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.
Hey guys! I’m back! I apologize for the lack of updates lately. I have been meaning to make this post for a couple of weeks but I’ve been crazy busy with writing my book, God Granted Me Hearing (which yes, is based on this blog and my cochlear implant experience!) :). Also, I haven’t had a whole lot of news lately. My 2nd cochlear implant has been progressing well. I saw Alyssa at Jefferson around a month ago and everything was good but she didn’t test me again so there’s no update on that end.
I do have something else to share with you all today though — what it’s like to get caught in the rain with a cochlear implant. I’ve written in the past about how getting caught in the rain was one of the things I was most looking forward to doing after getting my cochlear implant and I also wrote about what it was like to go swimming with a cochlear implant, but up until a few weeks ago, I never actually seriously got caught in the rain with a cochlear implant.
First let me say this was completely UNPLANNED. I live in Washington Township and I love to take walks. I knew that a thunder storm was on the horizon, but when I first headed out for the day the skies were still clear. It was one of the first days of spring so for once the weather was warm. I didn’t want to walk to the gym like I normally do because I thought it might be too far of a walk and I wasn’t sure if I’d make it back in time to avoid the storm. Instead I decided to take advantage of the fact that all of the basketball courts at the high school I live across were empty. I’ve always loved to play basketball but I don’t get the opportunity to play nearly as much as I’d like. So I grabbed my bag with a couple of bottles of water, my jump rope (don’t ask…), my basketball, and headed out.
I wore my aqua cases for this trip. I didn’t wear the aqua cases just because of the pending storm, but to protect against sweat as well. I made the mistake when I got my first cochlear implant of going to the gym without the aqua case and almost broke it from all of the sweat and moisture I got in it. Ever since that incident I’ve made a point to wear my aqua cases every time I go to the gym, work out, or even go for a walk or do anything that could produce a sweat. I’d rather be safe than sorry.
It took me awhile to cross the street that afternoon. Traffic was busy in Washington Township, as always. When I finally managed to cross the street and make it to the highs school I took out my jump rope and began using it. I’ve had my jump rope for over a year and never used it before. I heard it was good exercise which is precisely why I bought it, but I always shied away from using it fearing I’d look like an idiot, which I totally did, but it was okay because no one was around to laugh at me. I still didn’t have quite enough magnets in my headpiece on the cochlear for my right ear. I think the placement for that one is different than on my left which makes it not stick as well. When I used my jumprope it kept knocking my headpiece off until finally I gave up on it and took it off and put it in my bag.
I only jumped rope for about 5 minutes or so before switching to basketball. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you haven’t done it for 20 years, jumping rope is really intense! Plus I noticed the clouds were beginning to look a bit heavy so I wanted to stop and make sure I got plenty of basketball time in before it rained on my parade. I put my cochlear back on for this. It works out better for me than the jump roping did, but it still kept coming off my head whenever I jumped so I ended up taking it off again and putting it in my bag.
I played basketball for about a half hour or so before the rain began. I think this was my first time playing basketball with my cochlear implants. I noticed I was much more relaxed. I didn’t have to worry as much about whether or not any cars were coming by the parking lot or if there were joggers running through or someone trying to talk to me. I was able to hear everything around me (and also there wasn’t many people around anyway). It was very peaceful and fun.
After about a half hour I felt a raindrop hit my head. “Okay, that’s my signal to pack it up”, I said to myself. Within seconds of saying that, I found myself in a torrential downpour. The rain came down at the speed of light. I ran to my bag to check my cochlear and put it back on my head and to check that my phone, which was in my bag, was still working. Everything seemed good. Then I grabbed my bag, my ball, and headed on home.
But I couldn’t simply go home; I had to walk back which meant walking through the torrential downpour and trying to cross the dreaded intersection again. It also meant having to pass a bank and drug store while sporting soaking wet clothes and hair and dribbling a basketball. That’s not something you see everyday…
IT. WAS. FUN. SOOOOO MUCH FUN.
This is something I could never do before with my hearing aids. My hearing aids would have broken in seconds and I would’ve been having a major panic/anxiety account over getting caught in a torrential downpour with them. And my mother would want to kill me for destroying my $3,000+ uninsured devices.
But with my aqua cases on, my cochlear implants were 100% waterproof. I had nothing at all to worry about.
