Warning: before you read any further, this blog post might be sickening sweet/cute. You might puke a bit. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I’d like to share a glimpse of my love story today. I’ve already spoken many many times about how getting a cochlear implant helped me to strengthen my relationship with my boyfriend. I mentioned how supportive and amazing he’s been. But I want to focus a bit more on the before and after story here and also clear up some common misconceptions about how the deaf/hoh community forms romantic relationships or engages in dating in general.
I had my first real boyfriend when I was 21. Sure, I technically had a boyfriend before then, but I don’t think it really counts (I was only 14…a freshman in high school and we hardly ever saw each other after school — not really “dating” per say). It was the first experience I’ve ever had with serious dating and how my hearing could effect my relationship. It was a terrible relationship. My boyfriend at the time treated me very poorly. If I didn’t like or agree with something he would violently shout at me. My hearing (or lack thereof) only made things a hundred times worst. He had no patience for me at all. If I needed something repeated, especially more than once, he’d get very frustrated at me and scream and make me feel bad. Our relationship ended up getting very verbally abusive, and after spending just 5 months in it I began to not only feel worthless and unloved, but scared. I did the smart thing and left the relationship before he had the chance to hurt me beyond what his words already did to me.
This night made me wish my cat was my date.
I had two more relationships after that. One was very short and ended simply because we were not on the same page. We had a 10 year age gap in between us and had different backgrounds, pasts, and ultimately, futures. Simply put, we were not going anywhere. My hearing didn’t make much of a difference in this relationship either way, most likely because the relationship started and ended all over the course of a month. However, I will say that he was not a bad person and we are still friends. In fact, he’s helped me out a little with my writing career by introducing me to other writers looking to talk to deaf/hoh individuals. Just like how with hearing people some relationships just lack chemistry and don’t work out, the same is true for the deaf/hoh community.
The deaf/hoh community is also not immune to drama, cheating, and heartbreak. In my third relationship, I had all three. My boyfriend at the time always seemed pretty supportive of my hearing impairment. Sometimes he would even share with me news stories about new technology and other articles about cool things happening in the deaf/HOH community. I fell in love with him int he craziest, most twisted love story imaginable. When our relationship was at it’s peak I learned that he wasn’t into it quite as much as I expected. He was actually cheating on me the whole time, and not just that — he was getting married to the girl he cheated on me with!
But just as any hearing person can fall in love, out of love, and in love harder than ever before, so too, can deaf and hoh individuals. And that is precisely what happened when I met my current boyfriend, Larry.
I think that when you meet the right person that you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with, you just know. That’s how I felt the first time I met Larry on OKCupid back in May of 2014. So I did what any girl would do when she falls hard for a boy and doesn’t know what he’s thinking or feeling — I got scared, freaked out, and ran away (okay, maybe no sane girl would do that…but I never said I was sane, did I?).
They say if it’s love to let it go, if it comes back it’s yours and that’s how you know.
I had to make a couple of mistakes before I could get it right. I think that’s true for most people in relationships whether they be hearing, hard of hearing, or deaf. That was definitely the case for me. But I did come back around, three months later and Larry was there waiting for me. We picked things up right where we left off. The past doesn’t even matter a bit.
This second time around I knew I was lucky. Most guys wouldn’t come back for a girl that has essentially abandoned them and left them in the cold with no explanation three months prior. But Larry’s different. I always knew that. That’s why I loved him. I made sure to hold on so tightly and never let go this time around.
Larry and I tell everyone we took things slow and took our time to develop a friendship before we got together. That’s kind of debatable though now when we both look at it. For me it was taking things slow compared to my last relationships. But we had our first day on September 1st and 12 days later made it official.
