Hey guys! I’m sorry it took me so long to update this blog. I’ve had a few ideas and have been meaning to post for awhile, but what can I say…life happens.
I spent most of my summer working only one job and not focusing on writing (I probably should’ve focused on it at least a little bit, but I really needed that break!). I wanted to spend as much time with Evan as possible before I had to go back to school. As a result, we grew closer and our love for each other is stronger than ever. He’s such a gem. There’s definitely a few stories about our adventures together in the works – so stay tuned!
What I want to talk about today though is my current cochlear implant book project and the genre I am writing in. As you guys all know I have been working on a memoir about my cochlear implant experience. Writing a memoir has been a no-brainer for me and strongly encouraged by my professors, mentors, and peers. Memoirs are reflective pieces of non-fiction that draw largely on a person’s memories which is exactly what I have been doing with this project – discussing my life before cochlear implants and the memories I have with hearing loss, talking about how my life has and is still changing since being implanted, and reflecting on what it all means.
But am I limited to writing just a memoir, or do I still have other options? That is the question I find myself asking now and I believe the answer may be “No.”
This semester as I finish up the last two classes I need to earn my MA in Writing, I will be working on a special project in my Creative Non-fiction class. I had my first class on Tuesday night where I met with my Professor Joe “Sam” Starkins. I was honest with him and talked to him after class explaining how I already finished my Master’s project (which confused the heck out of him and well honestly it confuses the heck out of the entire department, from what I’ve been hearing) but still want to work on my project since it remains largely unfinished. I explained how it was a memoir about my cochlear implant experience and asked if it would be okay if I continued to work on it and to revise it.
To my surprise, while Professor Starkins did not necessarily say no, he also didn’t exactly say yes. He explained how the class was a workshop and as a workshop would work better if I presented an entirely new project.
“Can I write a book of devotions? I do have an idea for that. I know it’s a kind of weird idea but it’s something I’d really like to explore,” I said.
Surprisingly, he said yes and actually seemed kind of excited about the project.
So, here I am. Initially my idea for the book of devotions was to write using all bible verses that focus on hearing the word of God and listening to what God has to say. Verses like Isaiah 35:5 and Romans 10:17 came to mind.
I took my first stab at the idea of writing a book of devotions when I revised my in-class exercise. The exercise was simply to write a scene in class for 15 minutes without stopping. My memoir came to mind first (I didn’t know at this point in class that I would be discouraged from working on that project) so I had to think back to what parts of my memoir I didn’t already have written and/or what needed the most work. The scene where I met Sherry in Miracle Ear came to mind first, probably because I have been thinking about it a lot lately as it happened almost exactly four years ago to date.
To revise, I had to condense a lot of the scene and focus on only the most important parts and then expand it to at least 500 words. This scene in particular I don’t think quite fit in to the idea I had of focusing the book on verses that relate to hearing God’s word and listening to what he has to say, but it did fit in nicely with trusting the Lord, so I pulled from Proverbs 3:5-6 (my life verse) as the main verse and also referred to Psalm 27:14 and Jeremiah 29:11 for reference.
Whether or not I stick with my initial plan of writing a book of devotions about hearing the word of God and listening to what he says or if this becomes an entirely different book of devotions focused more on hearing loss and my cochlear implant process is to be determined, but I’m super excited about this project and proud of what I’ve done so far. I’d like to share it with all of you, so please see the very first devotion posted below.
I welcome your feedback and critique, but at the same time please keep in mind this is my first time dabbling with this genre. I have read many books of devotions but am still learning what the form/style is (side note – if anyone can recommend a craft book on writing devotions I’m definitely in need of suggestions!) So please read, enjoy, and leave a comment letting me know what you think!
Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not onto thy own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight thy paths.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with today?” Sherry asked as she handed me back my left hearing aid. She had finished cleaning both of my hearing aids and changing the plastic tubing on them. I placed the old, yellowed ear mold inside of my ear and swung the processor around my ear. I smiled, happy to finally be able to hear some sounds, even if it was limited and even if I didn’t always know exactly what those sounds were.
I looked up at Sherry who was sitting on the other side of the table in her office chair so that I could read her lips and make out what she was asking me. “No. I’m good,” I said.
“Actually, if you don’t mind there’s something I’d like to ask your opinion on,” Mom said. I looked at her, puzzled. Every month or so I visited Miracle Ear to have the plastic tubes changed on my hearing aid since they would get moisture in them and harden and shrink, making it difficult to hear. While this was my first time meeting Sherry and attending the Turnersville Miracle Ear location, the appointment itself was nothing out of the ordinary, just the same tried and true routine.
“Sure,” Sherry said.
“We’ve been saving up for these new super powered hearing aids. Kim has been seeing Mindy at the Cherry Hill location and she says they’re supposed to be great. But back when she was seeing Greg at Deptford he said the same thing about the ones she has now and to be honest I never thought they were that great. What’s your opinion on them? They’re very expensive and I guess I’m just wondering, are they worth the money? Will they really help her?”
I let out a sigh and rolled my eyes, hoping my mom didn’t notice my natural reaction. Dad asked Mindy all about the hearing aids at my last appointment and Mindy told us about them and even let me try on the model they had on hand. I felt like I already knew everything there was to know about these hearing aids. They were not only the best option for me at the time, but my only option. Or so, I thought.
I looked back at Sherry as she inhaled deeply and held her breath for awhile before slowly exhaling.
“You don’t have to say a word, your expression says it all,” Mom said.
“I don’t mean to say the hearing aids aren’t good.” Sherry explained, “But what Kim really needs is clarity which no hearing aid, no matter how good, will ever be able to give her.”
“Okay, so then what do we do?” Mom asked as I listened, unsure of what to expect.
“Have you ever considered getting a cochlear implant?” Sherry asked.
Mom and I both looked at each other before saying no and explaining how we were previously led to believe that cochlear implants were a dangerous form of brain surgery that would likely not work anyway.
“Oh no, not at all. You guys need to go home and do your homework then let me know what you think,” Sherry said.
That night Mom and I began our cochlear implant research process. I turned to social media to look for real cochlear implant recipients and what their experiences were while Mom looked for more academic sources and articles. Together we shared notes and our thoughts. We didn’t know what would happen, but we knew that if we put our faith and trust in the Lord he would walk with us and show us the right path to take.
Psalm 27:14; Jeremiah 29:11
Hey guys! Hope all of my East-coast friends are staying warm and dry in this crazy snow storm!
I don’t know if it’s the snow or what, but I received an incredible surge of inspiration and had a major Eureka moment in regards to the opening chapter of my memoir. I thought a better opening would be something more reflective in which I show what is going through my mind moments before I received my first cochlear implant tied in with flashbacks on my life before I was implanted and the time when I was first diagnosed with profound hearing loss (the yellow brick road chapter).
This needs A LOT of work still, obviously, but I’m pretty happy with the first 1,000 which are the new words that I added today. I am also in the process of interviewing my mom for more details with the original yellow brick road chapter. She said she’d need some time to think about many of the questions I had as she tries to remember, but I’m hoping to get some answers from her soon to better flesh out that chapter/add more details.
Regardless, I hope you enjoy the revised opening chapter. Feel free to leave a comment on this post letting me know what you think!
Entering Into a Technicolor World of Hearing
I’m lying in a hospital bed at Jefferson University hospital in Philadelphia. There is an IV inserted in my right arm and Mom is standing to my left. Dad, who has never been a fan of hospitals, is outside in the waiting room. Everything looks like your typical hospital setting except for two things:
- I am not sick or injured.