I dribbled my ball through the rain until it began to fill with the water and become too heavy to bounce. Then I carried it. I watched the people flee the bank to their cars as if they were afraid the rain might make them melt. As I waited at the crosswalk by the drug store I noticed the people in their cars looked at me like I was some kind of a freak because I was standing at a crosswalk for a busy intersection with soaking wet hair and clothes, a basketball, and the biggest smile on my face.
I didn’t care about being wet. I didn’t care that my clothes felt like they weighed 1,000 pounds from the rain. I didn’t care about my basketball session being cut short. I didn’t care about the fact that I was getting pretty cold. I didn’t even care about the fact that my contacts were getting blurry from being drenched in rain.
I was ecstatic. I was having one of the best days of my life.
When I got home I didn’t have to worry about anything being broken. I did take my cochlears off and put the aqua case parts and those specific batteries in the dryer just to be on the safe side, but I didn’t really have to. There was no panic attack. I didn’t have to take out the hair dryer to try to air them out and to get them to work or nothing at all.
I simply did what any normal person would do…I changed out of my wet clothes, got a hot bath and made a hot cup of coffee to warm up, and went on with my life.
You don’t realize how much these little things in life like getting caught in the rain can really mean to a person until they get to not just experience them, but ENJOY them without any kind of fear at all, for the first time ever. It’s surreal.
Getting caught in the rain with my cochlear implants may not have been everything I hoped it would be. Larry and I have been broken up for over 6 months now. There’s no one new in my life to give me that Notebook-style kiss in the rain. I didn’t even have anyone there to have a conversation with or to go puddle jumping with.
But you know what? It wasn’t what I wanted it to be because it was BETTER.
It was all my joy for the taking. It was all on me. It was all about me, having my moment. I didn’t need anyone else to be there for me. I just needed that rain and to be off in my own little world.
It was one of the best days of 2016 thus far.
I can’t wait to get caught in the rain again sometime soon.
This weekend I realized something for the first time.
I will never again use a hearing aid.
I haven’t worn a hearing aid in more than 2 months since I broke the one for my right, unimplanted ear and every backup I had (the battery compartments snapped on them both awhile back, preventing me from closing them and causing them to whistle incessantly). But this realization still felt weird to me.
I have been wearing heads since I was 2, meaning I’ve had hearing aid audiologists since I was 2. It is weird to think I don’t need them anymore.
I’ve gained (and am in the process of gaining) far more with my cochlear implants that I ever had with my cochlear implants. I have my own audiologists for my cochlear implant. Still, I feel kind of bad about the fact that I won’t be seeing Sherri at Miracle Ear anymore.
If it wasn’t for Sherri, I never would’ve gotten my cochlear implant.
Sherri was the one hearing aid audiologist that was different from the rest. Whereas all of the others just wanted to sell me their hearing aids and didn’t really care about what was best for me, Sherri was the exception. Sherri was the only one that was honest and told me that no hearing aids, no matter how good they were, were ever going to give me the clarity I needed. The only thing that could give me that clarity was a cochlear implant.
Sherri told me that cochlear implants weren’t dangerous or anything to be afraid. She told me they weren’t the brain surgery that I thought they were. Sherri encouraged me to do more research and to seriously consider getting one or more.
If it weren’t for her, I never would’ve seen and learned of all of the benefits with cochlear implants and I certainly wouldn’t have ran out to get not only one, but 2.
My days of being a hearing aid patient of Sherri’s are over now. It’s kind of sad in a way. Breaking up with my hearing aid audiologist, Sherri, feels harder than breaking up with my boyfriend was. She doesn’t know yet that I’m getting my second cochlear implant, but I will have to call her soon to let her know. I know that she will be happy and excited for me, but I’m sure she will be sad to lose me as a patient, too.
But this isn’t goodbye, it’s just “I’ll see you later”.
Sherri may be a hearing aid audiologist, but she still does a lot of work with cochlear implants as well. Who knows, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to see one of her presentations or attend an event with her one day.
If there’s anything I learned from all of this it’s that when God closes one door, he opens another.
He’s closing the door to my hearing aid journey and opening up the door to my cochlear implant journey. And what a journey it’s been so far!
Ever since I got my first cochlear implant I have wanted to get my second ear done. Getting my cochlear implant is the best thing I’ve ever done. Read pretty much any of my past entries on this blog and you’ll see why. It’s given me many new opportunities that I never had before. I can enjoy music like never before, I can call my boyfriend when he’s on the road, I was able to take on a new role at work as a Digital Marketing Manager where I’m making calls to clients on a daily basis, and I can even hear while swimming for the first time ever!
