One year ago today, I went to the Johns Hopkins Listening Center in Baltimore so I could get a cochlear implant. It wasn't a difficult operation--I've suffered way more having a tooth pulled at the dentist's office. I spent the night in a great little hotel in Baltimore, too, not the hospital.
But what a difference a year makes! This morning, I've spent the past hour or so on the phone, chatting first with Cathy, then Peggy and Sean over in Scotland, then Sally (who was on the way to get bagels and will call back soon).
Last year after the implant i couldn't hear a thing. (They didn't turn it on for another six weeks, and they suggested that I not wear a hearing aid on the other ear.)
Yesterday I had lunch with a delightful young audiologist who is testing adult CI users to see which kinds of rehab listening exercises work best. She told me the results of my initial testing session two weeks ago and was feeling a little chagrined. I did so well--getting virtually 100% on every test, meaning I heard dang near everything--that she either has to kick me off the research or get permission from the university to redesign the research (make it harder to listen) for me.
Last April, on the day they activated my CI, one of the first things I heard was birds in the Listening Center driveway. I also heard the doorman's whistle when he summoned a cab for us. Sally and Cathy went with me to Baltimore for turn-on day, and on the train home, I could hear them talking, but it did not sound like human speech. When I got home, all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing and the rustle of my clothing when I moved. This year, my brain has learned to ignore these very basic background sounds unless I pay attention to them specifically. Instead, I can hear the radiator hissing beside me and the birds singing in the tree outside my window, and traffic on the street out front. I can hear somebody walking down the stairs to the lobby, and I've got the phone in my lap for when Sally calls back.
I remember how scared I was at the prospect of that operation, and how impatient I was when it didn't seem the process was working fast enough. Now I take it for granted that I can hear. It's nice to have days like today when I can remember how it used to be when I could not hear so I can give thanks now that I can.