- I cannot stop smiling.
My journey begins now. Today I will receive my first cochlear implant, and if all goes well with the surgery and recovery, next month I will be activated and Lord-willing, hear, like a normal hearing person, for the first time in my life.
If this works, my black and white and sometimes sepia world will become technicolor and I will not just hear the sounds I’ve always heard, but I will be able to understand what those sounds are and hear them the way they are supposed to sound. Conversations will sound like actual conversations (without me needing to exhaust myself by practicing heavy lipreading). I’ll know when music is playing, and it will sound like actual music. I may even be able to hear what a flute sounds like. I’ll be able to go to the movies without having to awkwardly ask for a pair of caption glasses which A. The ticket salesman won’t understand, or B. won’t work anyway. After the movies, I may be able to go out to dinner with my friends or a date and order my own food without awkwardly staring at another person as if to say, “Please lend me your ears, I can’t hear a thing the waiter is saying.”
If this works, my world will forever change, hopefully for the better.
If this doesn’t work, I risk losing the approximately 7% total residual or natural hearing I have left in my left ear. This residual hearing is currently being amplified by hearing aids.
Amplify [am-pluh-fahy]. Verb. – Increase the volume of (sound).
Notice how it doesn’t say anything about clarity or being able to understand or comprehend what those sounds are. That’s what’s missing. Hearing aids amplify sound, but they don’t give me any clarity. My cochlear implant is supposed to fix that. But if it doesn’t work, I’ll lose my ability to even amplify sounds. I’ll be left with absolutely nothing in my left ear — silence.
I made a list of the things I want to do post-cochlear implant activation, should this work. It looks like this:
THINGS TO DO POST-COCHLEAR IMPLANT ACTIVATION
- Get caught in the rain.
- Experience church in a whole new way.
- Watch movies without captions.
- See a movie at the drive-in.
- Hear a flute, bell, violin, and any other instrument I couldn’t hear before.
- See an orchestra.
- See a play.
- See a ballet.
- Listen to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in its entirety.
- Talk on the phone.
- Order food out on my own (restaurant and takeout/Dunkin).
- See a concert (preferably Good Charlotte).
- Hear my cat meow.
- Listen to the radio.
- Hear a cricket chirp.
I didn’t even want to think about what my life would look like if the cochlear implant didn’t work. Would I be forced to learn ASL? Would I join the Deaf community? Could I manage to get by with the remaining, un-implanted ear? Thinking about what would happen if the cochlear implant worked was fun but thinking about the alternatives was terrifying.
I had faith and trust in God that the cochlear implant would work. I prayed constantly and attended church as much as three times in a single day. For the weeks leading up to this day I had both Gloucester County Community Church and Washington Baptist Church praying for and with me and even met with the deacons and deaconesses at both churches.
“God is going to give you an incredible gift. Now it’s your job to figure out how you can use it to serve the Lord,” the deaconess at whose name I cannot recall told me as I met with her in the chapel at GCCC.
I was so excited to begin my new life as a hearing person that as the date of my surgery came closer, sleep became more and more difficult. I’d stay up for 20 or more hours at a time, keeping myself busy by binge watching all 9 seasons of How I Met Your Mother and when I got bored of that, I’d clean everything in sight. I no longer had any concept of time.
“Do you really have to clean your toilet at 3 in the morning? I’m trying to sleep and all I can hear is your toilet flushing,” Mom complained.
“No more cleaning. I don’t wish to smell all of your chemicals first thing in the morning,” Dad pleaded.
Last night, I could hardly sleep at all. The Patriots played the late night 8:15pm game against the Colts.
“Don’t stay up too late, you have a big day tomorrow. You know the Patriots are going to win anyway,” Mom warned.
“Oh, let her stay up. She’s just going to sleep through the surgery anyway. Does it matter if she’s tired?” Dad said.
I stayed up for the whole game and then spent most of the rest of the night in bed, browsing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on my phone. By 5:30 AM, I was wide awake, dressed in my brand-new button down fleece pajamas (mom said there was no sense in wearing real clothes, I’d be better off being comfortable and I’d need to wear button downs to avoid pulling shirts over my head post-surgery anyway), and ready, a full two and a half hours before I was scheduled for surgery.
Now the day is finally here. Dr. Wilcox just came in to tell me everything would be okay and to instruct the anesthesia team to begin. I have a plastic mask on my face, covering my mouth and nose. I can hardly keep my eyes open anymore as I feel my body surrender itself to the anesthesia.
When I wake up, I’ll be a cyborg.
In another month, I’ll be activated, and I’ll finally be able to hear, Lord-willing.
If this works, I’ll be able to hear for the first time in my life, or at least, the first time since my mother discovered I was deaf at the mere age of two.
When I was two, Mom would call out my name, but I never responded. When she mentioned it to my pediatrician during my next checkup, the pediatrician thought it was just a phase or a case of the “terrible twos”.
“No, I know my daughter. She can’t hear me,” Mom would argue.
When my mom clapped behind my back and I didn’t flinch, she knew something was wrong. Against my pediatrician’s advice, my mom took me to see Miss Terri, an audiologist at Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey.
After performing a series of hearing test, Miss Terri confirmed what we already knew: I had hearing loss. What we didn’t realize was how severe my hearing loss was. Miss Terri explained that my hearing loss was profound, meaning the only sounds I could hear were those that were at a volume of 90db or higher such as airplanes, helicopters, firetrucks, and possibly a lawn mower. Hearing aids were recommended to amplify these sounds, but my ability to hear and comprehend sounds, even when amplified, would always be a challenge.
After being diagnosed with profound hearing loss, I made the journey to Camden once every two weeks for speech therapy lessons. Mom and I would drive from our small condo in Washington Township to the big city every other week. On our way in, we’d pass endless food and street vendors selling everything from hot dogs to pretzels and even random t-shirts. It amazed me how at 9 o’clock in the morning people would still be out selling lunch foods. Everyone always had a smile on their face and seemed happy to be working.
“Mom, I want to live here one day. I love the city,” I said on our way in for my appointment.
“That’s because you don’t understand what this city is really like. It’s not safe,” Mom explained. I’d understand it more when I got older and would see individuals hauled off by police for God knows why on more than one occasion. But as a child, it was a magical place with audiologists and speech therapists that thought the world of me and were helping me to hear and speak well.
Cooper Hospital had many departments and was easy to get lost in. Fortunately, they developed a system to help speech and audiology patients find their way around. By placing strips of yellow tape on the floor, patients could simply “follow the yellow brick road” to their appointment. Every time I had an appointment I knew to look down at the floor for that yellow tape and I’d sing along and skip to the tune of, “Follow, follow, follow follow follow the yellow brick road!”
Since speech and hearing worked so closely together, my appointments were run by both my audiologist, Miss Terri, and my speech therapist, Miss Vicki.
Miss Terri would always start my appointments by testing my hearing. She would lead me into a gray, audiology testing booth that was no more than 50 feet wide while my mom waited and watched outside in the hall. Miss Terri would then crookedly place a special pair of headphones over my ears and hook some wires up to my hearing aids and hand me a button.
“First we’re going to test the beeps. Push the button whenever you hear a beep. We’ll start with your left ear first before moving to the right,” Miss Terri explained.
I’d smile and nod and occasionally give a thumbs up to let her know I understood. I loved pressing that button. It felt like I was playing a video game where hitting the button was the equivalent of shooting the monsters and bad guys and freeing the victims. I never even noticed that the button didn’t get pushed half as often as it should have.
