I vowed I’d never go again.
Well, things happen. I kind of lied.
It’s been a weird week.
I broke up with my boyfriend. If you read my blog on a regular basis, you’ll know I loved him very much. I still do. I think a part of me always will. I’m not going to go into the details about that here. Let’s just say it happened, it hurts like hell, and I needed to get out of the house.
A friend of mine, Wayne, helps to run the Cochlear Implant Support groups for the Haddonfield area (the ones closest to my home). We are friends on Facebook and Wayne and I talk on a regular basis. He knew that I had just broken up with my boyfriend and was really hurting, so he told me I should come to the next support group. He told me it would do me good to get out of the house and “you never know who you’ll meet” (I mentioned on Facebook how I needed to make friends. My boyfriend was not only my best friend, he was my only friend. Breaking up with him was more than just breaking up with a boyfriend, it was breaking up with my best friend, too). I kind of felt obligated to go after that. Plus, I figured it was a welcome distraction. Sure beats staying at home, feeling sad, and crying myself to sleep anyway.
The topic was actually pretty interesting. It was on hearing preservation after the cochlear implant surgery. You may remember me mentioning previously that I still had the same amount of hearing left in my ear post-surgery. I was interested in hearing what they’d say about that since the topic was definitely pretty relevant to me this time around.
Dr. Pelosi, assistant professor and otolaryngologist at Jefferson University, was the one doing the presentation. I have heard quite a bit about Dr. Pelosi especially when I did my early research for a cochlear implant surgeon. My first impression is what any newly single 20-something year old girl would think, “He’s really hot”.
Hottest doctor, ever?
But of course looks are not everything and I have a really weird thing with people who are highly physical attractive. I assume most highly attractive people are jerks. I’m not outright saying I thought Dr. Pelosi was a jerk. I didn’t think that at all, he seemed like a nice guy. I did however get the impression that he was a little coincited. But he was a nice guy and he was smart.
Dr. Pelosi made a lot of interesting points about hearing preservation post-cochlear implant surgery. There were many things I didn’t know like how the size and shape of the electrodes may play a role in hearing preservation. Also, the speed at which they insert the electrodes can have an impact. Dr. Pelosi said that thinner curved electrodes inserted more slowly may help with post-implantion hearing preservation as opposed to thicker, straighter electrodes that are inserted more rapidly. This is because there is a nerve by the cochlea that the electrodes are inserted near. Ideally, surgeons want to be as gentle as possible when inserting the electrodes so that they don’t hit that nerve. Hitting the nerve is what can cause a loss of residual hearing. With the thin, curved electrodes inserted slowly, there is a smaller chance of tearing or otherwise damaging that nerve.
The only thing I didn’t really like with Dr. Pelosi’s presentation was that he used a lot of really technical terms and big words. I felt like some of that was because Dr. Pelosi is a very young doctor — much younger than most of the people at the support group — and he may have done that to try to prove himself to them. But I would have rather he used less complex language that is easier to understand. I think had my surgeon who is older and more experienced, Dr. Wilcox, done the presentation I would have understood it a bit better.
At the end of the presentation a lot of people asked questions. I liked that the group of people were mostly different from the group that attended the first support group meeting I went to. They were more interested and less negative about cochlear implants. Most of the questions were about the electrodes and the hybrid cochlear implant which Dr. Pelosi also touched on. I realized that I didn’t know how many electrodes I was inserted with, so I asked Dr. Pelosi if that mattered. He told me it didn’t; all that mattered was that it worked and that I knew what kind of device I had which I did. I kind of figured that much.
Some of the people asked beyond stupid questions that I had to try not to laugh at. The whole “there are no stupid questions” can really be a lie sometimes. The stupidest question I heard was from a guy wanting to know why they couldn’t tune his cochlear implant electrodes to match that of a piano or something. Obviously he was a musician who lost his hearing later in life. He swore he knew exactly which sounds he was and wasn’t hearing and how it should sound.
Maybe I am being biased or unfair because I’m not a musician and I don’t know much about musical tones or piano keys, but this doesn’t seem right to me at all. No, you don’t know what you are or aren’t hearing. You’re learning the sounds. You can’t just pick and choose which sounds you do or don’t hear or receive. It doesn’t work like that.The whole cochlear implant thing is a process and you’ll discover new sounds over time.You can’t just wake up one day and be like “I want to hear this piano key today and this one tomorrow”. I feel like that should be common sense, which I felt this guy obviously didn’t have. Based on the look on the faces of others who attended the meeting and even Dr. Pelosi (who remained extremely professional and didn’t outright laugh in the guy’s face), they agreed.
After the meeting I made a point to talk to some people and connect with them. I won’t lie; half the reason I did this was for networking purposes…. I am writing a book about my experience, afterall! I need to build my connections so I can sell my book once I finish writing it and have it published. But I did genuinely enjoy talking to the people. They were all much older than me and most of them had very different stories. A lot of them lost their hearing later in life or had an illness that wiped out their hearing. I’m not sure any of them were born deaf or hard of hearing like I was. I swapped stories with them and also told one woman who was about to be activated good luck and not to be afraid. I reminded her that she might not like the way things sound initially, but if she worked with it, it would get better.
One thing I wish though is that more people my age would come out to these events. My mom told me that maybe I can help work on getting people there or maybe I can even look into starting my own group for people my age. I know that I’m not the only deaf or hard of hearing 20-something year old in NJ. I’m frequently told that deaf/hoh individuals are getting younger. I’ve seen them, too. When I worked at Walmart I saw many kids with cochlear implants. I always thought that was pretty cool. I also talked to a lot of people around town who have told me they have kids with cochlear implants. I think the reason why they don’t come to meetings or support groups is that they feel ashamed by it — they want to hide the fact that they even have an implant. That is sad to me. There is no reason to be ashamed. My cochlear implant is the best thing that ever happened to me. I talk about it all the time and I flaunt it because it makes me proud! I was given an incredible gift from God — the gift of hearing. I want everyone to know it. I just need to get more people my age to see things like that. I’ve always been deaf and loud, but maybe now I need to get a little louder.