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.
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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:
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: