Another cochlear implant anniversary has come and gone, two years now. In case you were getting popcorn during that part of the show, I lost my hearing in March 2006 due to meningitis, a dangerous illness I was lucky to survive. I lost all useful function of both ears, except to keep my glasses from falling off. The cochlear implant is a miraculous electronic device. Sometimes called a “bionic ear,” it is actually an ear bypass, mini-electronics transmitting sounds directly to the brain without traveling through the ear. One of the interesting things about my cochlear implant is that I do not believe I hear anything differently or better after two years than I did the first day it was activated. What changes and improves are the ways that my brain recognizes and deciphers sounds.
The first music I listened to after my cochlear implant was hopeless. A jumble of noise. There have been milestones. I first realized I could pickup the rhythms, but I could not tell the difference between a drum and a guitar. If I distinguished notes at all, a scale consisted only of root and something that was not the root. I have spent hours driving down the road in the car singing scales, trying to make eight notes and hearing their intervals. I like to turn off my cochlear implant processor and try matching the physical note in my throat with the way I remember it feeling and imagining the note in my brain. God knows what it sounds like, but it is a thrilling exercise, almost as good as actually being able to do it. Last week, I was listening to the radio and a piece of music came on, and I just was certain it was Mozart. I could not believe the joy, noting this and that signature of Mozart, believing myself close to actually hearing something beautiful. If the radio identified the music, I failed to understand. Who cares? I came as close to enjoying a musical experience as I have in two and a half years.
I recently received a You Tube link from Dennis Crews. With my hearing, I usually don’t do You Tubes, because, unlike regular television, You Tubes are rarely captioned. Nonetheless, I am always interested in what Mr. Crews finds noteworthy. Not only is Taking it back with Barack, Jack (For Swing Voters) great fun, I immediately recognized the song, “Choo Choo Chaboogie” and added the video to my sidebar. Years ago, I played “Cho Choo Chaboogie” countless times, along with “San Antonio Rose,” “Crazy Arms,” and “Bubbles in My Beer,” all of which were on my practice tapes from the Nashville, Tn., Jeff Newman College of Pedal Steel Guitar in which I once had matriculated.
Having a telephone conversation continues to be unpredictable. Sometimes I think the conversation has gone well. Other times are discouraging, and I do not understand anything I hear. I carry my cell phone when I leave the house but only expect to use it in case of emergency or brief calls to family. At home, I love my new CapTel landline phone, which displays captions of the conversation I may or may not be understanding. I posted a blog about this wonderful device. Eat Blackberries, Get Bluetooth was reprinted in the annual report of the Georgia Council for the Hearing Impaired. Previously they had invited me to appear on a local radio program discussing telephone operator assistance provided by Georgia Relay. Now they have also asked me to help them “begin a late deafened social group” and be one of the “coordinators.” My friends at GCHI said, “You have a wealth of information on resources and coping that would be useful to many hard of hearing and late deafened people.”
Wait a minute. That deer frozen in the headlights is dear me. “You have probably asked the one thing of me that I have the least confidence about,” I replied. “Social interaction, certainly coordinating anything, is not something I do well. I would be happy to participate, share my experiences, etc., but I am not prepared to be in any sort of dependable leadership position. While I am able to conduct somewhat successful conversations face to face, one on one, because of my cochlear implant, groups render my hearing very unsatisfactory.”
I am so embarrassed. Maybe I should do some research on support groups and get over myself.
Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter