Category Archives: Cochlear Implants & Hearing Loss

Dancing & Thinking Out Loud

I follow this dancer, Mark Kanemura, on Instagram. I first saw him as a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance ages ago, and then later I saw him on the same show when he was a dancer for Lady Gaga.

Last week he posted about the show coming back. (It had been canceled in 2020 because of covid, and then was rather suddenly – at least to me – resurrected.) In his Instagram stories, he posted links to some of the dances he did, and told stories about how incredibly difficult it was to be on the show. It was fascinating to me, and I rewatched one of my favorite routines of his just for kicks. He performed this piece, The Garden, with Courtney; it was choreographed by Sonya Tayeh (another favorite of mine). Her dances were always really visual and quirky and fun to watch.

So I’m watching this video and it dawns on me that the music is not familiar at ALL. Like, not one bit of it. But the dance itself was so familiar; I’d seen it quite a bit because they had them perform the dance a number of times in later shows. So why didn’t I remember the music?!

And then it dawned on me. I was deaf the summer that season of SYTYCD aired. I lost all of my hearing in April 2008 and got my cochlear implant surgery in July 2008. My CIs were activated in late August 2008. And it took a long time for things to sound the way they used to; music actually took years to come back and begin to sound good.

I think that’s why I was drawn to Mark’s style of dancing – it was really unusual and visually captivating. I watched that whole season not being able to hear the music, so I hyper-focused on the dancing itself. (On a side note, I also watched a whole season of American Idol without being able to hear anything and that was super boring! At least I had something fun to watch with a dancing show; my main impression with a singing competition was whether the singers were expressive or moved around while they sang.)

While I’m here, I’ll update on a few things. (I’m waiting for it to get a bit warmer before I go outside and mow the lawn.) Mowing the lawn, by the way, is less traumatizing for me now. For a while there, every time I mowed I thought about the day Dave got sick and I took him to the ER. (I had come in from mowing the lawn when I found him sitting in the dining room with his head on the table.)

Other things are feeling more natural too – driving around, running errands, going for walks alone. I used to feel incredibly self conscious every time I went outside, like everyone was looking at me. Those first few walks that I went on by myself were torture, just keeping my head down and getting it done because I felt like I had to get out of the house and try to act like a normal person.

I made it through a big task a few weeks ago – cleaning out Dave’s closet and the rest of his things. I donated everything that didn’t go to my son, daughter and son-in-law to Goodwill. I took all the boxes of his extra medical supplies and donated them to my clinic for their missions. Now I have all this closet and drawer space that I still haven’t filled up, but I’m slowly moving things around.

I still don’t turn down his side of the bed. Isn’t that weird? I leave it intact and just turn down my side. But I did rotate the mattress recently! I changed the oil in the lawn mower. I added coverage for service lines (water, sewer, electrical, internet) to the homeowner’s insurance. (I did this after reading a blog entry about roots in the sewer lines at an old house; my house is 120 years old and I do not have thousands of dollars to shell out to fix something like this, so when this new coverage became available I jumped on it.) I even tried to take my car in for an oil change and was told it was too soon, so I’m on top of maintenance in a big way there. (I assumed since it had been six months I should go in; my mechanic told me no, go by the mileage on the sticker they gave me. Since I drive so infrequently, I still have a couple thousand miles to go.)

It will be eight months on Friday. I have weeks where my grief feels as fresh as it did that first week, and weeks where I feel like I’m doing pretty darn good.

My cookbook club is rocking along, and we meet next Wednesday. This month’s cookbook is super fun, The Mexican Home Kitchen by Mely Martinez. I glanced at it and thought ooh, this looks too technical for me. Then I took a closer look and started making notes of which recipes I wanted to try. Every single one has been delicious, although I did confirm that I’m not a huge fan of frying things. (I made empanadas last night for the first time. Super tasty but eh, frying is kind of a drag.)

I have a couple ideas for what I’ll make, and for the first time it will not be dessert. I’m not sure how much advance notice we’ll get this month; last month we all posted our recipe choices on Monday and we met on Wednesday, which didn’t give much time for purchasing ingredients and testing the recipe, if necessary. That’s why I tested a bunch of possible recipes earlier this month; if I can, I try to pick a recipe that’s not being made by someone else. Anyway, it’s always a fun evening and the whole point is to enjoy the food and the company, so that’s what I focus on.