Once that portion of my hearing test was completed, I would be given a series of words that I’d have to say back.
“Say the word hot dog,” Miss Terri said.
“Hot dog,” I answered.
“Say the word baseball.”
“Say the word airplane.”
“Say the word ice cream.”
“Terri, I’m sorry but I have to stop you,” mom interrupted.
Miss Terri and I both looked up. I was doing so well with the words, what could possibly be wrong?
“She’s not actually hearing you – she’s reading your lips,” said mom.
“I can fix that,” Terri said as she grabbed the sheet of paper with her word list.
“I’m going to cover my lips now. I want you to focus on what you hear, not on me.” Miss Terri said. I was nervous, but knew I had no choice but to try my best. I nodded in agreement.
“Say the word kite.’
“Say the word chair.”
“Say the word sub.”
“Say the word third.”
“Say the word ran.”
I didn’t know what Miss Terri was saying, I could only guess, but I knew I was wrong.
When Miss Terri finished with the hearing test, it was on to either Miss Vicki for speech therapy where we would do different activities. One of my favorites involved using what I liked to refer to as the “magic mirror”. It was a long, oval-shaped mirror that rested in a tan wooden frame on wheels. There was nothing actually magical about it; it was just a regular mirror that I was allowed to draw on with magic markers, but I always loved this activity. I was never allowed to draw on the mirrors at home. I thought that this mirror was special since I could draw on it and the markers would wipe right off when I was done. As a two-year-old, the only logical explanation for how this could work was that it must have been magic.
Before I could draw on the mirror, Miss Vicki put me to work by having me practice my speech.
“Okay. Let’s practice our “Sh” and “Ch” sounds,” she’d say. “We’ll start wi“Sh!” I said. It was easy for me to think of the sound as a syllable, as if Miss Vicki was the teacher and I the student, getting yelled at for talking.
“Very good!” she said. “Now, I’m going to give you a word. Can you say “choose”?
“Shoes!” I said.
“No, not shoes like on your feet. Choose like when you choose something to eat,” she said.
“Shoes!” I said.
“No, look in the mirror. You want to move your tongue up a little bit and touch your teeth,” she said.
“Tooze,” I said.
“Try again. Remember, you only want to touch your teeth a little bit, not a lot.”
“Choose?” I said.
“Yes, that’s right! Very good! Want to take a break and draw on the magic mirror?” she asked.
I nodded yes and reached for the bucket of magic markers, choosing the pink one first, my favorite color. I drew a big heart on the mirror with several smaller hearts for arms, legs, and even eyes. My little heart person, my favorite thing to draw.
When I finished my masterpiece, Miss Vicki would continue with our lesson.
“Okay, Kimmy. We’re going to play a game now,” Vicki said.
“You’re going to take this ball and throw into the trashcan across the room. But as you throw the ball, I’m going to give you a word to say and I want you to imagine your voice going with that ball. As you throw the ball you’ll want your voice to get louder. Got it?” she said.
I nodded. I wasn’t sure if I really understood, but the idea of throwing a playing a game sounded like fun. The game sounded like basketball, a game I’ve always enjoyed watching my dad play.
“Okay. Your first word is suitcase,” she said.
“Suitcase,” I whispered as I threw the ball.
Vicki threw the ball back to me. “Try again,” She said. “Remember, Mr. Loud Mouth. Your voice travels with the ball.”
I took the ball back from her and paused as I remembered Mr. Loud Mouth. “SUIT CASE,” I said.
“Very nice! You got it!” she said.
Being a toddler with profound hearing loss was easy. Nobody asked any questions about my hearing loss or questioned anything that I did or didn’t do. My parents couldn’t have been more supportive and understanding of my hearing loss. My sister paid no mind to it. And my audiologist and speech therapists couldn’t help me enough. I was a toddler without a care in the world. The only thing that made me different from any other toddler in the world was the fact that I couldn’t hear. I was able to live my life in black and white or sometimes sepia. My world was full, but not always beautiful or complete. The older I got the more I realized that living as a deaf girl in a hearing world was a lot like living in a world without color.
This week I read 1 Corinthians 14 and it made me think a lot about the history of American Sign Language actually. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is talking to the church of Corinth about speaking in tongues. He acknowledges the ability to speak in tongues as being a spiritual gift from God, however, he strongly urges the church of Corinth not to practice the speaking of tongues unless everyone can do it. Paul explains this by stating, “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” Men that possess the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues can use it to speak to God, yes, but they shouldn’t use it to speak with the rest of the congregation because they won’t be able to understand him. When we enter the church it should be to honor and glorify God and to help our brothers and sisters and Christ to do the same and to better come to know God and his words. If we can’t even understand what the members of the body of Christ are saying then how can we really come to know God and learn at church, let alone properly worship him in his home?
Paul went so far as to suggest that speaking in tongues could be the equivalent of just making noise without understanding what that noise actually means in verses 7-11. Here he states:
And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me (1751).
Wow, definitely a lot of things going on in these verses! Let’s look at the first part of this first, verses 7-8:
“And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
A deaf person may never hear the sounds of a pipe, harp, or trumpet. You could blow that trumpet as hard as humanly possible and that deaf person may never prepare himself to battle if that’s all he has to go on because he’ll never know. To him, the sound of a trumpet is completely meaningless.
For me prior to getting my cochlear implant, I missed out on many sounds. I’ve discovered many of them since getting my cochlear implants, but every day I am also still learning more and more sounds. It’s not uncommon for me to jump a little in class as a train goes by or someone talks or fidgets or I hear an unknown sound. I’m constantly trying to define the source of the sound and what it means. This is what the congregation must’ve been like back in Paul’s time when they tried to understand what the speaker was saying when he spoke in tongues that they did not understand.
I also relate this to ASL. The Deaf community needs ASL so that they can understand what is being said in the church. To them, the verbal communication means nothing. They have no idea what the pastor is preaching without the use of ASL. They will never hear the gospel or understand the message that day. The pastor might as well be speaking in tongues because they’d never know otherwise. Here, Thomas Gallaudet’s arguments for using sign language in the church makes sense.
But hold that thought…
Thomas Gallaudet and the manualists didn’t just think that the use of sign language in the church would help the deaf to better understand sermons; they took it a step further. Gallaudet along with the other manualists felt that sign language would bring the deaf closer to God. In Tracy Morse’s dissertation, “Saving Grace: Religious Rhetoric in the Deaf Community,” she quotes Douglas Baynton’s Forbidden Signs when she says:
For manualists, this view was interpreted in Protestant terms: sign language was an original language and meant “closer to the Creation,” not inferiority (Baynton “Savages” 98). However, for oralists, sign language was associated with lower evolution or “inferior races” (Baynton Forbidden 9). Oralists made arguments that deaf students needed to learn spoken English and lip reading or they would be viewed as animals or savages (Morse 51).
Now, let’s look back to the scripture and focus on verse 11 which states, “Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.
The word “barbarian” here is what stands out the most to me. Do you know who else really loves the word “barbarian”? Alexander Graham Bell who was NOT a manualist like Thomas Gallaudet, but rather an oralist that believed that the deaf needed to move away from sign language and instead learn to speak verbally and read lips and live in the hearing world.
So, what am I saying here? Do I think that this verse is saying sign language is barbaric? Absolutely not, but at the same time, it could be absolutely so. So it’s a yes and a no for me.
Here is what I think that verse is saying, or what the core message Paul has for the church of Corinth is:
We need to speak in a way that people can understand what we are saying in church so as to not cause confusion or anything that can inhibit man’s understanding of the gospel and man’s ability to honor and glorify the lord.
Back in the time of the church of Corinth, speaking in tongues was a barrier for people in the church because it might have benefited the person speaking it, but it did not benefit the church. Paul is calling for the unity of the church – everyone needs to unite as the body as Christ and work in a way that best serves God and not themselves and that involves speaking a universal language they can all understand.
What does this mean for the deaf in the church? Should they be forced to lip-read and practice the oral method? No. I think the deaf should have a right to hear the sermon in a way that is the most accessible to them. Many churches offer the hearing loop to help hard of hearing and deaf people to hear (depending on the degree of hearing loss of course). If a deaf person needs an interpreter, they should have access to it.
If the majority of church attendees are Deaf and rely on sign language, then perhaps that church should consider doing full sermons primarily in ASL, as that is what will benefit that church and help the attendees to learn and honor and glorify God the best.
We don’t have to worry too much about the speaking of tongues in modern day. 1 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Whether there be tongues they shall cease”. People cannot speak in tongues today (I acknowledge that many claim they do – I have my own feelings on that but I’ll be nice and go the route of “no comment” on that…). I think that whereas the church of Corinth had to worry about the speaking in tongues today our issue is more or less about what language or what style/tone to use in church. I think it all depends on the congregation and choosing what is the most accessible to your church goers.
Going back to the discussion on the deaf community…
In Baynton’s Forbidden Signs he explains how many oralists feared that by relying too heavily on sign language the deaf community would isolate themselves from the rest of the world. He stated:
Like their contemporaries in other fields of reform, oralists worried that the lives of people were diminished by being a part of such communities as the deaf community; they would not, it was feared, fully share in the life of the nation. The deaf community, like ethnic communities, narrowed the minds and outlooks of its members. “The individual must be one with race,” one wrote in words reminiscent of many other Progressive reformers “or he is virtually annihilated”; the chief curse of deafness was “apartness from the life of the world,” and it was just this that oralism was designed to remedy. Apartness was the darkness manualists redefined for a new world (Baynton 32).
Sign language was (and still is) very different from spoken English or any spoken language, really It’s different from what the majority is speaking and when people can’t speak our language, either they or we miss out. Isn’t this the same as what was going on in the church of Corinth in a way? Paul wanted to see the church of Corinth come together to honor, serve, and glorify the Lord and to unite as the body of Christ. Speaking in tongues was something very few church members could do that caused a separation or divide between those who could speak and understand it, and those who could not. It became a distraction that kept people from coming to know God.
Is sign language a distraction that keeps the deaf from doing things in their daily lives? It is obvious that it causes a divide from the hearing and the deaf worlds. In the church, it can make things better for the deaf and I can see how it can strengthen their personal relationships with God, but if we only signed and didn’t speak spoken English, the rest of the congregation would suffer. I don’t see sign language as being a form of language that brings a person closer to God in the sense of it’s a superior or holier language than standard English. I think it’s just another language that for some is their primary and therefore the best and for others is just another language in the world that exists but one they don’t partake in or use in their daily lives.
Yesterday I gushed about my boyfriend and how supportive he’s been about my cochlear implant and how my cochlear implant strengthened my relationship with him. My mom read it like she always does. After all, they always say your mom will always be your biggest fan. When it comes to my writing and pretty much everything I do in my life, that always proves to be true.
If it wasn’t for my mom, I never would have gotten my cochlear implant. That is the 100% truth behind it all.
I’ve known about cochlear implant for years and I’ve always been adamantly against them. I always swore that I would never get them. This is due in large part of being told the wrong information which quite frankly made me terrified of them.
But one day, everything changed.
They say that everything happens for a reason, and this just goes to prove that.
I work for a digital marketing agency, WebiMax. Back in September we were in the process of moving to our new Camden office located on the Waterfront. However, before we were able to move to this final location, we had a small temporary space located on Federal Street. It was too small for all of the employees to work in the office on the same days, so a lot of us worked from home on a regularly basis until our final move to the Waterfront was complete.
Our old, original office was located in Mount Laurel. I had a hearing appointment about once every 2 months or so. At the time, I would work at WebiMax from 7:30-3:30 every day. Their was a Miracle Ear located in Cherry Hill, so as long as I got done work on time making my 4pm or 4:30pm appointments wasn’t much of a problem.
RIP Mount Laurel office…
Coming to the Cherry Hill office became a routine for me. The Miracle Ear located in the Turnersville Walmart was much closer to my home, but this definitely worked better with my work schedule. However, when I was working at home, things changed. I live in Washington Township. Going all the way to Cherry Hill for a hearing appointment just to get my plastic tubes changed didn’t seem practical, especially when I could just go to to one in Turnersville that was 15 minutes away.
I got used to seeing my audiologist at the time, Mindy. She became like a friend to me. I always enjoyed seeing her. It was a risk going to the Turnersville Miracle Ear because Mindy wouldn’t be there and we didn’t have much success with other audiologists prior to meeting Mindy (you’d be surprised by how hard it is to find a good audiologist…). But we figured it was just a piece of plastic that I needed on my hearing aids. Really quite simple and pretty much impossible to mess up. Anyone would do.
So we went to the Turnersville Miracle Ear that day and met a new audiologist. Her name was Sherry. I didn’t know if I liked Sherry when I first met her. She was a lot different from Mindy. Mindy was always very bubbly and talkative. Sherry was very professional, but didn’t have the same bubbly personality at all. Sherry was kind of hard to read.
As Sherry was replacing my tubes, my mom asked her a question. She said, “I want to ask you a question. I don’t really know you and you’re not my daughter’s usual audiologist. I may never even see you again. So tell me honestly, what do you think of the Clearvation hearing aids? My daughter has been looking into them and saving up for them. We’re told they are super hearing aids, but we were told that about her last pair as well and they didn’t seem to make that much of a difference. We were pretty disappointed. Do you honestly feel that these hearing aids will make a difference?
Sherry didn’t say anything for a couple of minutes. Instead, she held her breath and made a strange face that said it all.
“You don’t need to say anything. Your face says it all”, was my mom’s exact words.
Sherry then began to explain how hearing aids, no matter which one we choose, would not really help me. My hearing was so bad and my clarity was so non-existent, that no hearing aid would really be able to benefit me. Sure, they could amplify sound, but hearing aids don’t really offer clarity. She went on to explain that the only thing that could give me the clarity was a cochlear implant.
My mom and I went on to express the fears we had. The main fear we had was that cochlear implants required brain surgery. We were also told they were only for people with absolutely no hearing. I had around a 95-97% hearing loss, so I was legally deaf and fairly close to being 100% deaf, but I still had SOME hearing and I made it work for me. I thought that disqualified me from being a candidate for a cochlear implant.
“You guys got a lot of research and homework to do”, was Sherry’s response.
That night, the cochlear implant process really began. My mom and I researched and read article after article about what cochlear implants are, who the ideal candidate is, how they work, where to get one, and really everything we could get our hands on. I took a step further and decided I wanted to talk to people who had it done. Researches can say all kinds of great things in their articles, but unless you’ve actually went through and did it, you wouldn’t know what it was really like.
I turned to Facebook and Instagram (hey, I work in the field of social media, where else did you expect me to look?) I found a couple of Facebook groups and Instagram users who had cochlear implants or were considering getting one. I asked many questions and read through many forums. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was considered an “ideal candidate” and that this is something that would greatly benefit my life. I knew it was something I wanted and needed to do, and both my mom and my dad agreed.
