Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My New TOY!

I have just had the most incredible two days! And I don't even have my implant yet! If you have been reading this journal for a while, you will know about my frustration with the telephone. Well, that is starting to change, thanks to my friend, Susan, and her new discovery! Two days ago, I had lunch with her at the spur of the moment. She is the one who got me started on this cochlear implant journey and is truly my angel here on earth. God put her in my path for a reason and she has been a great source of help, strength, and support. Susan, too, has difficulty using the phone, even with her implant. The weight of the headset that came with her implant causes her CI hook to hurt her ear. Also, when she uses the speakerphone everyone around her can hear her conversations because she needs have the volume turned up loud. So, her audiologist introduced her to a new telecoil/microphone cord for her cell phone. It is called a T-Link and is a revolutionary accessory that allows hearing aid users to use a mobile phone (cellphone) in complete clarity without buzzing or interference. It is made by a company in the United Kingdom. It looks like one of those ear buds that people use for their cell phones but instead of the ear bud part, there is a wire that sits on the ear right next to the hearing aid. The wire transmits and "talks" to the hearing aid device, sending the voice right into the ear. It works with the cochlear implant processor, as well. (Steve says it is a magnetic inductive coil - I know nothing about those things!) While Susan and I were having lunch, she had me try it on. She plugged it into my cell phone and showed me how to hook it on my ear and called me from her cell phone across the room. I almost fell out of my chair and could hear every word she said, even with the background noise at Atlanta Bread! I lost my ability to use the phone about 26 years ago and now I feel like I have it back. It still isn't perfect but is much better than using a speakerphone or amplifier. "Louder" is not always better. When I told Steve about it that evening, he asked me "when are you going to get one?" That was all the prompting I needed and I went straight to the Speech and Hearing Center (where Susan also goes) and got the LAST one they had. (I was going to wait until after my implant to get it because I don't know what all will come in my "kit." But, I did some research and found out that this T-link is not included.) It is the best $55 dollars I have ever spent! Wow. Susan said the same thing. (Doug, you HAVE to get one of these!)

So, within 5 minutes of getting my new toy, I just had to call someone. I didn't call just one person. I called several! I called "Time and Temperature" first just to test the T-Link with my hearing aid. When I was younger, I thought it was neat to be able to dial a number and get the time and temperature by phone. I already had it programmed in my phone but rarely used it. It was a "safe" number for me to call in case I wasn't hearing right because I didn't have to talk to anyone and could just listen for the voice and knew the current time would be at the end. Then, I called Bradley and could hear almost every word he said. After that, I called Steve, Marissa, Kathy (my sister), Jason, Chris, my dad, and last of all my dear sister in law, Allison. I'm hearing about 75% percent of what they are saying. I had more trouble with Jason, Chris, and my dad. Daddy just kept talking and wouldn't slow down and everything he said was all jumbled together. I had to keep telling him that I could only understand short and simple sentences. But, it was neat to hear his voice. He is wearing a hearing aid now, too, and may be having trouble himself. I also called Susan but I think I confused her. She did not seem to know who was calling her and I had trouble understanding her. Later I found out that she wasn't wearing her T-link and was using the speakerphone on her cell phone. This morning when I got to work I called my supervisor (Robin), several of my coworkers (Candice, Kim, & Linda), and the president (David) of the credit union. I had trouble with Robin and Candice. I think it is because their voices have a higher pitch in the range that I cannot hear well at. But, I understood Kim and Linda perfectly! They both have alto voices and sound so clear and perfect. Just before I hung up with Linda after I said "bye", I heard her say "I'm talking to Laurie." When I called David he didn't answer the first time so I called him again. I could understand him a little bit and heard his laugh. He came to my desk later and just smiled and shook his head and was happy for me. He asked me if I could use the T-link on the regular phone and I told him that I would need a different adapter for that. He said the credit union would get whatever I needed for the phone when I was ready. It is just so wonderful to work with supportive and caring people and it makes my job worth going to every day.

I did talk to Brad, Marissa, Steve, and Kathy again today several times. I had them call me to see if I could hear the phone ringing. I heard Brad say "I'm going to the car lot to get the title for my car" and I heard Kathy say "I'm just pulling in and will be right there in a minute." I asked Marissa how her shopping was going (she was looking for new shoes) and she said that she had not left yet. That is progress! This is going to take lots of practice, therapy, and some getting used to. I'm hearing more than half of what I used to be able to do on the phone now with the T-link but I still get all hot, sweaty, and nervous when I cannot understand what is being said on the other end. I have to take a deep breath and fight the urge to hang up the phone when I get frustrated because that is what I've always done all these years when I couldn't hear the the message that the other person was trying to say to me. I'm going to call my sister in law, Deb, in Texas tonight. I've never tried to talk with her on the phone and am waiting for Steve to get home to sit beside me in case I need a backup person. Allison sent me an email today thanking me for the call last night. I could picture her smiling between the lines as she wrote it. She asked me if I thought I would be able to have long sister-to-sister talks on the phone someday. I cannot answer that but I will try. I don't know if I will be able to talk for hours on end but we will just start from the beginning and take "baby steps." I've had a complex about the phone for so long and it will take lots of training and practice before I can embrace it totally. But, I should be able to have "little" and "personal" conversations with my family and friends. All these years I've wanted to reach out and talk to someone when I was happy, sad, lonely, or just wanted to talk and never could. If you have news to share or just want to tell me or ask me something, I should be able to have those special little conversations with you. But, be patient with me. I still have a long way to go and can only understand small little conversations at the moment. This morning I woke up with a massive headache but I think it was because I was using parts of my brain that haven't been used before and was concentrating so hard. Or maybe it's because my auditory nerve was being stimulated like it hasn't before. This will be one of my side effects when I do get hooked up. I have another headache now but I don't care! I know this is only a "glimpse" of what the implant will do for me. . . yes, I'm scared and happy and nervous at the same time. . .your love, prayers, patience, and support means more to me than you'll ever know.

Kathy asked me why I didn't know about this telecoil before. I do know that this particular one has only been in my audiologist's office for less than a month and only five were ordered. I bought the last one that they had. There are other versions out there but I think the reason I haven't heard about it is partly due to lack of knowledge and partly due to stubborness. (Yes, I'll admit that I'm stubborn!) It could also be that because I've been hearing impaired all of my life that everyone just assumed that I knew what was available to the deaf community. I've been so independent all my life that I haven't wanted to have anything to do with any listening device, flashing lights or doorbells, flashing fire alarms, shaking beds, or anything like that. Those special things are also expensive. Plus, everyone in my family has normal hearing so I've depended on them to be my "ears." I've been able to find other ways to compensate for what I was missing. I had pretty much given up on amplifiers and speakers on the phones because nothing sounded right or clear enough. The background noise is also distracting and there is no privacy. Now I hear NO background noise with the T-link, just my voice and the other person's! It really makes a difference. What would we do without the advances of technology?

While I was typing this, Brandie sent me a text message on my phone so I called her back. (She is Jason's fiance). I had some trouble with her at first but could carry on part of a conversation. But, I asked most of the questions. I heard her tell me that she missed me. I told her that I missed her and loved her, too. She has started her second year of veterinary school at Auburn and said that she isn't off to a good start. I told her I was sorry.

This whole experience is so new and overwhelming. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like I'm having an "out of body" experience. If this is how I feel now, what will it be like after I get "turned on" on activation day???!!!

No comments: