Friday, February 24, 2006

Just Going to the Dentist, the Movie, the Store...

It has been awhile since I posted something for my readers. I've been busy listening! I recently went to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned. This was my first visit since my CI surgery and I heard some new and different sounds in the dentist office. I heard the sound of the dentist's drill in the other room, the "beep beep" of the signal lights, people talking, the doorbell ringing every time the front door was opened, and the sounds of the different machines. The best part was being able to listen and understand the hygenist talking to me as she cleaned my teeth. She asked me questions and gave instructions with a mask over her face while I laid in the chair. I heard her tell me what she was going to do next, if I wanted bubble gum or mint flavor, when to suction and spit, etc. She didn't have to turn around and take off her mask every time she needed to communicate with me. And I understood everything she said. I could also understand her talking to the dentist as he checked my teeth. I never liked being in the dentist chair because I felt so isolated when I couldn't hear or understand what was going on around me. And, I used to work as a dental assistant many years ago!

Since my appointment, I have called them on the phone three times to make or change appointments for me and Marissa. They must think I'm crazy and just like to call them. This is the first time I have attempted to deal with appointments without the relay service and I am able to understand almost every word that is being said. (I'm getting the most important parts anyway, and ask for repeats if I need to.) I also called the hair salon that I go to and set up my next appointment all by myself. Wow. That is progress. Before I got my CI, I never dreamed that I would be able to use the phone with ease. I had almost zero discrimination on the phone with my hearing aids. Now I am pleased and surprised that I can hear someone on the other end without too much effort. Next step is to be able to handle phone calls with my coworkers at work. Our phone guy is trying to find some headphones that would be compatible with our phone system and software.

I've also been listening to audio books and find that them enjoyable. After struggling, moving, and setting up my "boom box" CD player the first time, I realized that I could listen to my audio books with my computer. Better yet, I downloaded them to my iPod and carry it wherever I go. (Thank you Brad, Marissa, Jason and Chris!) I got Maria Shriver's audio book "And One More Thing Before You Go" (because I already had the book) and she speaks very articulately and very clearly. I've listened to it several times because I want to be able to hear what she is talking about without having to look at the book. It gets easier every time. Now I am listening to "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis and I love it! The narrator is also very good and easy to understand. I'm listening to my books in the car, during lunch, and while I exercise. I need all the practice I can get.

A couple of weekends ago Steve and I saw the movie, "Memoirs of a Geisha" and that was a mistake. The movie was in a gloomy setting and had lots of narration in it with hardly any lips to read so I did not enjoy it. Even if there were lips to read, the screen was too dark. I'm trying hard to enjoy movies because Steve likes them so much but I still prefer to watch them at home with close captioning. I wish movie theatres were more accommodating to their hearing impaired patrons. Even if they are, they don't do a good job of advertising options that are available.

Another new and special hearing moment for me happens while I'm out shopping at the grocery or department store. As I unload groceries from my cart or dig into my purse I can hear clerks talking to me and asking if I want my milk in a bag, if I want cash back, if I'm paying with a debit card or credit card, and to have a nice day without having to read their lips or look at them. And I'm able to reply back without missing a beat. I am making small progress every single day. So many people think that having a CI is like having a new and improved hearing aid. Just put it on and hear everything. It is not that way at all. A person gets a cochlear implant because a hearing aid does not allow them to hear anymore. I have to learn to use it. It takes much work and time to get mapped correctly to fit my personal "hearing fingerprint." I have to listen to strange and weird sounds until my brain gets used to it and to go to audio/verbal therapy to learn to hear sounds that I haven't heard before and to hear them correctly, etc. Had therapy this past week and worked on my s, sh, and z sounds. I'm getting there but learning to hear those sounds without lipreading takes much patience and willpower. It is different, difficult and frustrating at times. But, I know it is the best therapy I can have. In the beginning I did not think I needed therapy. Now I cannot live without it. At work we have an intercom system that pages certain departments or people on the phone. Every time I hear "Loan Officer One Oh One" (for 101) it sounds like "Try not to slip 101!" Maybe I need a better map or need to train my brain to hear it correctly!

I'm also noticing that I hear differently at times on my CI side from my hearing aid side and am able to localize sounds better. When I mentioned it to Steve, he said that I was probably hearing in "stereo." My audiologist said the same thing, too. Wow. I've never "heard" in stereo before. The brain is an amazing thing and just takes over. That brings me back to the thought of going bilateral someday. I cannot help but wonder if having two ears implanted would round out this great and wonderful gift of hearing for me. If you think about it, people with normal hearing like to put speakers in their living rooms, family rooms, and cars so they can have "surround sound." I'd like to have that, too, if it is possible. I found a group this week online that files appeals against insurance companies that have refused to cover single and bilateral cochlear implants. It is called The Let Them Hear Foundation’s Advocacy Center. It is an interesting and helpful program, offered free of charge to anyone in the United States. So far they have a perfect record: they’ve contested 63 denials and overturned every single one of them. I'll have to keep them in mind if our insurance company turns down my doctor's letter and request for a second implant.

Several of my friends have commented lately that my personality is different these days and that I am smiling more. I am still "me" and still look the same on the outside. But, inside it feels as if someone has flipped a switch and "turned on the light." That someone is God. The future ahead is bright with good things to come. Every morning I wake up and put on my CI and am grateful and thankful that I can hear as well as I do now. God is so very good. I'll close this entry with the words to a favorite childhood song. . .

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!" Let your light shine before all people and share it! Love, Hugs, and Blessings to you from me.

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