This was our first picture together, taken just a couple hours after we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend
One thing that is different for those who are hard of hearing/deaf and those who can hear when it comes to dating is first dates. I think they are always a bit nerve-wrecking for anyone, however even more so when you can’t hear. You not only have to worry about what you’re going to wear and not sounding stupid, but you have to worry about your hearing, too. Normally when I am planning a first date with someone I stress about picking a good place. Movies aren’t good because of course you can’t really talk, getting caption glasses are a bit of a hassle and very awkward especially for a first date, and without caption glasses I can’t hear anything at all. The mall is so much loud noise I couldn’t even hear myself think. Dinner seems pretty safe, but even that called for much stress and anxiety because I always had to choose a place that was almost guaranteed to be quiet — which when you’re planning a date on a Saturday night seems nearly impossible. It definitely can’t be a place with a bar, that’s for sure.
It took me about 3 weeks to figure out what to wear for our first date…this was the result.
With Larry choosing a place wasn’t as hard as it was for most people I’ve dated in the past. I knew I wouldn’t something laid back and fun so we could be comfortable. Chuck E. Cheese was my dream first date place, but I could never convince anyone else that it was a good idea and Larry was no different. So I compromised and chose my second choice place — Nifty Fifties.
I had been to Nifty Fifties for the first time a few weeks prior for my mom’s birthday and did okay with being able to hear. Not 100%, but compared to most restaurants I did okay so I thought I’d be able to get by pretty well.
Larry and I’s first date unexpectedly ended up falling on Labor Day, and it couldn’t have worked out better for us. I guess not many people think of going to Nifty Fifties for Labor Day. We were some of the only people there. It was quiet and I could hear him fairly well, even after lunch when we went outside to play mini golf. My nerves went away pretty quickly and he became my best friend within about 2 minutes of meeting him.
It’s safe to say after that initial date the question wasn’t “Will there be a 2nd date?”, but rather… “When can I see you again?” .
I’d love to say that all of our dates, especially pre-cochlear implant, were as easy as that initial first date. But that most certainly was not the case. As I wrote yesterday, bowling pre-cochlear implant, which is what we chose to do for our 2nd date, was a bit of a challenge. We couldn’t really talk at all and it got a bit frustrating. However, unlike my first ex, Larry never got mad at me for not being able to hear. He always looked for ways to help me and support me. He never once yelled at me, belittled me, or made me feel worthless. He always did what any great boyfriend should do — loved me.
Larry and I have been through a lot in the 11 and a half months that we’ve been together. We seen the strength of our relationship tested time and time again, even before we started dating! Within just a couple of days of us reconnecting, I began seriously considering getting my cochlear implant. From day one he was always very supportive of me saying, “No matter what you choose I’ll support you every step of the way”.
Of course, when you’re in a new relationship and everything is going well you really want to believe that, but you can never really be so sure. People say they are going to do things all the time, but that doesn’t mean they will do them or that they really truly believe that. Take for instance the case with my first ex. He told me he loved me, that he’d always be there for me, and he’d never hurt me. I believe our relationship turned abusive within three months or less of dating. Needless to say, his words were all a bunch of empty lies.
But it was different with Larry. He not only said it, he proved it.
I got scared a lot especially as things started to move forward more and more with my surgery. When I got down to about a week before my surgery I panicked frequently. I would sometimes text Larry in tears asking him things like “Are you sure you’ll still love me if I do this? Do you realize I’ll have a magnet stuck to my head? Will you promise to help me with this?” He always assured me he’d help me through everything — we are Awesome Sauce and Applesauce — and more than that we are teammates — we get through everything together.
Awesome Sauce and Applesauce, forever teammates, forever lovers.
Larry always got so happy and excited for me whenever I had a new update. He was always working when I had my appointments, but he was always the first one to get the news. He wanted me to get my cochlear every bit as much as I did if not more. Larry also always helped me to be confident and more positive. When I would get scared and wonder whether I was making the right decision or if the cochlear would even work Larry always reassured me that it was God’s will and that everything would work out great and he was always right.
After my surgery Larry stayed true to his word and was always by my side. He was on the road throughout the week, but he always texted me whenever he could and visited me on the weekend. The first time he visited me after my surgery he bought me flowers, a card, and a small stuffed animal to cheer me up. I was very self conscious about my appearance since I had part of my head shaved, a ton of stitches, and was unable to watch or comb my hair, but he always told me I looked beautiful…and they weren’t just words — he meant and proved every word of it.
When you look like this and your boyfriend still calls you beautiful, you know you’ve got a keeper.
Healing after my surgery was a process and presented some challenges for us in our relationship. For one I got dizzy and drowsy a lot for the first couple of weeks. I couldn’t stay awake for long periods of time or even really sit up at all. The first couple of times he came over post-surgery our visits were very short because I’d fall asleep straight away or get dizzy. He also had to wait over a month before kissing me. We were both too afraid that I might get hurt if I tried to kiss him, especially since it hurt to move my mouth due to the pressure it put on my ear. But he didn’t complain not once, he understood and stood by and supported me.
Post-activation was and is a whole nother new journey for us. Unlike how most YouTube videos show it, I didn’t just get switched on and have everything perfect — I had to really learn how to hear things. I had my mom working with me on different words and sounds and Larry working with me a bit more on general communication — my phone skills to be more specific. He made me overcome my fear of the phone by calling him on a daily basis. This was essential for us since he is a truck driver and can’t text and drive for obvious reasons.
Larry and I definitely had our share of laughs with my cochlear, too, especially in the beginning. A cochlear implant is a magnet — so like most magnets, it’s going to stick to metal. My boyfriend has a metal truck. My cochlear implant can and does get stuck to it on a regular basis. There’s been many times when at the end of a date we stood outside of his truck, kissed each other good by, went to move and somehow my head ended up getting stuck on his car door. These times were never awkward, but funny. I think that when you can laugh at things like that in a relationship and not get embarrassed or feel awkward, it’s a sign that you’re in the right relationship.
We’ve enjoyed the journey of discovery together as well. Larry can hear anything normally, but he gets a kick out of watching me because he knows that it’s new for me. He’s not selfish in what he can hear, but rather, he wants to share it all with me. When I first got activated it was almost like a game for us. He played me bagpipes, celtic music, native american indian music, let me listen to the sound of coin change falling, and bought me a couple of rubber duckies (which currently live on my desk at work to make me smile during hard days) to listen to because I was so amused by the sound of the squeaking. When he went on vacation he even bought me back a bell as a souvenir because I was so amused by the sound since it was something I could never hear prior to getting my cochlear implant.
These ducks now live on my desk at work and make me smile whenever I look up at them and remember why I have them…
I realized that throughout my cochlear implant journey (which is far from over — in fact, I don’t think this is something that can ever really end in my life, it’s constantly expanding), I not only fell in love with Larry and enjoyed celebrating victories, sharing nerves, anxiety, and all of the roller coaster of emotions it gave me, but Larry fell in love with me, too. The things that would’ve seemed like a hassle or a problem with other people are nothing for Larry. Larry never minds having to help me adjust my cochlear, holding my case for me when I need to take it off for amusement park rides, or just being a source of comfort for me when I need it. He realizes that it’s all a part of his job as my boyfriend, and this is a job that he is very proud of and I don’t think he would want things any other way.
There are some things in life that are universal. We all live, we all die. We all smile, we all bleed. We hurt, and above all, we love. Sure, being deaf/hoh and/or getting a cochlear implant may change many things in your life, but it doesn’t change your ability to fall in love. And it most certainly does not make you love-less or unworthy of love. When you find the right person, they will love your for the person you are, not for your ability (or lack thereof) to hear or even the devices you use to hear. They will love you for you, every single inch of it. And that’s exactly what I found in Larry.
Reasons I need to come up with a new nickname for Larry: “Knight in Shining Armor” is too long to use for bowling….
My boyfriend, Larry swears we’ve been bowling since I got my cochlear. But I know, for a fact, that he is wrong (“I know for a fact” is my catchphrase by the way :)). I double checked this blog — nope. No mention of going bowling with a cochlear implant. I also know, for a fact, that that is something I would’ve blogged about before if it happened.
