I wrote a story, an essay, and submitted it for publication in an actual print magazine.  Actually, I pitched my story idea, it was accepted and I was left with the daunting task of having to not only write it, but meet a deadline.

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s been harder than I thought to write about cochlear implant journey. I kind of felt like it quickly become a non-event after I got over the novelty of it. My cochlear implant device, the Kanso,  a part of me now– not any separate from me than,  say, my ears themselves.   Though, I have to admit, I don’t always put it on first thing when I wake up like I do my glasses.  After a night of silence, it can be jarring to re-enter the world, with all it’s little noises.

Anyway, back to the essay.  I had to go to pen and paper to write this essay. I wrote two or three versions of it, then picked one to work with. The theme of the issue was Transformation. When I originally pitched my story idea, I was thinking of some grand transformation vis a vis my cochlear implant, but the more I thought about it and tried to write about it, the more I realized that I didn’t have this HUGE HUGE transformation. I had a series of little transformations that added up to this amazing life change. 

So, did I have this wildly amazing and dramatic transformation? Have you seen those videos on YouTube of babies and other people having their cochlear implant turned on for the first time?  Those videos really tug at heartstrings. How amazing to hear your mother’s voice for the first time or hear someone say I love you. That was not my experience. But don’t feel bad for me! It was still exciting to hear those electronic beeps and boops and know that my brain was working hard to turn all that noise into something meaningful.
The dramatic transformation was in the small details of my life, little things that a hearing person takes for granted. Conversation across the room. Listening to an interview on NPR. Ordering take-out over the phone. All the noisy appliances in my house that cycle on and off all day long. My loud children. (I knew they were loud but I had no idea how loud!)

To read the rest, you’ll have to buy the print magazine or the digital version (only $5!). You can buy it at

I hope you like it. I’d love to hear from you after you read it. 

My Cochlear Implant Story: Part Two

Why a Cochlear Implant? Well, why not?

But let me back up. I had a list of reasons that kept me from getting a cochlear implant sooner.
1. Too old.
2. Too invasive.
3. Doing alright with my existing set-up.
It’s a pretty short list, yeah but I guess the whole list was also shrouded in fear, even if I didn’t want to admit it.
My mother, an AuD, had been urging me for a few years to think about getting a cochlear implant. I usually mumbled something along the lines of “sure, sure, maybe, someday,” which meant…well, never, really.
Finally, I agreed to go for a consultation at NYU. I knew the technology had come a long way, and my hearing was rapidly deteriorating. I let my mother make the appointment for me because why not? Just because I’m in my late 30s, doesn’t mean I can’t let my mother do stuff for me, right?! Mom came down to the city and together, we went to talk to Dr. Shapiro. After that consultation, I was more on board with the idea, especially after I found out I didn’t have to shave my head to get the implant. (Don’t give me side-eye. I know what you’re thinking but I have enough problems without having to walk around with a half-shaved head.)

To determine candidacy for an implant, I was evaluated by another audiologist at NYU (hi, Laurel!). It was your standard hearing testing, just longer and more thorough. One of the tests determined speech discrimination.

What’s the opposite of passing with flying colors? Failing with drooping, sagging colors? I listened to an audio recording of a nice fellow saying “Ready?,” followed by a sentence I needed to process and repeat. Of the ten sentences, I understood one: “The train is leaving the station.” And something about a banana.
Yup, right ear: useless. With an aid, I did not do much better, as far as speech discrimination goes.

May 9th:

A month after the surgery, my implant was activated. In those YouTube videos with people getting their implants turned on, it always seems amazing! And it is!  But you know…it wasn’t like that for me. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for 34 years, so sound is not new for me, the way it is for people who have never heard anything. The activation appointment was exciting but not overwhelming. Laurel, my audiologist at NYU, tested my speech discrimination on activation day and I couldn’t really make out anything. What was REALLY exciting was the appointment where Laurel tested my speech discrimination again and I actually understood what she was saying–sounds, words, phrases, sentences. It wasn’t 100% but it was pretty good and a vast improvement over that first day.

There were also moments like this:

Screenshot of Facebook post about hearing crickets for the first time with cochlear implants
Yesterday, I heard a cicada for the first time, which my sister identified for me. It seems like such a small thing, hearing these sounds of nature but for someone who has never heard them, it’s a whole new world. These moments make me feel vindicated in my decision to get the cochlear implant.  A speech therapist I met with at Rusk Institute kept calling it a “baby brain,” and it really is, because so much is new for my brain.  The brain, you guys, is amazing and I never knew just HOW amazing the brain was until I got this implant. Just incredible.

Want to know more about how the cochlear implant work its’ magic? Check out this video from Cochlear America:

My Cochlear Implant Story, Part One.

I have a pretty little clay bowl that my mom’s friend Sonny gave me last year. It took me a while to figure out how best to use it because it’s too precious to dirty up with food. It finally landed on top of my dresser, as a catch-all for my jewelry, which I take off nightly. I also keep my eyeglasses and hearing aids in it. 
On Sunday night, I dropped my right hearing aid in it for the final time. 
The following morning, I was up at 4am, waiting to be picked up by my dad and sister, ready to take me to NYU for what seemed to be the next logical step in this journey I’ve been on since I was born. 
A video posted by The Real Nani (@the_real_nani) on

A photo posted by The Real Nani (@the_real_nani) on

By 7:15, I was in the OR, with a mask over my face and counting down to sleep. 
I woke up some hours later with a huge bandage over my right ear, to a friendly nurse offering me water for my parched throat. 

A photo posted by The Real Nani (@the_real_nani) on

I guess I’ll call this Cochlear Implant: Part One. The surgery was a huge step but it’s not the most important step. That comes about a month from now, when the device is activated. As nerve-wracking as surgery is, it pales in comparison to the anxiety of waiting to find out what kind of effect, if any at all, the surgery will have.

Some things about how I’m feeling:

  1. When I burp, my ear pops. 
  2. I’m not supposed to blow my nose vigorously during the initial recovery period. Anyone who knows me knows this is impossible for me. But the stars have aligned this week, and I’ve suffered no allergy attacks since coming home, and therefore, have no need to blow my nose. 
  3. I wore no hearing aid at all for the first day or so of being home. I don’t know why. The silence was nice, though I’m sure it was annoying for everyone around me. 
  4. My bandage very quickly become a security blanket of sorts. I was hesitant to take it off and afraid of what would be underneath. 
  5. But I did take it off, on day 2, with Henry’s help. My ear is banged up, bruised and swollen but not nearly as monstrous as I thought it might look. When it looks prettier, I’ll show you a picture. 
  6. On Day 2, I was able to putter around a bit before feeling light-headed and going back to bed. Today, Day 3, I made lunch for the kids, and put together end-of-year gifts for the hebrew school teachers before I had to go back to bed. Progress. 
  7. Right now, the tip of my ear is numb and the inside of my ear feels stiff. But I don’t feel much pain, just soreness and discomfort. 
  8. I was sent home with Vicodin which is always fun. I’ve taken it twice so far, to help me sleep. 
  9. With or without the Vicodin, all this napping is giving me some funky dreams, and not really pleasantly funky either. 
  10. For the next few weeks, my brain will have no input from the right ear, not that it had much to begin with. Then, there’ll be lots of input. We’ll see how that goes. 
  11. Bonus: While I was writing this, I got an email from my audiologist with an order form attached, asking what kind of equipment I wanted and in what color.  I guess it’s time to countdown to activation day. 
PS I know some of you wanted to know why and how I made this decision, but that’s another blog post and I’ll do it, promise. xo