Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Fresh Start

I heard the birds this morning.

As I rushed out my front door, I paused.  I heard the sound I recalled from my childhood.  I then looked to the sky.  

"Squack-a, squack-a, squack-a."

There above me, a beautiful V formation of birds returned North, hopefully bringing with them the warmth and sunshine of wherever they last were.  I certainly know a warmth came over me. 

In the past few months, I've known birds are overhead because I could hear beeps.  From process of elimination, I could figure out it was birds, but to be honest, my brain heard similar sounds for children, sirens, cars driving by.  I've had awareness, but no clarity.

But today it was BIRDS as I knew BIRDS TO BE.  I could have wept.

Just yesterday, I couldn't hear that.  Now I can.  It's truly remarkable.

During my Thursday night ugly-cry, I mourned I couldn't hear such sounds.  And I was TIRED.  Tired of being optimistic, tired of withdrawing instead of participating, and most of all, I was tired of being TIRED.  In the past eleven months, hearing has been so much work.  I felt cheated, and I finally let my anger take hold of me. 

I wrote my last post on my phone, sitting in my car in a Stewart's parking lot, tears streaming down my face.  It was one of the fastest posts I have ever written, emotion spewing out of me as I released frustrations into the blog.  Following the post, I received many encouraging messages that not only reminded me of my blessings, but made a huge difference in the renewal of my strength.  A dear and wise friend wrote this to me:

"One thing I had to learn was that without the pity parties once in a while it is hard to stay strong and move on to Plan B. You have to feel it once in a while. I mean REALLY FEEL IT.  It will release so much of what you may not want to face but unfortunately have to. You are going to need days like this to appreciate the wonderful things I am certain will come your way because YOU will make it happen."

She claimed my words went straight to her heart, and I could not have been more appreciative of the reciprocation of her wisdom.  Thursday Night Ugly Cry Incident was the catalyst needed to embark on the next chapter, and when it was over, I also sensed I was about to embark on a fresh start in my journey.

The new chapter began yesterday morning as Jeff and I traveled to my mapping appointment.  The audiologist, Sharon, and I had emailed back and forth prior to yesterday so she knew of my struggles.  She had sent my files to Cochlear (my implant manufacturer) to see if their field specialist had any insight as to why the program was not giving me clarity.  Sharon had previously emailed me warning that in some cases, recipients might just get awareness (i.e., beeps for birds), but not clarity.

I refused to believe I was one of those people.  I did not sign up to hear the world in beeps.

At the start of the appointment, Sharon indicated all of the tests she wanted to conduct, promising that she "would work me hard."  While it is often the case for an audiologist to make an adjustment on an electrode and for the other electrodes to automatically follow suit, Sharon said this was the more modern procedure for mapping, and that perhaps, we needed to try the older, and longer method, of testing my cochlear implant electrode by electrode, each one at a time. 

The test is known as an NRT (neural response telemetry) test.  It doesn't require much work on my part, besides sitting and listening to a series of beeps that range from quiet to loud to very loud to painfully loud and back to quiet again.  At one point, I indicated I wasn't hearing anything, and I could see the surprise in Sharon's face.  Repeatedly, she'd ask if I was hearing beeps during periods of complete silence and she would nod knowingly.  I knew we had found something, a reason why perhaps hearing had become so painful for me, so demanding of my energy.  

Sharon indicated my electrodes were not following the natural pattern they were supposed to, or as she said, "they were not interpolating well from one to another."  She felt I was getting too much high frequency and too little low-- quite a difference from before my surgery when I had zero high frequencies in my world.  But all those beeps, all the spoken "shh's" and "chh's" that felt like electric shocks to the side of my head... THOSE were the high frequencies completely dominating over all other sounds presented.

Voices tend to fall in the mid-frequencies, but with limited access to those sounds, no wonder I was struggling to hear PEOPLE.  

And so my program was COMPLETELY changed.  Most times when cochlear implants are mapped, the audiologist makes a small change or tweak here or there.  This was more like a CI overhaul.  It was what I needed: A FRESH START. 

It's still early to determine all that I can and can not do with my new program, but in the past 24 hours I have been stunned by the difference in sound quality.  I even performed a rehab exercise and stared with my mouth wide open at the computer after receiving this result:

96%?!!  ARE YOU *#&%ING KIDDING ME?!!!

Some other results from Day 1:  
  • I can talk with my son for five minutes without having to look at him and by concentrating, I can follow.  
  • I can hear the TV.  I may not know all of what is being said, but I can hear dialogue without straining to listen.
  • I can hear phones ringing, and I know they are phones.  
  • When I dropped my earring back on the floor this morning, I could hear where it hit, enabling me to pick it up immediately instead of a) losing it, or b) spending ten minutes to find it.
  • I can hear the blinker in the car, but it's a simple clicking noise in the background, not a series of turbo-charged beeps like I previously thought.
  • I can catch a few words my coworkers are saying without having to look at them.
  • I can hear the snow melting from the roof, producing a beautiful pattern of soft pitter patter on the sidewalk. 
  • And I can SING!   WHAT A JOY to sing!  I even locked myself in my bathroom late yesterday evening as to not to disturb my sleeping family as I pretended I was Norah Jones.   

On Thursday night, I cried, I grew angry and I felt it... I REALLY felt it.  But how right my friend was, that with that release, today's appreciation is all the more miraculous.
And tomorrow might sound even better. 

Thank you for your kind words, prayers, and love.  I love you back!


  1. Best thing I've read all day!

    1. It's a good day and YOU'RE a good friend. Thank you.

  2. This one made me cry! So happy for you and thankful that it is finally working!

    1. Thank you! Big progress Teresa! FINALLY! WOOOHOOO!

  3. Wow! So happy to hear this!!! Hooray!

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I am enjoying my fresh start and my new version of sound. Hooray is RIGHT!

  4. Beautiful, amazing news. Such courage.

    1. How did I miss this sweet message from my blogging super-hero? Thank you Amanda!