I am settling in to living alone and being alone. It doesn’t feel so painful now. Traveling alone is still not appealing to me; I am not sure I’m going to go to the beach by myself this year. The botanical garden might be all I can handle. But I did have a wonderful time at the Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan with my daughter! I’ll close with a picture of us from that day. Smiles all around!


More Firsts

I just realized I haven’t written since last month … what?!

(A large bit of this is pulled from a recent post on Facebook, so if you’re friends with me there most of it will look familiar.)

On Wednesday I did a couple of new-to-me things. I had my six month fasting labs early, and I had a lot of things to do in Niles (where my doctor is) so I decided to take myself out to breakfast. This was a routine for me and Dave after any early morning medical stuff. When I last had my labs, back in October, it was just a couple weeks after he died and I honestly don’t even remember what I did; I think I just drove back and had breakfast at home.

So I ate in a restaurant by myself, for the first time ever. And it was fine! I brought my Kindle, read my book while I had a nice meal, and didn’t feel uncomfortable or conspicuous at all. It took growing older to realize that nobody is watching me and wondering why I’m eating alone. People do not care, and even if they do, I don’t! Check that off my list.

It was raining cats and dogs, so I had the added joy of doing errands in torrential rain. I got all my shopping done, and even found a cute raincoat at a thrift store. (Why do so many of them just look like big plastic bags? Or have NO HAT? I need a hat to protect my cochlear implants. Or they pull over your head. No, my hair does not want that!)

Then I moved on to my next “first”: an in-person grief group. It was meeting at the YMCA, which is where Dave and I used to work out when we lived in Niles. I hadn’t been there since 2017, but it was a good kind of deja vu as I pulled into the parking lot.

Nobody in the lobby was wearing masks, but the grief counselor had told me to bring one. (I’d emailed ahead of time to explain my hearing loss and difficulty with masks, and he said mostly likely we would just need them when we walked in and then we could take them off.)

I wore mine in, took it off when I realized I was the only one wearing a mask, and then a man wearing a mask came out of a doorway to greet me and show me where we were meeting. This was the grief counselor, who said we should wear them. Great.

An intern approached me and talked for a bit, and I understood not one word. I explained to her that I read lips and couldn’t understand her. She just silently looked at me and didn’t take her mask off. (Usually people do after I explain, even in doctor’s offices.)

We were in a huge empty room that echoed terribly, which made understanding almost impossible. It ended up being me, the two grief counselors, and two older men. I didn’t expect to be the only woman, to be honest. I expected a range of ages, and that was fine, but it was weird not having any other women to relate to the struggles I have dealt with.

I have to say, though, kudos to the guys. Looking at them, you would never picture them in a grief group with tear-filled eyes. These were tough, rural farming men, you know? And I just wanted to hug them both. Time for me to get rid of some of my stereotypical thinking!

Eventually it was determined that we could remove our masks (I really didn’t hear why this was such a drawn out decision) but even then I just could not understand much. They had us sit very far away from each other, and the acoustics in the room were terrible. I caught maybe 30-40% of what the other people said, but luckily most of what the grief counselor said because I was close enough to read his lips.

One of the guys lost his wife after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I heard hospice mentioned, and I think the grief counselor knew him through the hospice service. The other guy really did not talk, just very briefly to say why he was there. I’m pretty sure he lost his wife, maybe very recently. This made it hard to have actual conversations because I couldn’t hear them, and only two of us participants were talking. The grief counselor didn’t keep conversation moving very smoothly and there were a lot of long, awkward silences that I felt compelled to fill. I think I talked more than anyone else, which is a strategy I employ when I can’t hear/understand – if I’m the one talking, I don’t have to try to hear anyone else!

I really didn’t get much out of this, other than the joy of just being able to talk to other people for once. (You can only take so many cold, rainy spring days alone in the house and talking to the cats before you start to lose it.) I’ve been doing a lot of reading on grief and that is helping me work through it, helping me reframe some negative thoughts, that sort of thing. I have the self care stuff (I hate that term, but you know what I mean) well in hand. I do the painful things and the scary things in small increments; when I feel myself panicking, I stop and regroup and do something I enjoy instead. But I also keep making myself try the scary things, so I don’t let the fear take over.

I’m not going back, but I’m also very glad I did it. It confirmed my suspicions that my hearing was going to be an issue, and also made me realize that my need right now is for social interaction, not necessarily help with navigating my grief. Things like my cookbook club at the library, which I just love, are what I need to seek out. (Our next meeting is May 4, picnic foods. I hope the weather catches up by then, because we have snow predicted for Monday.)

My stock answer to “How are you?” has been “Hanging in there.” Now I’m getting to where I’m not just hanging in there. I can genuinely say “I’m doing good” many days.

Calorically Yours

In October 1997, I was a single mom in Illinois and had just joined an online hearing loss support group called The Say What Club. Back in those days it was an email listserv, and one of the ‘welcome to the list’ emails was from this guy, Dave, in Michigan. In my introductory email, I explained that I was deaf in one ear, and had just recovered from a terrible ear infection in my other ear (which had some hearing left). During the ear infection, my ‘good’ ear was plugged with antibiotic-soaked cotton and I was temporarily totally deaf. It terrified me and made me want to learn sign language. (Side note: Even now that I truly am totally deaf, I still have never been able to officially learn sign language. I know a few signs and the alphabet.)

Dave offered to send me some sign language books and videos, and we started to exchange emails. He always called me ‘kid’ and I had no idea what he looked like. “What a nice, friendly old man,” I thought. We were good buddies – he was smart and funny and, well, a smart-ass.

A few months after I joined, I offered to build a web page with photos of the SWC members. People started mailing their pictures to me so I could scan and upload them. (This was 1997, okay?!) Then Dave mailed his photos.

‘Hey!’ I thought. ‘This guy is not that old. And he’s pretty cute. Hmmm.’ (He was nine years older than me, BTW.)

We kept talking through email, then IRC chat (where, yes, we did slap each other with wet trout), and finally phone calls – that was a big deal for two hard-of-hearing people. Months passed.

On March 14, 1998 I was supposed to go to a concert at the House of Blues in Chicago, and my friend Renee bailed at the last minute. The kids were at their dad’s and I was sitting around, bored, when Dave called me. When he found out my plans had been canceled, he casually said, “Why don’t I come over?”

So I took a huge chance, meeting a ‘stranger’ from The Internet. He got lost on the way to my house (this was way before GPS, and I think he printed out a map from AltaVista – ha!) and just as I gave up hope and assumed he wasn’t coming, the doorbell rang.

My son took this photo; summer 1998, the first time Dave met the kids.

We clicked instantly and had a wonderful time. He introduced me to his WebTV, which he’d brought along. (“I’ll never need a computer, this has everything I need.” Famous last words.) He came back for another visit two weeks later, the next time the kids had a weekend with their dad. On March 28, we had our first official date. We went out for Chicago-style deep dish pizza (his first time trying it) and then to see the movie Titanic in the theater.

1998, ALDA convention
(Association of Late-Deafened Adults)

After that, we always celebrated on March 28 with deep dish pizza. Twenty four years later, I am carrying on the tradition with a deep dish Lou Malnati’s pizza that I had shipped to the house. The things we do for tradition!

Here we are in 2018, after Dave’s diagnosis

On Taking Things for Granted


My pretty ruby red Naida CI Q90 next to my Dark Sienna Harmony processor

You know, one of the reasons my posts slowed down here was because things just became … normal. I woke up every day, put on my CI processors, heard my world in a way that felt normal to me, and that was about it. Once you get past the early days where every new sound is a revelation and it’s just so freaking cool to HEAR again, there’s not much to say.  And, um, you kind of start to take things for granted.

This past Saturday I expected to be like any other day. I put on my right processor … beep, I can hear, good to go. (Actually, with the new processors I can switch them up and it doesn’t matter which ear they go on – another really helpful improvement.)  Put on the left, start applying my moisturizer, finish my moisturizer and hey, I can’t hear. WTF?! I took off the processor, pulled the battery off and put it back on, and watched the LED lights to see what happened. Usually I’ll see four flashes to indicate a full battery, and then a quick green light. This time I saw nothing for a long time, and then a solid red light that didn’t go away. Fuck.

I still wasn’t too nervous; I figured maybe somehow my battery didn’t recharge overnight. So I tried all the others, with the same result.

