Monday, October 20, 2008

Opportunity Knocks

Through the years, I have always been open about my hearing loss. The last ten years or so, I’d put up my hair into a ponytail whenever I could. I was “comfortable” with that. That way people could see that I was wearing hearing aids, that is, if they were paying attention. Then I didn’t have to explain why I didn’t hear them. I could point to my very visible evidence of my hearing loss and say, “I’m deaf or hard-of-hearing.” It’s such an invisible disability and most people aren’t exposed to people with hearing loss. Most of them make the mistake of raising their voices in such a way that it just becomes “noise” to me. It causes their speech to become even more distorted and incomprehensible. “Just talk like you normally would, only clearer,” I’d tell them.

When I lost the ability to hear speech in my left ear with a hearing aid (HA), my right ear took up the slack. Two years ago I was shocked to see how bad my hearing loss got, for both ears. That was why I did my homework on CIs (cochlear implants) and contacted a lot of people who had CIs. I gleaned a lot of information from other bloggers who wrote about their CI journey. I even did a research paper on the controversy of CIs and Deaf culture. (It had to be an argumentive paper, though it did help me learn about how a CI works and what it can do.)

Right after I was activated with my new CI, I was still open about my deafness. I didn’t care if anyone saw me wearing hearing aids or my CI. Sure, there were times when I did wear my hair down, but it takes a lot of time to style it and I feel like “me” with a ponytail.

I was thinking about the Biblical times when Jesus performed miracles, such as curing a man of his deafness. The man could instantly hear. I was wondering if that man could instantly recognize everything he could hear. Did it take time for him to adjust to hear? I’d like to think that it was instantaneous. It was miraculous. It was done by the power of God. The CI is a man-made modern day miracle, but a miracle nonetheless. It isn’t a cure. Some people have better results than others. I pray that they, too, will hear better with time.

Yesterday, I had pork tenderloin simmering in the slowcooker and I was out of a Hubby-veggie: Potatoes. My refrigerator is almost empty. I am badly in need of a trip to the grocery store. I know that Hubby will be taking me there sometime this week. :)

So I told Hubby that I was going to run to the gas station and get a potato. Yep. I went there to just get a 19 cent potato. LOL. As I was walking down the sidewalk, I hear a woman’s voice say, “Ma’am.” (Doesn’t that make you feel old? Winks. Yeah, I admit it’s better than “Hey you!!” LOL).

Anyway, I turned to look at her, thinking to myself, did I forget my change or my sunglasses at the counter? Nope. Then she said, “Are you wearing a cochlear implant?”

No one asked me that before. I’ve been wearing it for almost two months!! I’ve asked Flare if anyone stared at my ears at the stores or anything and she always said that she didn’t notice anyone staring. Maybe people didn’t know what they were looking at, didn’t want to ask, didn’t notice, or just minded their own business.

I guess I blinked for a split-second, in shock. She knew what a CI was. Granted, people who don’t know about CIs would assume it was a hearing aid or maybe even a bluetooth if they didn’t really know too much about bluetooths, either. After all, some people have had their CIs stolen off their heads by thieves thinking it was a bluetooth. .

She said she saw me walking by and spotted my CI. She just had to ask me. Her nephew was getting a CI soon-maybe. The mother was getting pros and cons about the CI. The little boy was two. I have only seen two people in my lifetime, in person, who wore a CI. The first time was about 10 years ago, a teenage boy was wearing one and then about four years ago, I met a little girl in the waiting room at the clinic. I spoke with her mother about her CI and I even used some sign language to talk to her. It was such a weird experience. So I imagine, for this woman, when would she have another opportunity to meet another person with a CI? She even said she just had to talk to me about it.

We kept talking for a while and then she asked me for my name and phone number. I didn’t have a pen and paper on me and neither did she. She went into the gas station to get a pen. I know, you don't go around giving your name and phone number to strangers, but I trust my instincts on this. She was not a psycho, just someone who wanted information about CIs.

So there you have it. I just had my first “advocacy” moment, talking about CIs. I was giving positive feedback about my CI . I am very happy with it. I know it’ll still take time to get that “helium” out of the voices, but every day it gets easier. Every. Single. Day.

(Since we are having trouble with our toilet flusher-thingy, I can hear the water running and give that handle a good tap to fix itself. The water bill is getting expensive enough without having to have that toilet continuously running water. I am so glad I can hear that when I am sitting in the living room or walking around in the dining room, which is at least 10 feet away from the bathroom).

I didn’t mind offering her my opinions about my CI experience. Everyone’s CI journey is different. I am loving mine. I hope that the boy’s mother will contact me. Maybe I can help her make an informed decision about whether or not to implant her son. I will not push her to any one brand of CI. They are all good. Neither will I push her to implant her son if she didn't feel comfortable with it. It's so much harder, I think, about making a decision to implant a child with a CI, even though records show that it is more successful in children under 5 (pre-lingually).

I really felt good talking about it.

This lady knew a lot about CIs, too. She certainly did her homework on it, too. She was saying that the CI was like a computer. Technology gets better all the time.

Only thing is, I’m glad I have my CI now. I am glad that I didn’t wait for something better to be invented or wait for a cure would be found. The CI is backwards compatible, meaning I can always upgrade to a newer model without having to replace the internal implant. So I didn’t have anything “better” to wait for.

Still, it was so cool to meet a stranger and be comfortable talking about CIs.



At Mon Oct 20, 10:53:00 AM , Blogger Amrita said...

I took me a long time not to be shy of my hearing aid.But now I 'm more open about iut.

Glad you could share information with this lady.