Actually, come to think of it, if you consider what we did during our Disney vacation at that cool McDonalds to be “bowling”, then Larry would be right..but nope, that doesn’t count (sorry, Larry).
Sorry, Larry…this was a lot of fun, but it doesn’t count as “real” bowling…
Anyway, back to the point. My boyfriend and I went bowling together on August 9th. Larry comes from a family of bowlers. He is a huge bowling nerd and I love to make fun of him for it. He’s one of those guys with his own shoes (which are actually broken…), bowling balls (yes, that is plural…one of those he managed to break as well. Larry…what’s wrong with you? Breaking all of your equipment…), the whole 9 yards. Yet, despite him coming from a family of bowlers, we don’t really go bowling all that much. I blame it on the fact that bowling’s gotten a bit expensive over the years and also Larry’s a truck driver — he’s home about twice a month, max, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for us to see each other, let alone bowl together.
My boyfriend is my best friend. Not only is he my best friend, he’s pretty much my only friend right now. Or at least, my only “real” friend that I make an effort to see in real life instead of just talking to on Facebook or Twitter (I know that sounds kind of sad, but it is what it is). When he’s not home it’s not like I go out with other friends and do things like bowling.
When you’re the best of friends having so much fun together…
So, prior to us going bowling on August 9th, the last time we went bowling was before my surgery. Actually, to be precise, it was November 15, 2014…two days prior to receiving my implant.
Bowling with Larry is always fun. Like I said, he is a bowling nerd. I get a kick out of just watching him bowl. He’s got the whole “old school grandpa” form and everything. I like to tease him and tell him it looks like he’s dancing when he’s bowling because it really does.
Unlike Larry, I am not blessed with impressive bowling skills. Actually, just the opposite. If I bowl a 60 then I’ve had a great time. 35 is about my average. The sad part? I actually took a college course on bowling…
The few times we went bowling before Larry always tried to help me out, but it was difficult. First, as we already established, I really suck at bowling. Second, bowling alleys are VERY LOUD. Naturally. You have the balls, the pins, the music, people talking, the workers on the loud speakers, everything. Prior to getting my cochlear, everything just sounded like loud noise. I couldn’t distinguish any of it.
Larry and I really couldn’t have a conversation at the bowling alley prior to me getting my implant because I couldn’t hear him at all. If he wanted to tell me something he had to text me even though I was right there with him (and yes, that did get very annoying). When he tried to help me out with my bowling he had to rely a lot on hand singles and using his body to show me where to stand, how to hold and throw the ball. Yes, he’d have to do this even if I could have heard, but not quite to this extent. I never learned sign language, but this was like Larry and I creating our own form of it as we went along.
I think it’s safe to say that bowling with my cochlear implant was much more fun that bowling without it.
None of these problems with noise were prevalent at all, and we went on one of the loudest possible nights to go bowling…not only was it a Saturday night, but it was actually National Bowling Day. Just like any normal bowling alley would do, the one we went to (Brunswick in Turnersville) had quite a bit of a celebration for it. To be more specific, they actually decided to throw a bowling party that night.
National Bowling Day goodies that we won from cheating because of course…
When we went in to buy our games and get our shoes I had a nice conversation with one of the workers. He was an old guy and I’ve seen him there many times before. I always thought he was a very nice guy. I was amazed at how well I could hear him despite all of the background noise. I don’t think I have ever actually really been able to hear the people at the bowling alley like that before. I pretty much always just told Larry my shoe size and any other information I needed ahead of time so he could answer for me. This time I could hear the guy well, but he couldn’t hear me. It was pretty weird being on the flip side of it. The guy told me that he lost some of his hearing and couldn’t hear very well since he had a stroke. I explained to him that I was born hearing impaired and have lived all my life without hearing so I understood what it was like. Conversations like that are always nice to have with people.
