Monthly Archives: July 2013
The County Fair
Dave and I were out and about earlier this week, and I saw the county fair was all set up. I knew it was usually the last week of July, but had kind of forgotten about it; the last few years, it has been scorchingly hot during fair week and we stopped going. I hadn’t been since before I went deaf.
It’s been unseasonably cool the past few days (exactly the kind of weather I like) so on Thursday morning I suggested to Dave that we head over to the fair. We aren’t usually spur-of-the-moment people, so I kind of had to talk him into it: The weather was great; we weren’t doing anything else that day; it was a pretty cheap way to get a few hours of entertainment; and, if nothing else, we’d get some exercise.
As we walked around, I kept pointing out things we’d done with the kids in years past. “There’s where Paige milked the fake cow!” “Remember the year Eric was in full goth regalia and the people at that Christian booth gave him a Jesus comic book?” “There’s where Paige got a stagecoach ride!” etc. etc.
This was the first time we’d ever gone to the county fair without the kids. Actually, I had never gone to the county fair at ALL until I met Dave. It was just not something my family ever did. We weren’t in 4-H (I never knew of any kids in 4-H, to be honest) and we lived smack dab in the suburbs, nowhere near farms. I didn’t know anyone that ever went to the fair, showed animals, or even entered a pie into the baking contest.
It was a perfect day for walking around; sunny and just a little bit too warm for me, but not so hot that I wanted to leave. We skipped the carnival rides and fair food, choosing instead to visit the animals, exhibits and entries into the various competitions. Dave explained how some of the older farm equipment was used; he knew every tractor and planter on display. (I just asked him, “What was that thing called? A seed spreader?” and he laughed and laughed, then told me it was called a planter. Who knew?!)
We spent a lot of time with the goats, Dave’s favorite animal. If they were near the edge of the pen, not sleeping or busy eating in a corner, they got their ears and neck rubbed while Dave crooned to them. I almost had more fun watching him with the goats than the goats themselves.
When we stopped in to see the chickens, roosters, ducks, turkey, geese and rabbits, I seriously thought there were little kids in there imitating roosters. It was happening so often, though, that I started to doubt myself…and sure enough, I happened to be looking right at a rooster when he started crowing. It was the real thing! Obviously I don’t hear a lot of roosters crowing here in the suburbs of Chicago, so I got a big kick out of that.
After we’d seen everything there was to see, we realized it was the perfect time to head over and watch the pig races, something we’d done in the past with the kids and really enjoyed. The show was smaller than we remembered, but still a lot of fun. We were in the middle of the bleachers and the whole area was packed; both sets of bleachers were full and the area around the race track was packed three-deep with people.
I felt some kicking and nudging on my back; I kind of turned to see what was going on, but couldn’t tell without completely turning around in my seat. I decided to ignore it. Just before the show ended, though, I felt a sharp tug on my hair, near one of my CI magnets. I resisted the urge to whip around, figuring it was probably a toddler or baby behind me. Sure enough, the show ended and people started to get up and leave…and there was a lady with a baby girl, probably six or seven months old, sitting behind me.
We were waiting for the bleachers to clear out since we were in the middle, and Dave asked me how things sounded since this was my first time at the fair with my cochlear implants. I thought about it, then said, “I couldn’t understand anything the guy (at the pig races) was saying; between the microphone and loud volume, I got maybe one word here and there. In that aspect, the CIs were pretty much just like my hearing aids used to be.” Even with lip reading, I couldn’t really catch what the guy said. He was talking too fast, there was music playing; it was all just loud noise.
Then I told Dave about the yank on my hair. He was flabbergasted until I explained it was a baby; I had suspected by the way the hair tug felt (it brought back memories of my own kids pulling my hair). I realized, as I was telling him the story, that she was probably attracted by the colorful magnets on the back of my head. I have bright blue color caps on the magnets and they sit pretty much on top of my hair, so they probably attracted her attention. I’m glad all she got was hair when she grabbed; having my CI fly off my ear would’ve gotten a whole different reaction from me!
Dealing With Tinnitus
One thing I haven’t talked about here in a long time is tinnitus. I’ve always had tinnitus in varying degrees; it ramped up quite a bit when I lost all the hearing in my right ear in 1993, and then settled down again after a while. Usually it would go away when I put my hearing aids on. My brain seems to just go a little crazy when there’s no sound coming in, so it likes to make it up, I guess.
If I had tinnitus when I was wearing my hearing aids, then it usually signaled an impending illness or it was a side effect of stress. I’ve never had tinnitus as a result of something I ate or drank (caffeine, for example) or from medication. All the advice floating around on the internet regarding changing your diet to eliminate tinnitus was useless to me. If I was sick, or about to get sick, I got tinnitus and nothing stopped it except becoming healthy again. If I was stressed out, I could usually count on the tinnitus fading away once I introduced sound via my hearing aids. At night, or any other time I didn’t wear my hearing aids, I had tinnitus again. (Sometimes I could keep a fan running at night and the white noise would keep the tinnitus at bay, since I still had some natural hearing before 2008.)