Some people end up going bilateral all at once. This is especially common when it comes to young children. However, more often than not people get one done at a time. This is what my surgeon recommended to me. He recommended waiting at least a year before getting the second one done so that I’d have time to get used to and fully adjust to my first implant and hearing all of the sounds. Well, we are coming up on a year now…
This past weekend I was talking with my mom about my upcoming appointments. I knew I had one with my audiologist, Louisa coming up. I originally thought it was in October, but it turned out it was actually not until December. We still felt like we were missing something something, so we decided to call and find out when my next appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Wilcox was. Turns out, there wasn’t one scheduled. Initially, we made the appointment for the same day as my appointment with Louisa in December, but I ended up moving it up a bit.
My appointment is on Wednesday, September 16th. This is a very important day. It is my grandfather’s birthday, so that right there feels like a positive sign. It is also the one year anniversary of when I first met Dr. Wilcox for my initial consulting appointment where I asked him 244353553 questions about cochlear implants. Wow. What are the chances of that?
My mom did a little research already on my health insurance. When I got my first implant I had Horizon insurance which covered almost the entire cost of the procedure. My work decided to switch health insurance providers a couple of months ago to Aetna. This will actually likely benefit me since it is a new health insurance provider that hasn’t already covered this surgery. Also, my mom found in her research that Aetna is known for being a big supporter of cochlear implants. It sounds very likely that they will cover the cost of me going bilateral.
I have a very good feeling about going bilateral. I really think I’m going to go through with it and it will be successful. I think it will be much easier than my initial surgery was. I know that I am a candidate, so I won’t need most of the testing I had to go through the first time around. I know I definitely won’t need a CT Scan and likely not an MRI either since I can’t get them done with my cochlear. I will probably just need a basic checkup with my doctor and blood work done. Other than that everything should be pretty smooth sailing.
Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I begin my journey into going bilateral. Yes, I’ve gained so much with my one implant. Some people ask me, “Why would you want to go through with the surgery and all of that again when you’ve already gained so much with just the one?” Here is my answer: two is better than one.
Imagine if you only had one arm and one hand. Yes, you could get by. Maybe that hand would be phenomenal for you. Maybe you’d catch and be able to hold things better than anyone could ever imagine. But would it still not be better to have two hands?
What if you were blind in one eye and could only see out of the other? Try this now: Close one eye and keep the other open. Try to perform a simple task like typing a sentence on your computer. You might be able to do it and do it well. Maybe you even have 20/20 vision in that one eye. Now, try it again with both eyes open. Chances are, you performed the task much quicker and more successfully.
Two is better than one.
I have been doing great with my one implant, but I can’t even imagine how amazing it will be with a second one.
I still wear a hearing aid in my other ear, but it’s as good as useless. Sometimes I forget to wear it. And when I’m swimming, I go completely without it. I never miss it. I don’t notice much of a difference without it.
However, not having my cochlear is a complete tragedy. I can’t hear a thing. There is practically a 100% difference (definitely 90% or higher) difference with having the cochlear vs. not having it.
God gave us two ears for a reason. Mine might not work the way they are supposed to, but through technology I have been given the chance to correct it and make them like new again. My new, bionic ears.
Why wouldn’t I want to seize that opportunity?
If you’ve been following my blog, then you’ve undoubtedly heard me speak a lot about my relationship with my boyfriend. It probably sounds like a fairy tale romance, right? Most of the time that’s exactly how it feels, but like any other couple, we face our own obstacles, too.
Prior to meeting my boyfriend, my dating life was pretty rough. I had 3 failed relationships between 2011-2013. My first boyfriend was abusive and would scream at me all the time. He was not at all supportive of my hearing loss. He would tell me I’d never be a mother because of my hearing loss and always make me feel guilty for my hearing loss, something I could not change. Sometimes he would make fun of me for not being able to hear or talk behind my back or use my hearing loss against me. I left after 5 months. It may sound like a short-lived romance, but it was definitely 5 months too long.
My other two relationships also did not see much success. My 2nd boyfriend was extremely supportive of my hearing loss and is a good friend of mine to this day. We broke up because we were in different stages of our lives and in our relationship and it just wasn’t working for us. He was 10 years older than me, so that probably contributed quite a bit to it all.
