I’ve just had my 4 year review of my cochlear implant hearing. My hearing is a straight -20db after turning down the volume a little, and it feels natural now to have such super hearing.
I work from home a lot these days; I can hear the neighbours on one side when they argue and the neighbour’s TV on the other side. Hearing well is not always a good thing! My new hearing dog Bailey has a very loud bark so all in all, it can get very noisy sometimes! This “overload” of sounds has been the hardest thing to get used to and I do like to take the processors off occasionally so I can get some peace!
I pick up the phone now and again when it’s an emergency or I’ve had to make a call and there isn’t a hearing person around to ask. Using the telephone takes a lot of confidence and interestingly the most difficult ones are where I had to phone people in Southern Ireland and struggled with the accents (I’m Northern Irish so didn’t expect this!), the easiest ones are where I listened to a digital voice and had to take down a pin number (and got it right! Wowser!).
Red: My hearing in 2016 with bilateral cochlear implants
Blue: My hearing in 2010, before receiving cochlear implants
CUNY lipreading test – 24 sentences of varying length and complexity presented in auditory and visual condition – lipreading with sound
BKB sentence test – 32 short sentences of simple syntactic structure presented in auditory alone condition
I’ve been able to converse with a relative stranger when she was talking to me from the next room, because her voice was loud and clear enough for me to follow, and she wasn’t speaking too fast. I take great pleasure in understanding public announcements on the London underground, on trains, and in train stations.
The most surprising sound was water dripping from the ceiling to the kitchen floor when the builder forgot to secure the radiator flow upstairs – I was in the lounge! I was able to react immediately and run upstairs to alert the builder.
Another sound was (hearing this from the lounge again) water dripping from the kitchen sink into a bucket below, inside a cupboard. It sounded like a double popping sound. Investigating this, I watched – the first pop was the water drop hitting the surface of the water, the second pop was the water bubble bursting. Awesome!
Being able to hear sounds well has made me much more relaxed about communication, and I now understand why hearing people don’t really comprehend the complexities of deafness. When you can hear well, it is so effortless and easy, it’s like breathing. Many hearing people don’t understand that hearing well is not just about volume. It’s about clarity, understanding, processing the sounds that you hear and knowing what a sound is, being able to translate heard sounds into speech and making sense of them.
The most frustrating thing is I still need communication support as many speak quickly and mumble, many environments are too noisy and have poor acoustics, and I am just not used to processing sounds into speech. I will always be deaf. But hey, that’s okay.
Some people speak too fast for me to listen to them and decipher what they’ve said, or they are simply too far away – lipreading is often a much easier tool for me to use. I had some people visit recently to give me quotes for roof repairs, and they all had (hilarious) cockney accents. Listening and lipreading, I had the pleasure of understanding every word they said and trying to keep a straight face at how they spoke. Recently I’ve travelled to the Midlands and the north of England, Paris, Gibraltar, Granada, Barcelona, Budapest, and Qatar – I have enjoyed experiencing and listening to all these accents and easily understood everyone I spoke to, without worrying about whether I would be able to or not. Communication is now enjoyable, and that has been a truly amazing gift.