My mom got the ball rolling right away. Within a couple of weeks I had my first doctor’s appointment with Dr. Skinhead (okay I have no idea what this doctor’s real name is but I always refer to him as Dr. Skinhead because he shaves every inch of hair from his head and his head is really bald and shiny and therefore he looks like a skinhead….). Dr. Skinhead is an ENT in Woodbury and quite possibly the best around. I saw him once before when my former audiologist accidentally cut a piece of plastic tubing too close to my ear and got it stuck. He removed it. So I knew he was a pretty good guy. Anyway we went there to just talk to him about how I was considering getting a cochlear implant. We had my most recent hearing test sent to him and he looked at my ears. He said he wasn’t quite qualified to give us a definite answer, but he didn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be a candidate. That was our first yes, and my mom couldn’t have been more excited for me.
Within a week later we had our second doctor’s appointment booked. This one was just with my family doctor, Dr. Millstein. I needed a doctor’s referral before seeing most surgeons for consulting, so that’s what this was all about. He said I was healthy and their was nothing physically wrong with me. He was very concerned that I might get cervical cancer if I don’t get some pretty unnecessary shots….but that’s a whole nother story I don’t wish to further elaborate on. Point is, he said physically he didn’t see anything that would prevent me from getting a cochlear implant and he gave me referrals to see the surgeons.
We were then ready to make one of the biggest steps: meeting with surgeons. My mom did some research and identified two in the area that seemed like great surgeons: Dr.Bigelow at UPenn and Dr. Wilcox at Jefferson. We made an appointment with both of them, Dr. Wilcox being the first. Our first consulting appointment was in October. Two weeks later was our appointment with Dr. Bigelow.
We still had a few weeks before our first consulting appointment, but that didn’t mean we got a break. Not at all. My mom never took a break from my hearing. We still had a few more missions to accomplish before that appointment. Prior to my consulting appointment, I had to have both an MRI and a CT Scan performed to ensure there was nothing wrong with my ears that could prevent me from getting a cochlear implant. My mom scheduled both tests for the same day. The tests were very long and my mom had to leave work early to take me to them, but she did them without complaint. She helped me a lot. I couldn’t hear the doctors at all since I had to take my hearing aids out for the tests, so my mom was very helpful in acting as a translator and helping me to know exactly what I needed to do for these tests.
During my first consulting appointment with Dr. Wilcox, he confirmed what we pretty much already knew: there was nothing structurally wrong with my ears. He said there was no reason I wouldn’t be a candidate for a cochlear implant. He also answered all of our questions. Between my mom and myself we easily had over 30 questions for him and he answered each one very thoroughly. He gave us the green light to move forward — but he said we still had one more step— we needed to meet with one of their audiologists for more testing including a written test and hearing tests.
Scheduling the appointments with the audiologists was easy. It was just a manner of meeting with a receptionist before we left. I had two appointments with them. One test tested how well I hear with my hearing aids and the other without. They really needed to see how much the hearing aids were benefiting me (which proved to pretty much be not at all) and what I’d gain from a cochlear. After just the first test/appointment the audiologist said “Now is definitely the time for you to be considering a cochlear”. Whereas my mom and I would normally be pretty depressed by my hearing test results, that day we celebrated because we knew it was bringing us one step closer to our ultimate goal of getting me my cochlear and me being able to finally hear.
On the last appointment I had to answer some written questions as well. It was kind of like a psychological evaluation. They had to make sure I had realistic expectations and that I would work with my cochlear. I passed that with no problem. They actually said that if anything my expectations were too low. Once this was all complete, it was time to meet with Dr. Wilcox again and schedule the surgery.
We scheduled the surgery within two weeks from the appointment on November 17, 2013. We could not believe how soon it was. It wasn’t even a month from our initial meeting with Dr. Wilcox. Everything with it happened so quickly thanks to my mom being so proactive with it all. None of this ever could have happened without the help from my mom.
The couple of weeks leading up to my surgery were pretty hard, more so for my mom than for me. The things no one tells you about getting a cochlear implant is that it’s a bit overwhelming and terrifying, especially right before you go under the knife. There were many times when my mom broke down in tears because she was so afraid it wouldn’t work, I’d lose the little hearing I did have, and she felt if this did happen she’d be to blame since she encouraged me to go through with it. During these times going to church helped a lot. I remember one time in particular my mom and I visited the chapel at Gloucester County Community Church following their Saturday evening sermon. During this time we prayed with a woman of the church and she said “It will work and there’s a reason God is giving you this gift now and now you have to find out what that is.”
She was right in every way possible. I believe that this is it. I’m supposed to use my new found hearing to help people. That’s why I want to write this blog and turn t his blog into a book — to help other hearing impaired individuals like myself and to encourage them and show them they can do anything they put their minds to.
My mom was very excited but also a nervous wreck during my surgery. I’m a light weight when it comes to any kind of medication, alcohol, or other substance. So the instance they gave me the anesthesia, I was knocked out. Unfortunately, they gave it to me before they had a chance to ask me how to turn my hearing aids off (I had to remove them both for the surgery). So they called my mom to ask her which caused her a bit of panic haha. But other than that she was fine.
She helped me out and showed me a lot of love and support like any great mother should do while I recovered from my surgery. Her and my dad made me special foods (I couldn’t chew for awhile because it put too much pressure on my ear). She helped me get dressed, she helped with my dizziness, and she even helped me manage my hair (for 10 days I wasn’t allowed to wash my hair after my surgery…my mom helped me clean it by getting me dry shampoo, combining around the incision for me, and even using a washcloth to try to clean it up for me). She did far more than what most parents would ever do, that’s for sure.
Activation day was one of the most exciting, yet anxiety-ridden days of the whole process. It wasn’t quite what we expected. I didn’t hear very well the first day. My brain was overwhelmed and had trouble catching up to what I was hearing and processing it correctly. Everything sounded like a baby crying for the most part. Talking with people was pretty challenging and disappointing. I couldn’t hear music or identify the Christmas songs on the radio (I was activated on December 17th). But she never let me know she was disappointed and she never yelled at me or lost her patience. Instead she remained calmed and understood that it was a process. She also celebrated the small victories with me — like my amusement by the sound of light switches and the pouring of liquids into cups.
I was able to hear my mom’s voice better on the 2nd and third day after my activation —- except it still didn’t sound natural. She sounded identical to Minnie Mouse. I couldn’t stop laughing at her. She thought it was kind of funny. She didn’t get mad at all, she continued to support me throughout it all.
Some people who get cochlear implants feel they do not benefit from them or they don’t work. I think that most of these people have gotten it all wrong. They do work — but you have to work with it, too. You can’t be lazy. You need to work with it, especially when you first get activated, on a constant basis. Sure, it might be hard. You might hate what you hear, but it’s never going to get better if you don’t work at it.
My mom worked with me on a constant basis. I really wanted to hear music, but during the first week or two music sounded terrible. My mom helped me by still playing it and buying me a bunch of new music that I was not already familiar with to listen to. She also fed me a lot of words. She had me repeat sentences and words back to her like I’d do for my word recognition tests. She’d even print hundreds of pages of words to go through and highlight the ones I didn’t get right so that she would know which ones to go back to and work with me more on.
When I started to get bored with the words, my mom looked for ways to make it more fun for me. She knew it was important for me to hear these sounds and work with my cochlear. She discovered the Angel Sound program for me which made listening more fun and it also allowed me to train my hear to hear different sounds that went beyond just the words. This has been extremely helpful and beneficial for me.