After I got my shoes and Larry got his on and his bowl out we were able to get started with our night of bowling. One of the first things I noticed was that I could hear the music. I always knew that bowling alleys played music of course, but it’s been many many years since I’ve actually been able to hear that music and understand it, let along sing along with it. The last couple of times that Larry and I have went bowling today I remember feeling a bit jealous because he could hear the music and understand it and I couldn’t. He didn’t try to make me jealous, of course, but I couldn’t help but feel that way. He was sad for me. He would point out which song was playing or say how he liked it and would ask me if I could hear it but the answer was always “no”. It felt so nice to be able to hear this night and enjoy it. It was the first small victory of the night.
He’s smiling like that because I was tickling him…and then he started to tickle me…so we ruined this picture too.
When we got our shoes the people at the counter gave us a sheet of paper with some questions on it for National Bowling Day. They were having a contest that people could enter to win some prizes. The contest was really just a little quiz with some questions about bowling like “How long are bowling lanes?” and some questions about basic bowling terminology. Larry knew the answer to most of them, and of course we cheated and googled the ones we didn’t know. It was a lot of fun working through it together. As we discussed the questions and our answers together I paused for a moment and said, “Wow, I can hear you. I don’t think we’ve been bowling since I got my cochlear”. Larry said we have, but I knew we haven’t (and I was right so HA!). It was a nice feeling!
It took us way too long to get this normal picture…and I almost kind of ruined it by laughing.
Larry was able to “help” me with my bowling quite a bit too. And I say “help” because I am beyond the ability of being helped when it comes to bowling lol. He definitely tried though and it was a lot easier since I could hear him. I didn’t have to constantly say “what?” or say “I can’t hear you”.
We were at the bowling alley for several hours so we ordered a pizza to split for dinner. That was another interesting experience for me. Not only was I able to hear the worker taking our order, but I could hear her far better than she could hear him. I’ll be honest and admit that I actually was getting frustrated with her for not being able to hear me. I hate when I get frustrated at people for not being able to hear me especially since I know all too well how mad I used to get for not hearing people and then having them get mad at me for it. It was definitely an interesting feeling to be on the opposite side of that though…I never thought I’d see that day come.
I don’t think that bowling is something many people think of as needing to hear for, but you’d be surprised by how much more enjoyable it is when you can hear. Not only that, but it’s more enjoyable when you can hear the sounds for what they are and distinguish between them all rather than just hearing a bunch of loud noise. It’s yet another activity I can add to the list of things that have been more enjoyable since getting my implant.
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.
Larry and I in front of Cinderella’s Castle on our first day in Disney
You may have read my recent blog post on how airport security can be a traumatizing experience for cochlear implant recipients. That was a bit of a preview for this post, since I was traveling to Disney, after all.
You may also be wondering how Disney World compares to Six Flags, which I also recently wrote about, in terms of deaf-friendliness. To say it simply: it’s awesome. It’s so awesome. I liked Six Flags, but Disney was so much better.
I went to Disney World 7 years ago on my high school senior trip. However, the trip wasn’t very enjoyable since it was over 100 degrees every day of the trip. I got very overheated, dehydrated, and down-right sick. I also didn’t have my cochlear implant at the time. This trip was totally different, and I mean that in the best way possible.
My first day in Disney on my senior trip 7 years ago before I go thoroughly sick. Can you find me?
I went on the trip with my boyfriend and his family. I’ve been with my boyfriend for 8 months now. You guys have heard quite a bit about him. He’s been amazing to me and very supportive of both my general hearing loss and my cochlear implant. He’s also a truck driver so he’s on the road a lot. Having an entire a week together is more time for us together than we usually get in 2 months. It was a very exciting time for us. Also, my 25th birthday also fell during the trip, so it was a very exciting time for us.
Disney is very deaf-friendly. It’s very friendly, period. And there is SO MUCH stuff to hear. In Magic Kingdom, there is always some kind of a parade going on. With a lot of music. Which I could actually hear and understand. Other parks like Epcot had a lot of bands that would play music out in the street/sidewalks. Larry and I were constantly humming/singing along, and snapping our fingers and even dancing along to the music. It was so much fun especially for me since I knew it was something I never could’ve done prior to getting my cochlear.