At Mon Oct 20, 11:15:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is official!!!! You are an advocate!!!!! Oh yeah I have shared my email address to new C I friends. I want to keep my hair short around my ears. Just so parts of my two C I shows. I want the world to know what beautiful sounds I get.!!!!
So glad you are enjoying your cochlear implant!!!!! It is a miracle to hear more sounds around the house!!!!
Have you heard any battery operated clock ticking yet???

At Tue Oct 21, 12:23:00 AM , Blogger Cyborg Queen said...

wow! what an awesome moment! :-) I'm glad you're giving both sides of things and not giving too much influence on what's wrong or what's right. I think that's a perfect way to approach things.

You mentioned on my blog about accessories...can you use it yet? I would think the earlier the training is (no matter how bad it sounds), the better it gets. To me, I find listening through my PACs is slightly different, hence why I have a totally different map just for that purpose.

You can try the TV/Audio cable (if you had one with the box). Hubby may not like being able to hear the TV, but heck, it's just a little better! I find it more clearer. I did use it for the first couple months to determine what sounds weird (since it blocks background noises, it helps focus on the voices).


At Tue Oct 21, 08:56:00 AM , Blogger hillgrandmom said...

That lady must have been so happy to meet you. Sometimes it is strange isn't it, how we are sent into someone's path so they can get some very needed help?

At Tue Oct 21, 09:15:00 AM , OpenID suddensilence said...

That is SO cool...I think it's awesome that you got to talk to someone about CIs and give them some much-needed information. Talking to someone who has a CI has to be infinitely better than just reading about it. :)

I haven't had anyone notice my CIs either, or at least they haven't commented. Although when I went for my annual checkup last week and told the nurse I had CIs now, she casually said, "Oh yes, I saw them." I was thinking, "And you didn't say anything?!" LOL



At Tue Oct 21, 03:59:00 PM , Blogger Becky said...

I do believe those healings in Bibilical times were instantaneous and miraculous. God's power is indeed miraculous.

That's so cool that you were placed in that lady's path to discuss that with her. To hear from someone who had been that road before is often the best person to talk to about such things, you know?

So excited for you that you're able ot pick up on more sounds lately. YAY!

At Tue Oct 21, 08:07:00 PM , Blogger Jennifer Bruno Conde said...

Amanda likes to have her CI visible, too. One man in a car dealership asked about her CI, as his daughter's friend had one.

Great that you could share your personal experience with her!

Jennifer :-D

At Wed Oct 22, 10:17:00 AM , Anonymous Cathy Tolsma said...

Isn't amazing how one life touches another?

At Thu Oct 23, 08:57:00 AM , Blogger Breazy said...

sorry I haven't been around much lately, we are finishing up football, fighting sickness and some other things. I am glad that you are happy with your cochlear implant. While at the beach this past July a lady and I were talking about CI's because her young daughter has had to wear a hearing aid for most of her life. I believe it is good to be informed about hearing loss even if someone in your family doesn't deal with it.

Have a good day!

At Sun Oct 26, 07:33:00 PM , Blogger Karen said...

That is so cool someone noticed your CI AND knew what it is! Haha. I think I would be shocked if that happened to me. Sounds like a very cool experience. You should have written down your blog address! Seriously, what a great tool to give to people and then then can find a whole CI blogging world out there!

I hope you are doing good. I've been behind the scenes lately but I'm still around!

At Sun Oct 26, 10:08:00 PM , Anonymous Kila said...

Wow, that is really cool! Great post :)

At Mon Oct 27, 07:11:00 PM , Blogger Shari/"Whiger" said...

Amrita-There were moments in my life, like when I didn’t want to disclose my hearing loss, but it’s been such a major part of my life, it was second nature. Most people are really understanding. Now, I have to learn to be more open about my vision issues. That’s another story….

Molly-Grin. Yep. I don’t mind sharing what I know.about CIs and my experience. If it helps someone, great. If not, oh, well.

The ticking of the clock was one of the first sounds I heard when I got home after the activation. 

Cyborg Queen-I haven’t played around with the accessories yet. Sigh. I don’t have my own MP3 player or anything…yet (hint for Hubby for a Christmas gift…). I should look at my “plug ins” and see how I can work with them.

Hillgrandmom-It was a weird feeling, but talking about something you know isn’t so hard to discuss. I hope I helped in a small way.

Wendi-It was really cool. I think most people just mind their own business when they see my CI or HA. More baby boomers are wearing HAs now, so it can’t be unusual, right? Yeah, I’m thinking they just don’t know how to talk to you about the CI or HA without looking rude or hurting your feelings, like it’s something to avoid, maybe? I don’t know. I remember I’d just look away from someone in a wheelchair. I didn’t want to be caught staring. Maybe it’s the same thing?

Becky-It was a neat experience. If I were asked to be a CI volunteer or something, I would consider it. It’s great to help. Bionic ears, next…bionic eyes?

Jennifer-I think those who know someone who is considering it or has one, are more apt to come out and talk about it more than those who don’t.

I guess making hearing loss more noticeable saves time to explain things. It’s always neat to talk about something you know a lot about.

Cathy!! Hi!! Glad you stopped by.  It is amazing when we cross paths with someone at just the right time.

Breazy-Don’t worry about it. Even I have been out of the blogosphere lately. Just from knowing what you know about CIs make conversation much mor insightful.

Karen-You know, I did write down my blog address and told her to check out the other CIs on my sidebar if she wanted to.  Good experience all around. I’m sure sooner or later, it’ll happen to every CIer. A chance meeting with a stranger asking about the CI and how they know someone who has it or is considering it.

Kila-I had to share that experience. It was awesome. 


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