In all honesty though, the training me to hear and helping me process sounds happened well before my cochlear implant came into the picture. From an early age my mom worked with me excessively. If you’ve ever verbally talked with a deaf person chances are you noticed they have a speech impediment or don’t speak clearly. That’s not the case so much with me. My speech isn’t 100%, but it’s far better than most people who have the same degree of hearing lost as I do. This is because my mom had me placed in speech therapy from the time I was 2. She also always has (and still does) correct me every time I mispronounce a word (which is often…my boyfriend jokes that I can write very well, but still can’t pronounce half the words I write lol). My surgeon, audiologists, and even random strangers compliment me for my speech all the time and tell my mom she is a great mom for all she’s done to help me develop my speech. They couldn’t be more right with that.
I’ve been activated for almost 5 months now, and my mom still continues to work with me with my implant by giving me words, testing me with different sounds, and of course celebrity even the little victories with me. We recently went to a Sidewalk Prophets concert together. It was not my first concert since getting my implant (my first was the Danny Gokey concert I went to with my boyfriend), but it was the first one I went to with my mom. Prior to getting my implant, my mom and I would go to shows together all the time. Some of the bands we’ve seen together include:
- Britney Spears
- Michelle Branch
- Good Charlotte (x2)
- Simple Plan (x2)
- Forever the Sickest Kids (x3)
- No Doubt
- The Ataris
- Katy Perry
- Pat Benatar
- Rick Springfield
- Avril Lavigne
And the list just goes on and on and on. But over the last few years, it’s gotten much harder for me to really distinguish what songs are being played, hear the musicians talking, or understand much of anything at all. This time around I was able to hear EVERYTHING going on. I knew what the guys were saying to the audience. I knew which songs were which. I could hear all of the distinct instruments. My mom was so excited and happy for me that she cried.
None of this would have been possible without my mom. I am 100% certain I never would have gotten my cochlear without the help of my mom. I’m not even sure I would have my college degrees without her because I’m not sure I could’ve gotten into a Public University. Getting into a non-specialized kindergarten class was a challenge enough, but my mom fought tooth and nail to make it happen. My mom wanted nothing more in life than to see me gain the ability to hear, and thanks to her persistence, and the grace of God, it was made possible. Mom, I know you sat here and read every single word (all 3300+ of them…your post was longer than Larry’s by over 1,000 you should feel proud!) because you read all of my posts. I also know you’re more than likely crying (why do I always make everyone cry?) and laughing at the same time at the end of this, but I just need to take this time to say I love and I can never thank you enough for all that you’ve done for me.
Image Credits: Digital Sherpa
“Your last blog post had three mistakes in it”, my mom told me after reading my post on What’s It’s Like to Go to Six Flags Great Adventure With a Cochlear Implant, “Don’t you ever proofread your work anymore?”
“Nope.” I replied.
“Obviously. You said ‘I was both very excited and a nervous.’A nervous what? For an English major you sound pretty dumb right now”.
Mom always was brutally honest…
But the thing is, I don’t proof read my blog posts because I have a degree in English and Writing Arts. Now, I can hear my boss and co-workers cringing. Here I am, not only an English and Writing Arts graduate, but a Project Manager for a digital marketing agency openly admitting that I never proofread my own blog posts before hitting the “publish” button.
But, there’s a reason for that.
I mean, if I were to write a blog post for my clients or a post like the ones I used to do for BitRebels.com I’d be sure to proofread and proofread again 10xs over.
But this is different. It’s not for a client and it’s not for Bit Rebels (or any other major news site/blog for that matter). This is my own personal blog. And it’s more than that…
Before you read any further you may want to glance over Anne Lamott’s famous short essay, “Shitty First Drafts” as I plan on referencing it quite a bit here.
You see, to say it simply, this blog is my “Shitty First Draft”.
Back in my college days my creative writing professors used to make us read Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” on the first day of class. It didn’t matter that we already read it in Creative Writing I or Writing Fiction class.They’d make us read it again, always on the first day of class. The reason? Had we not have read this essay, we may never have finished writing anything for class.
As this essay explains, too often writers get wrapped up in their own writing and way too focused on making it perfect. It’s good to proofread your work and take the time to make it good. However, if you focus on that from the get-go, you won’t get very far.
Your first draft of a story or a novel or even a poem isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being well, pardon my French, but to quote Lamott, it’s about being “shitty”.
Your first draft isn’t supposed to make much sense. It’s not supposed to be very good. Hell, I’ll even going on to say it’s supposed to suck. Being perfect and making sense isn’t the important thing now. Getting your thoughts and ideas down is what’s most important.
I got a cochlear implant. It’s been one heck of a journey. I’m hearing and experiencing things I’ve never heard before in my life. You may say I have quite the story to tell.
And yes, that’s it.
I have a story to tell.
I am telling my story.
This blog is capturing my story.
This blog is my “shitty first draft”.
To say in a less obnoxious and/or offensive way, I am using this blog as a way to capture all of my thoughts, emotions, desires, and experiences with my cochlear implant. Once I finish living through the experience a bit more, I plan on turning my blog into a memoir and hopefully one day publishing it. I hope that it can help others who may be considering getting a cochlear implant.I know that if it wasn’t for hearing the stories of others through the online groups I have joined I never would’ve went through with getting my cochlear implant. This is my way of giving back to others the way they have given to me.
Consider this blog my first draft for my novel. Please don’t bug me about how I mispelled or mistyped things. Don’t tell me that things are grammatically incorrect or don’t make sense. I know all of that already. It might not be the greatest thing in the world now, but I’ll go back and edit it all in another draft in time.
For now, just enjoy this raw copy of my first draft of my new novel.
P.S. — i have a name for it already to. It will be called……………….. *DRUMROLL PLEASE*………………..
God Granted Me Hearing.
The reason? It’s simple. After 24 years of not being able to hear well, God did answer my every prayer and Grant Me Hearing.
Also, ironically enough, my first novel that I wrote shortly after graduating high school in 2008 was a fiction novel called “God Grant Me Hearing”. This is like the non-fiction sequel (only it’s not really a sequel since God Grant Me Hearing was a god-awful book and I kind of want to completely scrape the project and pretend it never existed…but that’s another story. ;)).
Image Credits: Powerhouse Museum
I’ve slowed down a little bit with my blog posts this week. I’ve just been so incredibly busy with work and preparing for my cochlear implant surgery lately. I’ve said it once and I’ve said it again, I’m pretty sure preparing for the surgery is a much harder and more-time consuming event than the actual surgery will be! Monday can’t come soon enough!
I began really preparing for my surgery last weekend. My parents and I went to Big Lots where I purchased a memory foam pillow. From what my mom and I have read so far it sounds like it’s important to keep your head elevated after the surgery. My mom didn’t think the pillows I have now were fluffy enough. Hey, they’re cheap Walmart pillows so they aren’t exactly the most well-made things on the earth lol. But they are zebra print so I can’t complain. Anyway yeah the new pillow is much fuller and should be a lot better for post-surgery. While I was at Big Lots I also picked up a pair of button-down pajamas to wear after my surgery. We also read that it’s important to have button-down shirts because of course you won’t want anything that has to come off over your head after the surgery. And the pajamas will be a lot more comfortable for me than say a dress shirt or other button down would be. Pretty sure I’m going to want to be comfortable after my surgery lol.