My third boyfriend was the strangest relationship and the hardest breakup yet. It was long-distance with a much older man (apparently I didn’t learn my lesson from failed relationship #2…). One day he was my boyfriend and the next day he wrote me out of my life without giving me any explanation for 7 months. A year later I discovered he cheated on me. Pretty easy to see what went wrong there…
All three of these relationships ended ultimately for different reasons, but they also all still had things in common: they proved that dating a deaf girl can be a challenge. Some handles it better than others, but it never changed the fact that it was a challenge.
I wrote about how I had a bit of anxiety prior to getting my cochlear implant already. Combine the anxiety from my hearing loss with first date jitters (or any date jitters for that manner) and you got anxiety on steroids. Dating with hearing loss is HARD. That’s why it’s so common for deaf people to date other deaf people. They even make dating sites for deaf people to find each other. Some deaf people completely swear off non-deaf people from dating because they feel a non-deaf person could never relate.
I never dated a deaf person before, but I can definitely relate to that way of thinking. You can’t exactly make a non-deaf person feel what it’s like to be deaf. You can tell them what it’s like, but it’s not exactly the same.
A typical first date for me with any of my exs (or even my current boyfriend) was a lot like this:
- Text or FB the person constantly because I couldn’t hear on the phone
- Spend way too much time coming up with a good place for said first date
- Change my mind about the place 10,000 times because I declare it “too loud to hear anything”
- Finally settle on a place to have dinner
- Smile, say “yes” a lot, and nod because I have no idea what my date is saying at dinner
- Stare at my date hoping he gets the memo to translate everything the waiter is saying to me because I can’t hear the waiter
- Go to see a movie without the caption glasses because caption glasses are awkward and annoying and I don’t feel like dealing with that on a first date
- Stare at a movie screen trying to figure out what the movie is about since I can’t hear
- Glance at my date every couple of minutes to try to read his facial expressions to see whether or not he thinks the movie is good
- Agree with him and try to say some generic comment about why the movie was or wasn’t good
- Wonder if there will be a second date and if there is wonder why because I’m not exactly the greatest date in the world on account of the fact that I can’t hear.
I have to say though, 100% honest, things with my boyfriend now, Larry, were a lot different. Our first date was at Nifty Fifties. I know I definitely didn’t hear every word he said, but I did okay. Our first date was actually on Labor Day, so that probably helped. Nifty Fifties was not very busy that day. If my memory is correct, there was only about 1 other family there. We were relatively alone. And I was super duper duper nervous prior to our date. I changed my outfit about 10,000 times that day. But as soon as I saw him all of my nerves went away. I think when you meet someone really truly special that you’re meant to be with, that’s just the way it works.
This picture was taken moments before meeting my boyfriend for our first date. I spent over a week over-analyzing what to wear for that date…
My relationship with Larry has always been a bit intense. That’s one of the best ways to describe it. When I first met him I didn’t have my cochlear or any plans to get a cochlear implant. I just had two hearing aids that really didn’t benefit me all that much. He definitely got to see the before picture.
Not all of our dates were as easy as Nifty Fifties prior to getting my cochlear. I couldn’t always hear him that well, even if he was just over my house talking to me alone. Some days I just couldn’t hear or understand him that well (in all honesty, sometimes Larry has a tendency to mumble or not speak very clearly, which made it a little more difficult. Shhhh. Don’t tell him I said that though…).
I remember our second date was a bit of a challenge. For our second date we went to eat at The Smash Burger and then went bowling. I couldn’t hear anything at all at The Smash Burger except for the milkshake machine thing. Smash Burger makes excellent hand-spun milkshakes……..but when you’re hearing impaired and trying to hold a conversation with your soon-to-be-boyfriend, they become a little less awesome. The bowling alley wasn’t too much better. We had to wait awhile to get a lane, so to pass the time we played a few rounds of pool. I’m pretty bad at pool, so Larry tried to help me. Except I couldn’t hear him well. This was our second date. Yes he could and did show me what to do a bit, but it was still slightly awkward at times since we weren’t yet a couple or anything yet. Looking back at it now though, it was pretty adorable.