If you’ve never had tinnitus (ringing or sounds in the ear) then it is really hard to describe. You definitely hear the sounds, but you can tell they aren’t coming from an external source. It always sounds different to me – sometimes it’s a low hum, sometimes chirps and beeps, and I’ve also had tinnitus that sounded musical. It roars, it clicks; some days it’s like Morse code, some days it’s like a train rushing through a tunnel.
Whenever I imagined being deaf, I always imagined dead silence. Hearing nothing. Just a big void, if you will. When I actually lost all of my hearing, I was horrified to have sound replaced by tinnitus. It was loud and constant. There was no way to make it go away, because there was no way for me to hear. I couldn’t introduce sound like I used to.
If I dwelled on it too long, it would’ve made me truly crazy. I mean, I had noise in my head all day and night long; the only time I got relief was when I was sleeping. For me, being deaf meant being locked into a prison of constant, hellish internal sound.
Since I knew there was nothing I could do about it, I tried to embrace it as much as I could. I took comfort in the fact that at least it gave me the semblance of hearing something. It wasn’t like someone just flipped a switch and my world suddenly went quiet. Knowing I was at the mercy of this noise, I just did my best not to fight it and, when I could, to find humor in some of the crazy sounds tumbling around in my head.
In those early days, it was just TINNITUS, in the middle of my head. I couldn’t have told you which ear it was coming from; it just was there, everywhere, not one side or the other. Now when I get tinnitus (very rarely), it’s easy to pinpoint which ear it’s coming from. I have it a little bit as I’m typing right now; my CI processors are off while my wet hair air-dries. I have a very low, constant hum in my left ear, and my right ear has a high pitched whine that sometimes turns into chirps and clicks.
The difference now is that I know once my hair is dry, I’ll put on my CIs and the tinnitus will melt away. I’ll hear the sounds of my environment and not the sounds in my head.
Getting cochlear implants completely took away my tinnitus. I had tinnitus after surgery (sometimes very VERY loud, like a roaring train) but once I was activated…poof, it was gone. The first time the house was quiet and I was wearing my CIs, sitting there in actual silence, I actually got teary-eyed from relief. It was so nice just to hear nothing at all.
Now I hear silence all the time. If it’s quiet and I have my CIs on, there’s no tinnitus. If I have my CIs off, I usually don’t have tinnitus. It might sneak in, very quietly, but not enough to bother me and definitely nothing like what I used to experience. If it does ramp up and get crazy, then I know I’m either stressed out or getting sick, just like before.
If you suffer from tinnitus, I know how miserable it is. Believe me. For me, the only cure has been sound…either through a hearing aid or cochlear implant.
Self-Sacrifice | Willpower | Becoming Bionic
My two weeks with regular contact lenses is almost up. Earlier today, I put my head on Dave’s shoulder and mock-sobbed with relief, “I just ordered bifocal contacts!” He patted me on the back and said, “You done good, kid.” As the kids and I know, that is High Praise from Dave…his way of saying, “Holy crap, you did an amazing job!”
I hang my head in shame as I admit that after the first day, I seriously thought, “I can’t do this. I can’t spend another day wearing these contacts.” It sucks so bad. I hate wearing glasses, and here I am, wearing (reading) glasses almost all day long. I have to wear them to see during just about every activity I engage in, except for watching TV and driving. At the end of the day, when I finally take the glasses off, I can still feel them on the bridge of my nose. It’s like phantom pain, except not really pain, just pressure.
I know how whiny and spoiled I sound, but hey, it’s my blog and I’ll whine if I want to. 😉 Wearing regular contacts after being used to bifocal contacts is like going back to Windows 3.1. But I did it, man. I’m wearing these suckers for their full two weeks, so I have to suffer until this Friday. But then I can switch to the one pair of bifocals I’ve been hoarding…by the time I’m done with those, my new shipment of contact lenses will be here. Huzzah!
In other amazing feats of self-sacrifice, yesterday was National Ice Cream Day. Did you know that? I didn’t realize until someone mentioned it on Facebook in the early evening. I like me some ice cream, but nobody likes ice cream like Dave does. It was no surprise when he turned to me after dinner and casually said, “Hey, maybe we’ll run out and get some ice cream later on.” This is kind of a big deal for us because we almost never eat after dinner – we eat early (we’re usually finished by 6 pm) and then don’t eat again until around 10 am the next day. After some discussion, we decided to use a Culver’s coupon for Concrete Mixers.
