Activation Date: Day 1

On Thursday, February 17th, life as I know it changed completely.

It’s funny how someone can tell you something, but you really do not understand until it happens. I remember my sister-in-law telling me so many years ago that, “When you have kids, you’ll understand.” Understand what? That kids change your life? That they mess up schedules, but you love them so much that nothing really matters? I knew that already. I’d planned and prepared for countless hours for kids, but really when it came down to it (despite how much I did not want to admit it), she was right. You’re never truly prepared or understand what it’s like to have kids until you have your own.

I kinda felt the same with this. My sister and my dad had told me countless times that when I was activated, sounds would be similar to alien beings, very technical sounding, or anything similar to that. But nothing prepared me. Absolutely nothing.

The first time I went in for activation, I had a whole entourage with me when my activation failed. The second appointment I had for activation was canceled because of snowy/icy weather conditions, and when I finally made it into the office on Thursday, it was a simple deal. My dad had an appointment immediately after mine and decided to go with my husband and I for my activation.

My audiologist, Marla, had me place the processor on my ear (magnet connects nicely), and my processor (on my ear) was connected by a cord to her computer. The program to set my processor went through a series of beeps and noises to begin the process. After the little preliminary start, Marla had me identify how many “beeps” came from the various electrodes through a series of different pitches. Some were easy to identify, particularly the lower pitches, but the higher pitches I found I had to listen a little more closely for. Not because I couldn’t hear them as well, but I have been so accustomed to hearing tinnitus, that it fooled me at first, because I didn’t realize I was hearing those pitches and not hearing tinnitus.
After repeating the number of “beeps”, Marla would turn up each pitch, one at a time, until it was as loud as I could manage it, without it being uncomfortable. She then set up four programs for me. I have a remote that can contain four programs, and each program has four levels of volume, totaling sixteen levels of volume adjustment. She explained that I would obviously start at the bottom, and as I became adjusted to the implant, I could gradually start turning it up. I will have an appointment in two weeks when I have likely gone through all sixteen levels and will be ready for even louder levels. It’s important for my brain to learn the sounds a little at a time and not overload my system.

After Marla explained my remote, and the volume levels of each program, she turned my processor on to my complete surroundings.

I don’t remember who said what first, but I remember thinking, oh my gosh my sister was right. Everything sounds like aliens! I had to laugh the more that I heard my husband speak. For lack of a better description, it was like hearing him with a very high pitched falsetto voice. And my dad sounded just the same. Everything sounded the same for that matter! It was overwhelming in that I suddenly came to that full realization that I did have a very long road ahead of me. I quickly learned that it would take more that a few short moments to become accustomed to the new sounds. So what my sister and dad had told me so many times, it really never hit me until just then what they really meant.

I didn’t cry. It really wasn’t a huge emotional thing for me right then. It was just so intriguing. While everything sounded like a high pitched childrens’ animation, or even a digital synthesizer, I could immediately tell a huge difference in the quality of the sound. The difference in the sound from my hearing aid and the sound from the processor are so incredibly different that I don’t know that I could explain it. The closest I can think would be this.

Imagine yourself standing in a very small soundproof room, like the ones they use for hearing tests. If you clapped your hands, the sounds would be pretty flat sounding. You’d hear the clap, sure, but it would stay within your small space.
Now imagine yourself in a great big auditorium. And clap. No matter the quality of the auditorium, there’s no doubt that the sound from the clap would reverberate throughout the building, probably echoing and coming right back to you.
That’s the difference to me. The sounds are no longer flat and one-dimensional. There is so much depth, like the echo, to the sounds I hear and so much different, even without being as clear as it will eventually be. I’m just simply astounded.

I didn’t expect anything out of day one. I anticipated it to be overwhelming and full of new sounds, probably not even sounds that I’d be able to differentiate between yet. And I thought that was ok.

But here’s a few things I did pick up. I spent about six solid hours with my husband after activation. We went to a seminar in a large auditorium, and I didn’t understand a word that was said really, but I knew I wouldn’t. It’s wasn’t a big deal to me. On the way home, however, in the darkness of our car, our kids were just jabbering away. I was looking out the front windshield, just watching everything go by, and my husband asked the kids, “So did you learn anything at church tonight?”

I turned and looked at him, and my eyes immediately welled up with tears. I didn’t say anything, just turned my head back to facing forward, and tried to hear my son’s response. I couldn’t understand it, but I understood every word of my husband’s next question. And the next.

And as the tears just rolled down my face, I repeated the exact words to my husband that he just spoke. I heard them. Every single word, and I wasn’t even looking at him. A quick high-five later, and we were both in fits of laughter and amazed at that simple thing. So simple, but so very different from the life we’ve had until that moment. And I’m in tears just thinking about all the new sounds I have ahead of me still.

I should clarify. It’s astounding to think that I was able to pick up my husband’s speech so quickly. It’s not really normal for it to happen that quickly, as I’ve learned from some online forums, but I really think it’s because I had spent such a large amount of time conversing with him that day. I’d grown very accustomed to the way he spoke, and the rhythm, and I’m sure that it had a lot to do with that.

There were several other things I picked up that night. I loaded the dishwasher and kept clicking the silverware together, remembering that sound from when I’d last heard it so many years before. I’d walk across the floor a little louder than I had to, just to memorize the sound. I’d smile every time I heard the blinker in the car, wondering how long it had been since I’d heard it.

But one thing startled me. I was sitting at my computer, checking my facebook one last time before bed, and I realized I was still hearing the tinnitus. I’d not really paid attention during the day, but when I sat down to the quiet evening with the kids in bed, I heard it pretty clearly. I sighed loudly in frustration. Then I stopped. I sighed again. Then I breathed in regularly. Oh. I was just hearing myself breathe. How long had it been since I heard that sound?

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5 responses to this post.

  1. This sounds like an amazing beginning of a journey. I’m so happy for you. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Posted by Lisa Shook on February 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us! Love you and can’t wait to hear all your wonderful stories as you walk along the journey of hearing again!

    Reply

  3. Posted by rene lewis on February 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    It is so cool of you to write this! i know it is probable more for you then us but it is still amazing to have have an inside view. I am so happy and excited for ya’ll!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Cristiano on February 20, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I just dreamed about a a deaf girl – very impressive – woke up and found ur blog, liked – nice writing, you should consider to write a book –

    Reply

  5. Posted by francine on October 14, 2011 at 7:13 am

    found your blog from the mcgowan’s blog… loved this entry so much. you’re so descriptive! thank you for sharing with us!

    Reply

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