It’s funny how entitled I feel now – how dare I not be able to hear?! This is ridiculous and awful! And then I remember that it was my reality (only worse, because I couldn’t hear AT ALL) for so many months when I first went deaf.

Dave was still sleeping so I began quietly opening dresser drawers, trying to remember where I put my old Harmony processors, batteries and battery charger. I never expected to be using my backup processor so quickly but at least I had it. Since my left ear is much stronger, I put the new Naida CI on that ear and put the Harmony on my right. (Which meant I had to figure out which processor went on that ear; with the Harmony, if you put the wrong processor on the wrong ear, it will not work at all.)

I came downstairs to use the computer and see if other people had experienced a similar issue and if it was, indeed, a fault in the processor. It wasn’t too bad, really – I could tell that I was hearing differently on the right side but it wasn’t really jarring. But the house was silent, and once Dave woke up and came downstairs, it really hit home how differently I hear with the Naida Q90 versus the Harmony.

My right ear is weird – I have electrodes turned off on that ear, and high pitched sounds make me really dizzy. With the Harmony I was always turning the volume down or covering the microphone if there were sudden loud noises. It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I realized I hadn’t had to do that once with the Naida.

Dave pulled out dishes to feed the cats, filled the metal vacuum pot and put it on the stove to heat for coffee, coughed and cleared his throat … and I immediately had to pull the Harmony CI off my ear, look at the volume wheel and turn it down.  All of those high-pitched sounds were unbearably sharp to me, almost painfully so.

As I went about my morning, I remembered that my headpiece cable for the Harmony was frayed, which meant sound was cutting out every time I turned my head or smiled.  So I’d smile, suddenly hear nothing, after a second there’d be a loud WHOOSH of sound (because remember, the Harmony doesn’t activate ClearVoice right away), and finally the sound would moderate to a comfortable level … then I’d turn my head and the whole thing would repeat. It was maddening.

I thought hey, maybe I can wear the new headpiece with my old Harmony! I went upstairs to check, but the connections aren’t compatible. Then I remembered I’d received some old equipment from a fellow who had upgraded quite a while back, and there’d been a headpiece cable included. I never even opened it because my headpiece and cable for the Harmony is a one-piece unit. But I figured I’d check and YES, this cable worked with my Harmony! So I do have one functional unit using that cable and the new magnet headpiece that I wear with my Naida.

My email to Advanced Bionics was in vain because it was the weekend, but I did hear back on Monday afternoon. I have to admit I’ve noticed a difference in the Customer Service response compared to my early days of wearing a CI. The customer service reps often seem confused and not as knowledgeable as they used to be. The person who helped me asked for some information, which I provided, and then said she entered a processor replacement request, gave me an RMA number and referenced my old audiologist in Illinois, even though I’d just given her my new Michigan audiologist information. That really gave me pause. I corrected her, but come on, really?! This is pretty important stuff here!

I’m supposed to have a new processor in two business days but I’ve heard nothing since – no tracking information, etc. I don’t know if my processor will arrive already programmed or if I have to take it in to have the programming put on. (I know I could ask but eh, I figure I’ll know soon enough once it gets here.) In the meantime, I’m realizing how much I’d already gotten used to my new hearing. I can’t really use the ComPilot – it only works in one ear (the Naida) and everything sounds really uneven, so I prefer just to do without for now.  I’m back to wearing headphones and using an MP3 player at the gym.

And I know, boo hoo, poor me — “You want some cheese with your whine?” I am still a deaf person who can hear! Totally not complaining. But I can’t help but compare and realize how much I really did take my bionic hearing for granted, especially with the improvements since I upgraded. I guess it made more of a difference than I realized!

What’s New


Naida CIQ90 on top (Ruby Red) and my old Harmony CI processor on bottom -- the Naida is so much smaller and lighter!

Naida CIQ90 on top (Ruby Red) and my old Harmony CI processor on bottom — the Naida is so much smaller and lighter!

Oddly enough, the way the processors bring in sound when I first put them on is the biggest change for me between my old and new CIs. I had my Harmony programming (called a ‘map’) put on my new processors and it works really well, so things sound pretty much the same. I do find that I never need to adjust the volume with these processors; on my old ones, I usually had to fiddle with my right processor (my worse ear, the one that’s been deaf longest and has some high pitched electrodes turned off because they make me dizzy). I asked about getting specific hearing strategies put onto these processors (I have five slots per ear for different programs) and my audiologist told me that everything is pretty much automatic now. They’ve found that people really don’t like to have to switch programs for different environments, although that’s still an option for the future if I decide I want them.

