It’s now over two years since the activation of my cochlear implants. Yay! I am so glad I got them when I did. There are all kinds of reasons people delay getting CIs, but I would not have missed a single, hearing, minute of this period and regret my own lateness to that particular party.
I’ve been thinking recently, not so much how much my hearing has improved in the last year, but of the increased quality of life I’m experiencing because of it.
I’ve said in the past that I am now no longer afraid that someone will talk to me. I may not hear every single thing, but I can be fairly confident that in most cases I’ll catch on sooner rather than later. This is absolutely huge.
I know other hearing impaired and deaf people will understand what I am trying to say about that fear of being spoken to. For someone with a hearing impairment, any situation that requires aural communication can be stressful — to say the least. With my severe to profound hearing loss, I became quite reclusive for some time before I took the plunge with cochlear implants. I started to wonder what the point of socialising was, if all I could do was look intently at people and imitate their expressions when they spoke, and hope it looked like I wasn’t totally stupid. Now, when I recognise the same thing in others (and I do!), I just wish they realised that it doesn’t have to be like that…
If there’s one thing that most of us with cochlear implants have in common, it’s a past of isolation. And the fact that the isolation is in the past.
As I type, flashes of recent conversations are passing through my mind. Top of the list has to be when, a couple of weeks ago, I was in my local butcher, Meatlovers Paradise. Love that place! Top quality products and they are so friendly and helpful, nothing is too much trouble, and they greet me by name and chat away with me, taking a real interest. What more can one ask?
As I was being served, a man standing near me turned to me and said hello. I did a double-take — it was someone I used to go out with briefly about three-and-a-half years ago. In fact, the very person who told me about Meatlovers Paradise in the first place, when I was new to the area.
The first thing he said was, “So you had your ears done!”
I enthusiastically confirmed this, while trying to figure things out. Our time together was long before I started the CI process…
“Yes, Marcus was telling me about it,” he said. I must have looked at him blankly because he added, “Marcus. Marcus Atlas. The guy who did your operation.”
I must then have looked at him incredulously and said something really bright like, “Um…?” because he said, with a smile, “I’ve known Marcus for years. We went to school together. I told you that…”
More blankness from me.
“…but you probably didn’t hear me,” he laughed.
Love it. :-)
It’s All Good™!
More than an end to isolation
But just recently I realised it goes much further than being able to communicate again, and not be afraid when someone speaks to me. I realised that I was actually starting conversations, not just with people I know but also with complete strangers. This is something I vaguely remember doing a hundred years ago in another life, but I realised that now I do it all the time. I like people! I find people interesting. I’d almost forgotten that.
Can you imagine forgetting that you like people and enjoy interesting conversation?
In a way, it’s very cheaty. It’s actually easier than it at first sounds. When you start a conversation, you can guide it. You pick your topic, and you look and listen for expected key words and phrases in any responses. But, oh my, to have the confidence to unhesitatingly speak when you think of something to say… That is just amazing. (And it works for telephone conversations, too!)
Recently, I don’t even think twice about opening my mouth around other people. Stopping by the open kitchen to talk about cooking with the owner/chef at a local café restaurant. Talking politics at a boat club with a marine broker (don’t ask!) and waxing philosophical about Slow Food with someone in the supermarket checkout line.
To be able to finally be myself again — a me I’d all but forgotten about — that’s priceless.