I went to my post-op appointment black-eyed and woozy, listing to starboard and holding onto my husband’s arm to walk from the parking garage. Normally, I would be lining up my offense and calculating a plan to fake the doctor and persuade the audiologist into an early activation. The earliest I’d heard was one week post-op and I was still a day short of that. But I wasn’t going down that road. There was too much riding on this big gamble (my residual hearing for the implant behind door number one) and I wasn’t in a position to absorb a ‘no’. I would rather not ask for early activation than be turned down. Besides, my head was still swollen and achy.
So I read lips, straining through an hour-long equipment orientation (seems my good ear is confused about which side of my head is deaf) and prepared myself to wait, if not the regulation two additional weeks, at least one. Imagine my surprise when, just as we reached the end of the gadget demo, Leslie, the audiologist who had introduced me to my new gear with pleasure and enthusiasm unusual for someone who has done this same exercise hundreds of time, offered to “turn me on”.
I sat up straight for the first time in a week. Who me, woozy? What’s a little swelling among colleagues in the fight for better hearing? The stitches were healing even as I sat there counting the number of charging stations I would need for my new accessories. Yes! Now! Let’s do it!
I walked unassisted to the doctor’s office across the hall for the actual post-op exam which took all of two seconds. Go, Dr. Peters said. Leslie’s ready to turn you on.
What fun these Ear Institute people turned out to be!
So there I was, my scalp connected via cable to the audiologist’s computer, the ACTIVATE button in plain sight right next to a series of bars that represented electrodes currently awaiting instruction in my cochlea. George held his iphone ready to record the moment and Leslie explained what she was about to do. Waiting for her cursor to press the activate button was just like hundreds of other moments in my life: my dad about to let go of my bicycle for the first time, driving a car, getting married or giving birth. Things set in motion, relying on optimism that either I could do what so many people before me had done, or faith in God from whom all blessings flow, or the sheer force of momentum pushing me over the threshold, water over the dam, past the point of fear, into something new.
An immediate new world of sound. Not what normal people hear. Not what I hope to hear in two or three months, but sound. Lots of it. Sound glorious sound. Sound like a recording made using a secret camera in a room with bad acoustics thirty years ago. Each sound has a bell attached to it. A tinny cow bell. What it lacks in quality it makes up in quantity. Low sounds and high sounds, sounds so high I haven’t heard them since I was 20. Big, generous, whole sound. And so much more where this came from. I’ve been warned that learning to hear with a cochlear implant will be difficult but, so far, compared to daily life with hearing aids, it’s a walk in the park.