At our next visit the audiologist and I agreed that the hybrid system was not helping. Apparently even though I had some residual low-frequency hearing, there was not enough for the hearing aid to help. But we both felt that it had been worth trying, and I encourage everyone to give this a trial if your cochlear implant audiologist thinks it might help.
The audiologist made a few changes in the programming. As with previous changes, some programs initially seemed excessively loud, but became more normal as time went on. The two new ones installed in this session were considerably louder (but clearer) to me than the one from the original mapping.
Two months after activation, I have reached several milestones. Most obvious is that, in almost all situations, I can hear and converse almost normally. Occasionally I miss a word, but—as I carefully observed—so does almost everybody. When I don’t understand something, instead of just saying “What?” I’ll try to put the question in context. (“You say you visited where?” “Was it Barbara or Barry who got lost?”) Things aren’t perfect, but it sure is a vast improvement. Joy and I are conversing easily, and she says, she feels more relaxed and at ease. We both feel closer to each other than we have in years. That alone has made it worthwhile.
I am much more active in groups and social gatherings. I can join in most meetings and discussion. I hear what they are saying. I am losing my reputation as “the guy who just sat there.” Some friends and acquaintances are curious about the implant and ask numerous questions, which I am glad to answer. Others take it more matter of fact and ignore it, or say something like, “Hey, you hear pretty good with that thing.” I’m happy either way. Others tell me that I talk in a softer tone than before and no longer shout.
Over the years I’ve often felt that Joy made friends and had more friends than I do. I’ve felt she was just more socially adept than I am. Recently I’ve noticed some subtle changes. Friends who used to direct their talk primarily to Joy are now speaking directly to both of us. Two friends, who used to look only at Joy as we talked, are now looking at and making more eye contact with me.
I was worried that without the CI I wouldn’t be able hear Joy at all. But if we stand close to each other and she talks into my “good” ear, we can manage—no lengthy discussions, but at least we can communicate. Talking on the telephone merits just a barely passing grade. Sometimes I listen via the contralateral (non-CI) ear; other times I use the implanted ear. I can manage almost all phone calls except for cell phones with poor connections, which seem to be a problem for a lot of people. Some music sounds pleasant, especially something with a strong beat; other music sounds like so much noise. Directional hearing is poor. I can’t tell if sound is coming from the left, right, in front, or behind me. I’m not sure if this will ever improve. Sounds of nature keep getting better and are still amazing. I never realized that the creek and the wind could have so many different voices and tones.
Bruce Sloan, M.S., M.A.