Minnie Mouse and King Louie from one of the first parades we saw in Magic Kingdom on our first day at Disney. Minutes later we were greeted by a cast member who sang/danced with us and gave us all special pins. I got a birthday pin, Larry got a celebration/first visit pin, and Alyssa and Brayerton got engagement pins.
There were also many shows that we went to. We went to everything from The Lion King Festival of Life:
To a dolphin show at Epcot:
To shows about The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Rio, a comedy show from the characters of Monsters, Inc., and everything in between. I did see a few shows when I went on my senior trip 7 years ago, but not nearly as many and I really couldn’t hear or understand a word that was said. Now with my cochlear I was able to hear and understand just about every single word! Certainly made for more enjoyable shows for me!
Larry and I in Animal Kingdom
Another thing that was cool that we did on this trip that we didn’t do on my senior trip is go to Animal Kingdom. Ever since I got my implant I really wanted to go to the zoo to hear all of the animals. This is something that Larry and I wanted to do for like our third date going back to September, but it never actually happened. Well, we didn’t go to the zoo exactly, but we did go on Animal safari, so close enough right?
A real-life version of Pumba
I can never remember what these things are called…
Real-life version of Dumbo
Unfortunately, the animals didn’t make as much noise as I thought they would. There wasn’t much to hear from them except for the birds. Some of them got loud but it was less annoying than usual since I heard the noise they really make, which sounds much better than they distorted sounds I heard prior to getting my cochlear.
Another thing I really liked about Disney is that I was able to keep my cochlear on for about 90% of the rides. This definitely made it more enjoyable since so many of the rides are interactive. I was able to hear what was being said or what was happening on most of the rides and still converse with my boyfriend.
This was one of my favorite rides when I went on my senior trip 7 years ago. I don’t remember what it’s called, but it has Buzz Lightyear and you get a gun to shoot at things. I loved it much more this time around since I was able to hear everything!
This is from the Mexican boat ride in Epcot. It was one of my favorite rides since it was so romantic. They played a bit of music and since I had my cochlear and was able to keep it on, I was able to hear it!
On my birthday we took the ferry to get from Epcot to Magic Kingdom. Upon seeing my birthday pin, a guy went on the loud speaker and said “Happy Birthday, Kimberly!” it was so cool! I never would’ve been able to hear it prior to getting my cochlear.
There were a few rides that I had to take my cochlear off for, but even then it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have to worry about needing a locker or leaving my cochlear/hearing aid with someone else who wasn’t going on the ride. All I had to do was put them all in the case, put the case in my bag, and keep my bag on the floor of the ride. Way easier than Six Flags, that’s for sure. It made it so that Larry and I could still talk while waiting in line. Some of those conversations while we were waiting in line ended up being my favorite part of the trip!
Sometimes we talked while waiting in line. Other times we played games. Then there were the times when Larry narrowly avoided being eaten by a dinosaur and his girlfriend took pictures instead of helping him…
The only ride where I really wish I could’ve kept my cochlear on for is Rocking Roller Coaster. This is one of my top 5 favorite rides. I love roller coasters and I like Aerosmith. This rollercoaster plays Aerosmith music. However, it’s too extreme for me to leave my hearing aid and cochlear on for. So I had to take it out and wasn’t able to hear the music. It didn’t change the fact that the roller coaster is still pretty awesome though. I can’t complain too much.
Larry and I in front of Rocking Roller Coaster. This old guy definitely photobombed us. There’s actually two pictures…and he photobombed us in both of them. 😦
My Disney vacation was absolutely incredible and I believe that my cochlear definitely helped to enhance the experience for me. Disney definitely gets an A+ for deaf friendliness. Although I enjoyed Six Flags, I think they could learn a thing or two from Disney when it comes to accessibility and deaf friendliness.