There was also that time we went to Frightland just before Halloween. It was dark and there were long lines to wait to get into the different attractions. Everyone was talking with their friends to pass the time. Larry and I tried to talk and play music. Except I couldn’t hear the music on his phone at all and I couldn’t hear him well enough to speak, either. We were actually trying to play a game, but we gave up because games become much less fun when it takes you 20+ minutes to hear what the other person is saying. When we gave up on the game, Larry looked at me with very sympathetic eyes, gave me a hug, and said, “Wow. You really can’t hear.” He genuinely felt sorry for me. He knew I was going through something hard and difficult that he could not fix or relate to. He did something no one quite did before: showed love, and compassion for me despite my hearing loss. I never forgot that night.
You don’t have to hear to smile and take pictures. He’re a picture of us at Frightland. It was so cold!
Of course it would have been great to meet Larry when I had my cochlear. I always tell people that the biggest mistake I made with my cochlear is waiting this long to get it. However, I’m extremely thankful that I met Larry before getting my cochlear implant. I’m glad he got to see and know me before getting my implant.
When you love someone, you love all of them. Every part, even the parts that can be hard for others to love or accept. Larry loved me even when I couldn’t hear. He accepted it. It was never a problem for him.
Larry always supported my decision to get my cochlear implant. It’s not every day that a girl tells her boyfriend “Hey I’m getting a major life-altering surgery” within the first two months of them being together — but that’s exactly how it was with us. He was so happy and excited for me and he enjoyed learning about it from me.He would outright tell me, “I want to learn from this.”
When I went through everything with getting my cochlear, Larry and I’s relationship was still very much new. A lot of people would say things like “Does he realize when you get this done you’re going to have a magnet on your head? Is he going to accept that and be okay with that?” I always said yes. But at the same time, I was never really sure. I was definitely still in the process of getting to know Larry at the time, and there’s no saying how a person will or won’t react to change or something like that. I mean, when I first got together with my ex I didn’t think he would go on to be abusive towards me, but that’s exactly what ended up happening, unfortunately.
When Larry said he’d stand by me and support me, he definitely wasn’t kidding. He couldn’t actually be at the hospital the day of my surgery due to hospital rules that prohibited non-immediate family members from being there, but the next day he was there with flowers and gifts to help cheer me up and make me feel better. When I was taking strong pain medication that knocked me out and made me loopy, he still loved me. When I had part of my head shaved, a ton of stitches and extra greasy hair due to not being able to watch it for 10 days, he still said I was beautiful.
There were actually days when I looked much worst than this after my surgery and Larry would still say I looked beautiful — and he meant it.
The hardest part of the cochlear implant process was definitely the month after my surgery. During this time I had to wait for everything to heal before I could be activated. I had no hearing in my left ear and only what my hearing aid provided (which was hardly anything at all) in my right ear. I couldn’t watch movies. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t hear music. I didn’t want to leave my house much because I couldn’t hear people outside at all. So we stayed inside and played games and cooked and hung out at my house for a month. I was probably pretty boring and lame, but he always enjoyed spending time with me and never once complained. He stood by me and supported me. When I got upset and frustrated over not being able to do anything, he reminded me of how soon I’d be able to do everything and it would be more than worth it in the end.
We played a lot of Rummy when I was healing from my surgery…and I always won. 🙂
Once I was activated, Larry couldn’t wait to talk to me, to share music with me, and to finally, for the first time ever, get to talk on the phone with me. I explained how my cochlear would take time and it was a progress to learn how to hear things, so he made it his mission to work with me. Within the first week of activation, Larry discovered he could sing to me and I could actually hear him. Singing to me became his special thing, and I loved it. The first night he did it he held me in his arms for two hours in his car outside of my house under the stars and sang Brad Paisely’s “She’s Everything” and I not only hear every word of it — I felt it. I felt that I was his everything. I felt so much closer to him that night, just being able to hear his voice like that for the first time ever.
Our first post-cochlear implant activation date to Smithville. Everyone says I look like I have a crown on in this picture. Probably because I’m the Princess…Larry’s Princess (totally not a Christmas tree in the background or anything…. :-p)
Now I demand that he sings to me. It’s my favorite thing in the entire world, and he enjoys singing to me, too. Music has always been something very special for us that has a way of pulling us closer together. It helped bring us together before my cochlear through sharing our favorite songs, going to the News Boys concert for one of our first dates (also the date where I came home and told him I was in love with him…), and even just discussing it, and now that I can truly hear music and he can sing to me on the phone, it’s brought us even closer together.
