Defeated. Perhaps deflated is a better descriptor for how I felt upon leaving SacENT Thursday. I returned March 28th for my fourth mapping with James, the audiologist working with me to program my cochlear implant processors and compatible hearing aid. It had been four weeks since I saw him and exactly eight weeks since having my CI activated.
I have been engaging in aural rehabilitation actively seven days a week “working” overtime to train my brain to hear electronically. I wear a processor from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. I work with Don an average of 30 minutes per day supplementing my training with apps and reading while listening on Audible. Just wearing the damn processor is training! I rarely wore the hearing aid as I believed I’d force the implanted ear to hear.
I truly thought I was hearing better than before being implanted. Everything was louder. Too loud at times. I’ve done a good job at fooling people over the years with just how poor my hearing was. Thursday I realized I was fooling myself into thinking I was hearing more because I want that to be the case. I want that badly. My world is louder but loudness isn’t being translated into understanding speech. Lip reading combined with sound is how I continue to function in a hearing world.
So what happened Thursday at my mapping appointment to cause me to feel defeated? James started by testing my hearing in a sound booth with me wearing just a processor. He simply wanted an audiogram which means listening for tonal beeps. Upon completion I pushed him to give me sentences thinking I would do reasonably well. Reluctantly, he did so and it proved to be too challenging for me. I only got one sentence out of six and didn’t even get that sentence 100% right. Mercifully he stopped, recognizing my defeated feelings.
We then returned to his office where he proceeded to tweak the intensity at various frequencies to the 22 contact points surgically threaded through the cochlea. I thought I was at “normal” volume a month ago but I was wrong. My world is louder yet. I now understand what hearing people have to put up with in this noisy world. Four days later it’s still too loud but I am adapting and know I will continue to do so. Our brains are amazingly plastic.
Incidentally, the audiogram showed my implanted ear is hearing all the way across the critical speech range into the higher frequencies I haven’t had since losing them as a 15 month old toddler. It shows the CI is working as it should. Hurray!
As we were leaving (Don accompanies me to these 9AM appointments because I need to be in the diamond lane to arrive on time…😜), I casually mentioned to James that I was sorry I hadn’t gotten a CI 10-15 years ago when my brain was more plastic. He quickly stated that wasn’t true. Rather, it’s my hearing history that’s the problem. Having lost the high frequencies as a toddler means my brain has nothing to remember. CI recipients who lost their hearing as adults are the most successful. His statement took the wind out of my sails for the second time as he told me that when I met with him last December. I now fully comprehend. Thus the feeling of being deflated.
James says I will hear better but I may always need to lip read and that it will take time…lots of time. I’m going to continue to plug away at training my brain to hear electronically but scale back the time I put into it as there are other activities I’d like to do. As I mentioned before, wearing the processor day in, day out is brain training.