Hey guys! Sorry for the lack of updates lately. Been crazy busy with work lately and a lot of exciting things going on in my personal life. But I have tons of updates and I’m planning to break them up in a couple of posts for you guys. Actually, planning to write several posts at once right now and schedule them out on different days for publication. I’ve actually been sick all week and in bed. I’m not 100%, but definitely beginning to feel better today and I’m getting really sick of staying in bed watching movies all day, so now will be a good time for me to knock out a few of the posts. :).
On April 18th I went to Six Flags with my boyfriend and his family. This is the first time I’ve been to Six Flags since I was in high school 7 or 8 years ago. It was also my first amusement park trip since getting my cochlear implant. Needless to say I was both very excited and a nervous.
The biggest concern I had was how to store my cochlear and my hearing aid. I knew that the rides at Six Flags could definitely be a bit extreme. Sure, not ALL of the rides are, but my boyfriend and I are all about harder, faster, and intense when it comes to our rides. We wanted to go on as many different roller coasters as possible. My hearing aids could never stand a chance on these coasters and my cochlear most definitely couldn’t.
I tried asking some people in one of the cochlear implant groups I joined on Facebook what they do and if they knew anything about the lockers. Unfortunately, they were a lot less helpful that I was expecting them to be. Most people said to just shove it in my pocket. Others said to wear it — it would be cool to hear what the roller coaster actually sounded like. I didn’t agree with either of these ideas. I mean, my cochlear implant (which was covered by insurance, thank god!) was well over $10,000. You lose it and you can’t exactly replace it. Needless to say, I didn’t want to take any chances with it,
I decided to call Six Flags directly to get some information on the lockers. I was really hoping to speak to someone to find out if I could possibly get a discount or something on the lockers. I remembered back in high school that they had lockers located right by the roller coasters and they were a couple of dollars a piece to use. A couple of dollars doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly if you plan to go on many rides and need a locker for each one. The other option was to use one of the main lockers located by the entrance gate for the day. The only problem with that is then I wouldn’t have my cochlear for the times when I wasn’t on rides. I wanted to be able to interact with my boyfriend and his family, too!
Unfortunately, calling Six Flags really didn’t get me anywhere either. I couldn’t even talk to a human. It was all completely automated. The information they were able to give me about the lockers was nothing more than what I already knew. Pretty disappointing. I realized all I could do was just go and figure it all out when I got there.
I’m very blessed to have a great boyfriend who really cares about me and always watches out for me. Part of him caring and watching out for me is making sure that everything with my cochlear is always taken care of. While my boyfriend and I are huge roller coaster people (we did stand in line for over 2 hours just to ride Kingda Ka that day after all…which was well worth the wait), his mom and little sister are not. We were able to give my cochlear and hearing aid to his mom to hold for me while we went on rides. This was by far our best option.
My boyfriend gets a bit crazy when he goes to Six Flags. That’s why I love him. 😉
We did try to get a locker. Six Flags does offer a bit if a discount — I believe it was $20 for 6 lockers that can be transferred from ride to ride or something? The only problem? The machines don’t like to take money. They take the first few dollars and then they die. And you can’t get your money back until the end of the day. Not cool, Six Flags. Not cool.
If you have a person you can give your cochlear off to like I did, it’s still the best option though. Because then, so long as you stay with that person, you can always put it back on after the ride is over and converse with others. You don’t really miss out on anything. I was also able to hear the music Six Flags plays. This was very amusing to me. I actually never knew Six Flags played music in their park since I could never hear it before!
Six Flags isn’t the easiest park in the world to get around if you have a cochlear implant and/or a hearing aid, but so long as you have a plan, you can manage.
June 6th is actually Deaf Awareness Day at Six Flags Great Adventure. Is anyone going? If Larry isn’t working and if the weather is nice we may try to go. My boyfriend and his family actually have season passes, so we’re definitely planning on taking a few more trips to Six Flags this summer. I’ll definitely tell you guys of my experiences!