One of our first dates… The News Boys concert. We look so different now!
The ability to talk on the phone has opened whole new doors to us that we didn’t even know existed. We can talk more on a daily basis now. Larry is a truck driver, so before our communication would sometimes be limited since obviously he can’t text and drive. However, with modern technology such as his radio or headphones, he is able to make his phone hands-free and talk to me. We prefer talking on the phone to texting now because it’s so much more personal. Last week I got sick and wasn’t able to speak well so we couldn’t talk on the phone. We both missed it so much and agreed it was much better than texting. I missed the sound of his voice. I missed his singing. I couldn’t hear his voice that well and he didn’t really sing to me prior to getting my cochlear.
My cochlear implant journey is a journey that Larry and I have been able to share together. He’s been with me every step of the way. He’s been with me before I got implanted, when I was implanted, and now that I’m activated. He’s supported me throughout it all and learned about it all with me. It’s opened many new doors for us and definitely strengthened our relationship. We are teammates that support each other through thick and thin, and he’s definitely been an MVP during this journey.I’m so blessed to finally have found a man that can handle me whether I can or can’t hear, because Larry knows that regardless of how well I can or can’t hear, it doesn’t change the person I am. He loves me with and without my ability to hear. (However, of course we both prefer it when I can hear…definitely makes the communication thing a bit easier and more enjoyable. ;)).
My cochlear implant journey has been a long, yet quick process all at once. It’s been a roller coaster ride even more intense than Kingda Ka, and I know he’ll be first in line to see the next thrill it brings us. He’s been one of my biggest supporters and fans, and I’m very thankful to have him in my life and blessed to see how the cochlear has helped us to grow even closer together.
Image Credits: Pulse Magazine
I have a confession to make. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing like myself, than this should come as no surprise. In fact, if you’re deaf or hard of hearing like myself, you yourself are or probably have been in the same boat at one point or another. Here it is:
For years I have dealt with anxiety issues in social settings and in non-social settings. I also have struggled to sleep at night due to my anxiety and have had to take sleeping medication if I wanted to have any chance of falling asleep at night.
I am not along. Anxiety is very common in the deaf and hard of hearing world. There has been countless studies that link anxiety with hearing loss. The reason is simple: many deaf individuals are part of a hearing world, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Even those who say they operate in a predominately deaf world will be forced to interact with the hearing world on almost a daily basis. It’s definitely not easy and a major cause of anxiety.
If you want to be technical, I am deaf but not Deaf. You may not be able to see a difference in these two words, but those with hearing loss knows what it means. To be deaf means you have a significant hearing loss, or no hearing at all, but you interact in a hearing world. To be Deaf with the capital D means that you have no hearing and you operate in a Deaf world. So what’s the difference?
Those who operate in the Deaf world sign. Their world is almost entirely silent. They go to special deaf schools. Their friends are more than likely all deaf, or at least always sign to them. They try to avoid being a part of the hearing world as much as possible. In contrast, those in the hearing world do not go to a special school. They strive to interact with the hearing world as much as possible. I fall into this later category.
Prior to getting my cochlear implant, interacting in the hearing world was very difficult for me. Not being able to hear can definitely cause a bit of anxiety. Here are a few examples.
I went to college. Not just any college, but Rowan University. A public university. I was a really great student and my professors loved me. I had two majors (English and Writing Arts) and a separate concentration (Creative Writing). These were all pretty unique majors that called for much discussion in class. My professors loved me and knew I was a good student, so they always liked to hear what I had to say. However, sometimes I had no idea what was going on in class. I tried my best to lipread. I have been deemed an “expert” lipreader. However, even experts aren’t always necessarily perfect. Sometimes people had a unique tone to their voice and it was out of my hearing range. The worst was when the chairs were arranged in single rows. I always sat in the front of the room to hear my professor, but I could never hear my classmates since they were behind me and I couldn’t see their lips to lipread. Sometimes I really wanted to talk about the book I just had to read in class. Sometimes I had a lot to say. But a lot of the times I was too afraid to say anything since I wasn’t able to follow every word or most of it and I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. I would pray that the professor wouldn’t call on me because I didn’t want to look like I haven’t read or wasn’t paying attention. That’s how I always appeared, but the truth was I was paying attention! I was paying such close attention that I was exhausted from trying to figure out what was being said! But most professors don’t understand that.