I went to church a lot last weekend, too. First I went to my mom’s church, Gloucester County Community Church. Several weeks ago my mom put in a prayer request through their phone app for my consultation and surgery. I know that these prayers have not gone unanswered and I am incredibly thankful for all of the prayers and support I have received. After the sermon on Saturday night I went with my mom to the chapel and prayed with a woman whose name I do not know. It was my first time praying in the chapel and it was a really amazing experience. I’ll never forget how the woman told me that there is a reason why God is giving me this ability to have this procedure done and gain the ability to hear. She said that now it is my responsibility as a Christian to discover what God’s plan for me is and why he is giving me this gift. How can I use my gift of hearing to best serve him? All of this time I have been a little selfish when it comes to my implant thinking of how it will help me in my life when I really should be more focused on how I can use it to best serve the lord. It was definitely an eye-opening experience.
While the cochlear implant surgery has a 99% success rate and the chances of having it go wrong or not work is slim to none…there’s still that 1% chance and of course my mom and I are still a little bit nervous. You can’t help but think “What if?” or think of the negative aspects at least a little bit. We went over this a bit with the woman as well. And she said whatever happens is in God’s will. If I go forward with this and it doesn’t work it’s all just part of God’s plan for me. Trust in the lord and know that whatever happens is in his will and all part of a greater plan. Never lose hope and faith.
I went to my own church, Washington Baptist Church the following day as well. I know I have a whole nother church community in them too. Actually, they were the first group of people I told about my surgery when this process all began. It’s so very exciting. I realized this weekend that I kind of belong to multiple churches now too, and that’s okay. It’s like my mom said, “Who says you have to choose just one church?” Some people think I go to church too much or that my church going is a bit excessive. To those people I have this to say — Jesus Christ died on the cross to save me from my sins. Going to church 2-4 times week is the least I can do to thank him for the sacrifices he’s made for me and all of the gifts he has blessed me with.
I had a pretty busy day filled with preparing for my cochlear implant surgery, too. I took off of work, but my day was far from easy. If anything, it was busier and much harder than my typical work day would have been. It started off at 8:30 in the morning with a visit to Upenn’s medical office thing (I have no idea what the name of this office/building is actually called in case that wasn’t completely obvious lol). I had to get a meningitis shot here. It was over in an instant. Apparently there’s a higher risk of getting meningitis if you have a cochlear implant. Dr. Wilcox says that has never happened to any of his patients before, but it’s something they require you to get done just as an extra precaution. I had the same woman give me the shot that was there for my initial checkup with Dr. Millstein last month. She and the other office receptionists were so excited for me when I told them I was getting the surgery done this coming Monday. Seeing how excited everyone around me about this surgery just makes me even more excited!
Almost immediately after my appointment to get my meningitis shot I had to head over to Philly for yet another trip to Jefferson University. This was just a pre-admission testing appointment that my surgeon, Dr. Wilcox likes to do (even though I didn’t have to actually even meet with him). They initially told me that my appointment would probably be 2-3 hours, but it ended up being less than one (which considering how busy I am today was a great thing!).
The first thing they did for my pre-admission test was blood work. This was really not fun at all, as bloodwork never is. My vessel broke or something in my left arm when they tried to stick me the first time and they weren’t able to get any blood so they had to stick me again in my right arm. By this point it wasn’t quite noon yet and I’ve had three needles, so I was kind of annoyed by that.
The rest of the appointment went much more smoothly though. I had a different nurse give me a physical. She was extremely friendly. She kept saying I made her job very easy since I was less than half the age of most of her patients and I do not smoke or drink and am fairly healthy. Basically I just had to keep repeating the word “no” to every question she asked lol. She took my blood pressure, vitals, and looked in my eyes and all of that jazz. Everything was fine. It was kind of funny when they checked my blood pressure because she said sometimes people get nervous/anxious which can cause their blood pressure to rise. She told me to think of a nice place I’d like to go, but then my mom said “Or just think of Larry (my boyfriend)” lol. So naturally I did and it seemed to have worked since my blood pressure was fine.
Now everything should be all set for my surgery on Monday. They just reminded me not to take any medications three days before (I usually take aleve, Airborne, allergy tabs, and sleeping pills). I still don’t have a time for my surgery but they said I should get that by Friday. It’s all coming up so quick and I’m getting so excited!
Well now I have to go and finish getting ready for appointment #3 for today. I had to stop and get a shower and get changed after I got home from my appointment at Jefferson to make sure I killed all of the germs I might have gotten from the hospital. I’m sure I would’ve been fine without one, but I’ve been extra cautious of germs and ensuring I don’t do anything to get sick before my surgery. I’ve watched my hands so often they dried out. lol. My third and final appointment today is with Miracle Ear in Turnersville. Just my usual monthly appointment for new tubes on my hearing aids. Getting them done before my surgery is really important since after my surgery I won’t be able to hear at all from my left ear for a month until they activate it. Having my right ear in good working condition will be crucial!
I won’t have an appointment with my usual audiologist today. They called to say for some reason she wouldn’t be in. That’s okay too. If it weren’t for trying a new audiologist I never would’ve went through with this surgery. I’m not entirely sure who my audiologist will be today, but if it’s the one that recommended I get a cochlear implant, I’ll be sure thank her.
Image Credits: Jumonville Photo Blog
I’ve been blogging a lot lately. Sorry, not at all sorry about that. It’s the weekend and I haven’t had many plans. Larry has been a bit busy with his family this weekend so we just pushed our usual weekend plans back to Monday for this week. In an effort to protect me from getting sick, my mom skipped out on her church service at GCCC. I’ve spent most of my time this weekend at home with the exception of a hair appointment, grocery shopping, and attending my church’s Sunday service. I guess you could say being at home a bit more than usual has given me a lot of time to think. And one of the only things on my mind these days is my upcoming cochlear implant surgery. So, since I’ve been thinking about it so much anyway, why not blog about it, right?
Today as I attended Sunday school and Sunday service at my church, Washington Baptist Church which is located in Turnersville, NJ, I began to think about what church is like for me now and how it may be a completely different experience in the upcoming weeks/months. Sometimes church can be difficult for me with my hearing impairment.
I grew up attending The Church of the Nazarene in Pitman, NJ. I went there until I was at least 3 (maybe even younger) until I was around 14 or 15. I remember Sunday school and youth groups very well. I remember being a part of vacation bible school when I was little and going on to teach it as I got older. I remember the songs very well. I do not, however, have very strong memories of the sermons. I don’t remember leaving the church and thinking “Wow, I was very moved by that sermon”. Maybe it was because I was still pretty young and wouldn’t have been able to connect with and understand it the way I do now as a 24 year old believer. But the more likely reason? I could not hear.
You may be thinking “Couldn’t you ask for a listening device?” Or, “Why didn’t you sit up front?” Well, listening devices do nothing for me. My hearing is way too bad to benefit even the slightest bit from that. I did sit up front, it just didn’t matter much. I heard the volume of the sermons perfectly fine. I just could not understand them. It was a pastor talking. I knew he was talking about the word of God. But I could not understand what he was actually saying.
Youth groups worked a bit better for me. Sitting in a smaller group, closer to the people meant that it was much easier for me to read their lips. I was able to gain more clarity. But youth groups and sermons aren’t the same. Youth groups are helpful, yes, but I always thought the sermons were the “big picture” or the most important part of church. I was missing it.
