Before the cochlear implant surgery, out of all the things I was mildly apprehensive about, probably the stand-out concern was how I’d manage in the two weeks after the surgery, but before switch-on. I knew that in this time I would have no hearing at all.
I am not afraid of silence. In the last few years, I’ve been profoundly deaf without hearing aids anyway. When the hearing aids were out, I had very little sound. I’m used to having my hearing aids out when home alone, both for comfort reasons and because I find it stressful to “sort of” hear noises and not be able to identify them. I would start to worry, and when you start thinking “What if…?” it doesn’t take long to get really scared. Who needs that? So the hearing aids stayed out and what the ear doesn’t hear, the mind doesn’t worry about. :-)
No, it’s not the idea of silence that bothered me: I’m used to that. But I’m also used to being able to put my hearing aids in my ears when I do want or need to communicate with others. I was a bit uncertain how I’d manage for two weeks without being able to communicate aurally.
The reality has been quite interesting. I’ve found I do “hear” sounds. I know I have no hearing, but there are certain times when I expect loud sounds and it’s like my brain is filling in the gaps it knows are there. Sounds like my dining chairs scraping on the tiled floor, or the toilet seat lid banging shut. I’ve learned to anticipate them, and sometimes I could swear I heard them!
Also, my speech. I can’t hear myself! I know I am not talking in a monotone, but how do I know? I can’t hear it. But my brain clearly expects those inflections to be there, and I think my speech sounds pretty normal, except I have no idea of the volume. I’ve been hushed once or twice. :-|
And it was quite funny (to me!) to find myself humming. I can’t hear myself hum, yet I was humming a tune. And I’d bet anything the tune was in tune! Because I could hear it in my mind, and my brain knew what to do. It is so natural for me to hum as I go about daily life.
And communication? Ah. Much as I expected. Family has been really good about writing things down for me and it’s a nice feeling that they want to include me. But there’s still so much I miss out on — even more than “usual”. That is both frustrating and isolating.
Helen Keller, probably the world’s most famous deaf-blind person, said:
“Blindness isolates us from things; deafness isolates us from people.”
The isolation is why I so badly wanted cochlear implants.
However I know well that it’s only temporary so I don’t let it get me down. I am just waiting for switch-on on Wednesday, July 9.