Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Learning to hear

Wow.

So much to tell you.

There's been so much improvement in what I can understand in just five days. The hollow, echo-ey effect is still there, but slowly - or quickly, really, I guess - my brain is learning to interpret the new sounds as being the sounds I remember.

The most rapid advance has been in my understanding of music. On the first day, listening to a song I was previously familiar with was like hearing it on a very bad radio station... far away, static-filled, just bits and pieces leaping out as recognizable. Now, when I listen to a familiar song on a discman plugged directly into the CI, it sounds like a slightly altered version; some notes sound different, some high and low notes are missing. But it is a very near replica of what I remember.

The other rapid development has been the individualization of voices. Initially everyone sounded the same - Mickey Mouse inhaling helium. Now, I can distinctly hear the timbre of the voices of people I knew before I went deaf. They are "sounding" more like themselves, although still high-pitched.

One of the neatest things has been hearing the voices of people who I met since I went deaf. Two co-workers, for example, were hired after I lost my hearing. It's wonderful to put voices with their faces.

Being back at work Monday was kind of overwhelming... sort of an all-day party, with each co-worker or Board Member I encountered all excited and enthusiastic. The genuine joy they showed for me was really touching. I mean, you don't imagine that they'll be so excited that you can hear.

It's great hearing the cats again. Sis wrote in a comment that she was glad I could hear Mojo again because "he's such an opinionated little guy". If by "opinionated" she means, "he never shuts up", she's right. I don't remember him being this vocal before I went deaf; maybe the lack of response caused him to crank up the effort.

Challenges:

Accents are hard. Even people I knew before I went deaf are much harder to understand. And in a workplace where at least half the employees are immigrants, that's challenging!

Listening to the tv or radio is still pretty bad but getting better. Sound coming "through the air" is difficult. I've tried listening to my beloved CBC Radio with little success. I know if I 'plugged in' it would be better, but that can be very limiting. I used to listen to CBC while doing housework; can't wait to be able to do that again. Washing dishes and scrubbing the kitchen floor is boring!!!

Being out and about on my own is pretty scary. The world is chock-full of noises and most of them are still unidentifiable to me as I hear them. Ambient noise can be really confusing because a sound - the rustling of clothing, a book falling to the floor, someone closing a door in the next room - just occur and I jump and sometimes I figure out what it is, and sometimes I just shrug. Traffic is very loud and very scary, partly because I hear everything on my left side, regardless of whether a vehicle is on my right, in front of me, or behind me.

I have four batteries which came with the unit and they have a charger where they're recharged each night. Each one lasts about eight hours, and when they die, son, they're dead. It's like someone clicking a light switch. One second, sound; the next; nothing. So I MUST remember to carry a spare in the little pouch they gave me.

It's hard work, learning to hear again. I'm pretty tired by the end of the day because talking with people takes real effort and concentration. It feels a lot like working in a second language, and anyone who has done that knows that it wears on you after a few hours.

But it's the best work I've ever had to do.

I've said it before and I can't say it often enough: I am overwhelmed by the kindness people have shown me. I've gotten dozens of emails, cards, hugs, warm wishes, even gifts. People are so much better and kinder than we sometimes give them credit for.

ronnie

3 Comments:

Anonymous Sherwood said...

This is fascinating stuff, Ronnie. How the brain adjusts, how we learn and unlearn... wow, are you getting quite the experience.

I suppose you would get aural parallax back if you had another implant done on the other side, but I also suppose that probably wouldn't be worth the trouble, pain, and expense.

Now that you're rapidly regaining your sense of hearing, will you be getting your other job back?

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Derek said...

What about a second mic on your other ear? (Although I suppose you're only set up for mono.) I am amused by the possibilities for your "direct-connect" mode, such as attaching it to the receiver for a wireless mic, which you could place up near someone doing a presentation... or "accidentally" leave in another room for eavesdropping purposes. It's not everyone who can "throw" their hearing!

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Yvonne said...

oooooh, what Derek said! You could be Lindsay Wagner. Just pull your hair back and -- doot doot doot-- hear EVERYthing from far away! This could be handy.

12:05 PM  

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