I left the Church of the Nazarene when I was around 15. I have moved away from town and it was just too difficult to travel back and forth especially since I was in college and working two jobs at the time. I lived around 20-30 minutes away and it was too much of a hassle to travel back and forth and I often times had to work on Sunday mornings anyway. I would attend my grandparent’s catholic church on occasion. Usually only on holidays. This was not a very pleasant experience for me. For one, I am not nor have I ever been catholic. Catholic churches are in an entirely different league compared to The Church of the Nazarene. I never really knew what to do or understood why I had to do it. It was confusing. Even more so because I could not hear. The catholic church was much bigger than the Nazarene church. And much more difficult to hear. The priest was always an older man who I struggled to hear and understand. I feel like a horrible person saying that church was very boring — but it was. I got absolutely nothing out of catholic church. It was just like sitting staring at a man you know is speaking and yet you have 0 clue what he is saying. So you just sit and pretend you know what’s going on for the next 2-3 hours.
I attended the catholic church because it meant a lot to my grandparents who have always been catholic. Going to church on them for the holidays, especially Christmas Eve, became an important tradition. However, the tradition came to an end after their deaths in 2011 and 2012. During this time I had no church.
I held off for a long time finding a new church because I thought it was a waste of time. I had no hope. I can hear my boyfriend yelling at me for this right now. He always yells at me to “keep faith and hope”. But I really didn’t have either at this time. Sure, I was a Christian and I believed, but I didn’t think church was of that much importance to me at this time. I mean, I could never hear the sermons anyway. What good was it to get up early on Sunday morning and sit and listen to a church sermon you know you won’t understand a word of? I could just as easily put the TV on mute at home and stare at it for 2 or 3 hours and get the exact same results…
But the thing is— being a christian and believing in God really isn’t always just enough. Christians need church in their life, too. Church is like a special form of school where you are taught how to interpret the word of God and live a christian life. These are things you can’t always do well enough on your own. My need for church must have shown because I had many friends offer to bring me to churches or suggest churches for me to attend during this time.
One of the first churches that was recommended to me was Solid Rock Baptist Church. A co-worker at Walmart recommended it to me because of my hearing. Solid Rock Baptist Church is known for serving a wide variety of different people including the deaf and hard of hearing. She thought it would be perfect for me.
Before attending the church I reached out to the deaf pastor explaining my situation and how I struggle to hear sermons. I requested information about what kind of services they provide to the deaf and hard of hearing. I also explained that I do not sign but rely a lot on lip-reading and written texts. I asked if the deaf sermons would be the most beneficial to me or if I should just stick to a traditional service.
I’m still waiting on that response….
I did attend one church service. I think it was in around July of 2013 or something. Unfortunately, we unknowingly went during a big revival or something where other churches attended to or something. Not a normal service. The people were very unwelcoming and almost cold. I couldn’t hear a word of the sermon. I never went back.
Months passed by and a friend invited me to go and try out her Presbyterian church. At first I went to just a few fun church functions like church pasta dinners and potlucks and all. They were okay. I thought I might enjoy the sermon so I went to two. One right before Christmas and one on Christmas Eve. I didn’t hear a word of either sermon. My parents went to the Christmas Eve sermon. They were not a fan. They say the pastor went off topic a bit and launched a whole anti-gun debate. As licensed, responsible gun owners, this didn’t fare well with us. I just wish I could have actually heard what was said. Needless to say, we never attended again.
More and more months passed by and it seemed like we were never going to find a church. I have just about completely given up on ever finding a church and being able to actually hear the sermon. But then we moved to Washington Township. One of my dad’s biggest goals after we moved was finding a new church. There is one church we drove by all the time: Gloucester County Community church. He decided we should attend sometime. It always had things going on and he was intrigued. So right around Easter time we attended our first service.
We all really enjoyed the sermon. The pastor could preach pretty well and I COULD ACTUALLY HEAR. Not 100%, but pretty good compared to most other sermons I attended anyway. It was exciting. We continued to attend this church and the sermons were alright, but I didn’t feel the connection I was craving for from this church, so I began to look elsewhere.
I had befriended another male christian this past summer. He was a very strong believer who definitely knew the word of God. He was a nondenominational christian attending Fellowship Bible Church. He had invited me to go along with him one day. I enjoyed the Sunday school sermon, but couldn’t really hear the actual sermon. I kept watching him take notes. That’s how I followed along. I thought I could connect with his church more if I attended more. But in reality I was interested in the church more for him and less for the church aspect of it. When it came down to it — it was his church, not mine. I needed a church to call mine.
Washington Township has a couple of churches — but not as many as my old town of Woodbury. In Woodbury pretty much every two feet is another church. In Washington Township, you’ll have to keep walking to find one… I went on a lot of walks in Washington Township and I began to search for a possible new church to attend. I have walked past a church called Crossroads Assembly of God church. I walked by it a handful of times. It was a little bit of a far walk (about 25 minutes) but I was always intrigued by it. I planned to find it again on one of my walks in July of 2014 and see about attending service that following Sunday.
Long story short, when I actually made plans to find this church (in the past I always randomly walked past it without planning to), I could not find it anywhere. I found another church instead, my current church, Washington Baptist Church.
Washington Baptist Church was very different from any other church I ever been to. For one it doesn’t quite look like a church. It’s more like a long one-floor house. I wasn’t entirely sure it was a church at first. I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for the sign outside. But I felt that God was calling me to this church. I just found it so randomly. I had to attend.
When I went to my first church sermon in July, I was amazed at how welcoming everyone was. Whereas all of the other churches I’ve been to in the past months haven’t been at all welcoming, this one totally was. Everyone introduced themselves to me and kept saying “We’re glad to have you and hope you come back.” When I went the next week they remembered me. When I missed church one week, they said they missed me. Everyone was so humble and down to earth. It was exactly what I was looking for.
When people found out about my hearing impairment they were genuinely concerned about how well I could hear the sermons. I could actually hear it very very well. I couldn’t pick up on every word, but I got around 90% of it. When I couldn’t hear what the chapter the pastor was going over was, I could ask the person next to me and they’d help me out. The pastor spoke very clear and loud, but not too loud at the same time. It was the perfect tone for my type of hearing.
I did struggle a little with some of the music though. It can be hard for me to really hear the rhythm and beat of the music. I can read the words, but sometimes I can’t hear the music well enough to tell exactly where they are in the song. Singing the hymns can easily get a little bit awkward for me. This is especially a problem when I attend my parent’s church (they still go to GCCC by the way) where there is about 10x’s more singing than WBC has.
I have been attending WBC for about 4 months now. I have gained so much from the sermons and Sunday school services and this church feels like family for me now. I can usually hear the sermons pretty clearly, but some weeks (usually ones where my tubes are in need of a replacement on my hearing aids)I still struggle and don’t get as much of the message. I had a good day today with being able to hear and follow along in Sunday school and church. There was just one small part where I didn’t catch what chapter of the bible the pastor was referring to. I struggled with the music today too. They were hymns that I wasn’t too familiar with and didn’t know the beat/rhythm to so I kept getting a little lost with those. Overall I did okay with it all today.
I kept thinking though about how my experience with church will change after I get my cochlear implant. I talked a bit about it to some people at church today including the pastor and his wife which made me more excited to. I know I have a whole church of people praying for me and those prayers have not gone unanswered. The lord wants me to hear the sermons and the word of god in church each week. I’m beyond excited by the blessings he bestowed upon me and I can’t wait to attend church post-activation and to be able to hear every word of the sermon no matter where I choose to sit. To hear people when they share prayer requests in news. To be able to follow along and sing praises during our songs of worship and to not get lost. My implant will allow me to experience church in a whole new way and I can’t wait. It is through the work of God that I am being blessed enough to receive such an amazing and powerful gift and what better way is there to use this gift than to learn more about God’s word and to worship and praise him?
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good.