There are two instances that really stand out in my mind as awkward post-cochlear implant college experiences. Once was during one of my first creative writing classes. My professor really liked me and wanted my feedback on many occasions. She was my favorite professor actually. I did pretty well with following along most of the time, but for some reason I really struggled on this particular day. I think the desks were rearranged making it harder for me to see my classmates and lipread or something. Needless to say, she asked me a question and I had no answer because I had no idea what was going on. I kindly explained that I couldn’t hear anything. My professor understood, but got pretty embarrassed. She apologized profusely to me, which made me feel a bit embarrassed and awkward myself. By trying to make things better, she kind of made it worst.
The other instance was with my Writing Children’s Stories class. Originally I was signed up to take the course with a British professor. He was an extremely nice guy, but I couldn’t understand a word he said. He had a strong accent and his voice was in a tone that was out of my range. I was never going to do well in his class simply because I couldn’t understand a word he said. I needed the course to complete my creative writing concentration, but the other professor who taught the class didn’t have any openings. I had to fill out a special form to get into her class. Unfortunately, this form had to come from the Academic Success Center. I’ve talked to the people over their multiple times and they were always super friendly and more than willing to help in anyway they could. However, they couldn’t help without having me first register as having a disability, something I never wanted to do. But I needed help, so I did what I had to do. Then I got into the class. I was able to hear my professor just fine, but 95% of the time during class, I never heard a word that my classmates said. Needless to say, the class was a bit less enjoyable than I anticipated.
Another time when my hearing loss was a great cause for anxiety was whenever I had to order food out. I always tried to avoid it as much as possible. When I was in college I would usually buy food from the little convenience store on campus where I could just grab something and have them ring it up for me with little to no conversation. I did try to order food from the various on-campus food places a few times, but it was always an incredibly awkward experience since I could never hear the person taking my order or making my food or telling me my order was ready. If I went out to a restaurant, I would make my family/friends/significant other order for me and translate what the waiter/waitress was saying for me. Then I would apologize or have that person apologize profusely to the waiter/waitress and explain that they were answering for me since I couldn’t hear. Pretty awkward. I would avoid going to bars like the plague. I tried it once with my ex and never wanted to do it again. It was so loud and noisy. I couldn’t have a conversation or hear anything and the noise didn’t sound like televisions or music the way it did to most people. I couldn’t understand what the noise was. To me it was just that…loud noise.
Now that I have a cochlear implant though, none of these problems seem to matter much at all. Unfortunately, I am not in college anymore so my college troubles are definitely a thing of the past (though I’ve definitely thought about going back to school on multiple occasions. Problem is, I have no idea what I’d want to go for…). However, I do work for a digital marketing agency. When I first started working here some of my coworkers thought I was pretty quiet. Just like I couldn’t hear in school, for the longest time I couldn’t hear well at work. This also caused me great anxiety. When we had department meetings I could never hear my coworkers. My former boss from my inbound marketing/social media marketing days has a tone to his voice that was out of my range so I hardly ever understood a word he said. The same was true for my co-workers who were from New Hampshire. And the phone? Forget that. If I ever needed to make a phone call I’d have to get another co-worker or my boss to do it for me. I couldn’t hear on the phone at all.
Now I’m actually a Social Media Project Manager and Assistant Digital Marketing Manager. Without my cochlear, I don’t think this could have been made possible. I am able to speak during department meetings and hear my coworkers. This means my communication with them has improved tenfold. I am able to help other coworkers with projects and discuss our clients with them face-to-face, whereas in the past I relied solely on IM since I could never hear them well enough in person. I talk on the phone with clients, especially those that I manage, on an almost daily basis. While I was a little awkward on the phone initially, I have improved greatly and am now able to speak very confidentially because my anxiety is just about completely gone. I can hear. There’s no need to be so anxious anymore.
I can’t remember the last time I seriously struggled to order food out. I have been out to eat countless times since getting my cochlear with my boyfriend and my family. I’m able to order food on my own without being dependent on others. If things get too loud I can just switch my settings around to block out the background noise. Eating out suddenly became much more enjoyable and less anxiety-ridden!
And my sleeping pills? I can’t remember the last time I had to take them either. There seems to be a whole lot less things keeping me up at night. I haven’t needed them. I am much less drowsy during the day now. Or to say it more simply, I’m living my life free of anxiety and I couldn’t be happier.