Friday, 16 August 2013
One year on
I've done it! Almost a year on and with my implant still in place – I have to say, I LOVE it!
I had my final check up this week, just to check things over and see how I was getting on. I also had to do some speaking and listening tests.
For my speaking tests, I was filmed and presented with several different scenarios. For example, I was given six pictures and had to talk about what was happening in each one. Another was reading out a conversation between two people and so on. They use these trials to determine whether my speech has improved as a result of the change in my hearing.
We then moved on to some singing, "pitching" sounds starting from low to as high as I could get, and then from high to low. This was quite funny to do in front of the camera. As you might imagine, it's difficult to pitch a note if you can't hear yourself so I was being assessed to see whether I've improved since having the implant. I mentioned to them that I can hear my voice more now and feel I have more control over it. I know I sound a bit quieter too when I talk.
I was asked if I had done singing lessons. I answered no, but I'm thinking, shall I give it a go?
For my listening tests, I had to face a speaker, listen to several sentences and repeat them back. The sentences were random like "the letter landed on the mat", "the children went to the bus stop". When I did this test before having the implant, I heard nothing. With my implant, I got about half right. I was really pleased. I still have time to improve.
I've been encouraged to use the telephone, which I do use, although rarely, but more than I have done over the years. However, I'm happy not to use the telephone unless I'm making the effort or have to. However, the option is there and I know what to say if I can't make sense of what is being said. I ask the caller to repeat but in a different way so that my brain has time to try and figure out what they're trying to say.
We went away on holiday to Ibiza last week and had a lovely time. Addenbrookes were great. They sent me two letters for the security people at the airports, explaining that I have a cochlear implant and can't pass through metal detectors; one in English, another in Spanish.
They also provided me with a replacement processor (they bit behind my ear) via MED-EL, the implant manufacturer, just in case anything went wrong with my one.
At the airport security on departing the UK, I had almost forgotten what I was supposed to do as I was more concerned about a poor mother in front of me. She had several bottles of suncream in her hand luggage and wasn't allowed to take through onto the plane. The security guard grabbed them and dumped them in a bin. I suddenly realised that I needed to let them know I had an implant and wondered if she was going to make things difficult for me?
It all went smoothly, and there were no problems when coming back home from Ibiza. All very straight forward.
On the aeroplane I took my implant out, only because it was very noisy. My ears did pop a few times so I was glad I had packed some chewing gum and sweets.
When I say I LOVE my implant, it's not because it's one big miracle and that I'm "hearing" again. It's because it feels lighter, clearer, more hassle-free (from my old hearing aids) and it's also given me back some confidence. I also love the fact that I no longer have to worry that my hearing will degenerate as I get older – something that I had been worried about over the years. The level of hearing I have now will always stay the same, perhaps even improve slightly. It's up to me to carry on improving and I will persevere.
Don't get me wrong though, I do still have some difficult days. Especially when I'm surrounded by so many people talking at once and there is a lot of noise going on in the background. This could be children, or traffic or whatever there is. Sounds echo in the spaces like the kitchen for example and trying to listen to people talking is still really hard. There's only so much I can take when being with a lot of people and I've now learnt that when I'm tired, it means my brain has had enough and I need some quiet. It's only because so much sound is going into my head and it gets a bit too much. As long as people are aware, it makes it easier for me.
I've stayed in touch with a lot of my friends from my school days and gained new friends too, particularly those who are either considering an implant, and those who have already had it done. I've also lost some friends because they have their own views and dislike the fact that I had the implant done. Do I mind? Not really but I shall say no more about it.
When people ask me about the cochlear implant, I make sure that I'm not biased and I answer their questions as best as I can. I talk about my experiences and mention my blog to them. I do say everyone is different and that it doesn't work for everyone in the same way. I like to feel I'm there for them, in whatever decision they decide to take.
So, the first year is over. It's been a huge challenge. I wonder what my next one should be...