Since we don’t do this very often, we didn’t know what flavors they had. I pulled up the Culver’s website so we could check out our options, and then made the mistake of clicking on the Nutrition tab. The coupon was for a medium size (buy one, get one free), and the calories in one Concrete Mixer of that size were equal to about half of my entire daily allotment of calories. If I hadn’t read that, I probably could have eaten the entire thing without a second thought. Instead, I did some quick math and decided to split it into three servings: One for last night, and the other two for today (one for me, one for Dave).
So yes, I came home and weighed my Concrete Mixer, took out five ounces and put the rest in the freezer. How’s that for willpower? (Well, I know I could have just not had any at all but…it was National Ice Cream Day!) I got Mint Oreo, and it was really freaking good.
When we went out for the ice cream (custard…we’ll call it the same thing), we realized it had really cooled off. Yesterday started off fairly pleasant, and then hit ‘hot, humid, disgusting’ levels by early afternoon. We had the air conditioning on and had pretty much stayed inside all day so we were pleasantly surprised by the cool outside air. We came home, turned off the A/C and opened the windows. When we went to bed, though, I had to turn on the overhead fan. Poor Dave.
This is how it goes in our house lately, thanks to my perimenopause and Dave’s thyroid craziness. I never used to sweat, ever. I mean, I could do the Jane Fonda workout and not a bead of sweat would grace my brow. Now that I’m staring down menopause (not there yet, but I’m almost 49 so it’s on the distant horizon), I sweat. Especially if it’s humid. And I’m not used to it, so it grosses me out. It’s like walking around wearing a damp bathing suit under your clothes, all day long.
One thing that helps is keeping a fan going, blowing cool air on my skin. But Dave’s crazy thyroid makes him get cold much easier, so while I’m standing in front of a fan, he’s wrapping up in a quilt. I saw the look on his face when I turned on the bedroom fan before climbing into bed, so I took my side of the sheet and blanket and threw it over him, wrapping him like a burrito. Poor guy! His next thyroid test is this Friday. He’s been feeling less tired, so we think his thyroid level must be coming down, but things still don’t feel ‘right’ just yet. We’ll know more when his test result comes back next week.
Today, by the way, is the day I had my cochlear implant surgery five years ago. (Let’s just say that I feel a LOT better right now than I did at this time five years ago.) I don’t think I’ll ever be able to just go about my business on July 22 without remembering that. This is the day I became bionic!
Slowly Becoming Obsolete
Not much has been happening here, other than being slammed with a wave of heat and humidity, and praying for no power outages whenever a storm rolls through. Having the car in the shop for three days kept us homebound (not that I wanted to be out and about in the heat anyway). Our biggest entertainment was waiting for the phone to ring, so we could find out the damage on the car repairs. (More than I wanted to pay, but less than it could’ve been, so…yay?)
I did notice, when I was looking at the calendar earlier this week, that my five year cochlear implant surgery anniversary is coming up (next week on July 22). It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long…and then other times it kind of feels like I’ve had CIs forever. What really illustrates the passage of time, though, is new technology.
When I got activated in August of 2008, I got the newest Advanced Bionics processor on the market at the time, the Harmony. There were people still upgrading from earlier models at that point, and it was kind of exciting to have this cutting edge tech sitting on my ears. Since then, there have been some new software strategies released (and I did get ClearVoice last year, which I love) as well as the Neptune, which is their waterproof, off-the-ear processor.
From time to time I mentor people who are considering getting an AB cochlear implant; since I got both ears done at once, I often correspond with people who are considering that option. But now I’ve noticed that I’m not as useful when it comes to the hardware. I can definitely talk about what it was like to have both ears operated on and activated, but I have no idea what it’s like to wear a Neptune, or what all the accessories are.
On top of that, Advanced Bionics has a new behind-the-ear processor coming out soon, called the Naida CI Q70. Anyone that’s activated at this point will get that instead of the Harmony (I believe they get a voucher that they can trade in for the new BTE when it’s officially available). Which is awesome, of course – but that makes me kind of obsolete. Already!
I’m hoping to upgrade to the Naida Q70, depending on the cost and my insurance coverage, next year sometime. Still, though, it’s strange to think that my newfangled bionic ears are being passed by already. Of course, they are still amazing and work just fine – it’s just not as easy to upgrade bionic ears to the latest and greatest as it is to upgrade your phone or your computer.
I’m only five years into this…kind of makes me wonder what lies ahead in the next ten or fifteen years, you know? Hopefully technology will just keep advancing by leaps and bounds. What I’m really waiting for isn’t even for me, but for my friends with degenerative vision diseases and conditions…I really want to see them get implants to help with vision the way cochlear implants help with hearing.
In other news, Dave got his very first cell phone…is he possibly the last person around to get a cell phone? He’s resisted with all his might, and then something just snapped and now he’s a little obsessed. It’s kind of fun to see him playing with his new toy, even if he won’t give his phone number out to anybody. (He’s got a pay-as-you-go plan and doesn’t want to use his minutes for anything!)