Speaking of my audiologist, I just LOVE her. The whole clinic, actually. I’m going to the Audiology Clinic at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, a town I had never been to before my Nov. 30 appointment to have my new processors activated. I thought it was really far away but honestly, the drive is about as long as it took me to get to my Illinois clinic in Hinsdale … and the drive is a lot less stressful. I was always a bit uncomfortable knowing I had no audiologist in Michigan after we moved, and it’s a big relief to have that sorted out and to be working with someone who really listens to my feedback. It’s obvious that quality of life is important to her, and my visits have been helpful and informative. She even gives me encouraging feedback during those dreaded hearing tests, which makes them a bit less onerous.

The activation appointment was really not as big a deal as I expected it to be. I had two huge backpacks full of parts and accessories and the processor parts themselves, and I wasn’t sure what to actually bring. I ended up fitting just about everything (except the extra/backup parts and some accessories like the TVLink) into one backpack and I brought that, just to be safe. It took no time at all to put the programming from my Harmony processors onto the Naidas, and after that we just went over some of the basics (how to change certain parts) and how to pair the ComPilot to my phone and the TVLink.

The Phonak ComPilot almost deserves its own post, but I’m planning to write an entry focusing on music (which ties in to this topic) so I’ll just briefly explain what it is.  The Naida processor is Bluetooth-capable, and the ComPilot is a streamer that you wear around your neck so you can get stereo sound from things like cell phones, MP3 players, tablets, laptops and computers.  No more headphones!  I also use it with the TVLink device – again, it turns my CIs into wireless headphones and puts the TV sound right into my ears; there’s also a small clip-on mic that I can have someone wear so I can hear them better (a presenter/speaker in a seminar, a dining companion in a restaurant, etc). Although I do have to have the ComPilot hanging around my neck, it’s a far cry from the wires I used to have to use to get this kind of sound, and the quality of sound that I get is truly remarkable. It’s my favorite feature of my new CIs, by far!

When Things Come Into Focus

Every day I have a moment where I go from being deaf to actually hearing sound.  It’s not when I first wake up – my cochlear implant processors are nowhere near my head at that time. Generally I get out of bed, grab a couple of rechargeable batteries off the charger, carefully pick up my CIs (I’ve learned the hard way that the cord connecting the headpiece to the processor is fragile) and carry them with me to the bathroom. Sometimes I put my CIs on right when I get out of bed, but usually I wait until I’ve had time to fix my hair. That involves sliding my hands up under my hair, against my scalp, and shaking to get the curls going and fix any areas that got pressed down or wonky overnight. If I do that when I’m wearing the CIs, I basically would fling them right off my head!

Before I upgraded to the Naida Q90 processors, I had to brace myself for this moment. It’s overwhelming, going from total silence to a rush of sound all at once. My Harmony processors had a program called ClearVoice that would compress any steady background sound and kind of mute it. So if, for example, I had the fan on in the bathroom, my first sound would be the roar of the fan and then ClearVoice would kick in and the sound would get compressed down to a less overwhelming level.  If Dave were to come in and start talking to me at that point, his voice would be the main thing I heard and the fan would fade away to the background – hence the ClearVoice name. It helps you hear when background noise is present.

Even though I’ve had the Naida processors since the end of November, I’m still not used to the difference when I first put them on. I still inwardly cringe and wait to be bombarded with sound for that first few seconds before the compression program takes over. Now, though, what happens is this: I hear nothing for a second or two, and then I hear a beep. After that beep, I can hear. Generally I’m in a quiet environment so there’s not a whole lot going on noise-wise, but there’s always slight sounds happening even in a quiet room. It’s like everything gets clicked into focus, the difference between A and B in a vision exam where A is the blurry lens and B is the one that lets you read that last line on the eye chart.

But the way these processors activate each time I put them on is such a relief. There’s no overwhelming loud sound coming in first and then getting compressed. The first sounds I hear are already compressed. That alone is a huge improvement. But there’s also that beep, which (for me anyway) serves to prepare me for hearing. I focus on that and I know I’ll be hearing in a second. My little warning tone, I love it so.

(Nearly) Ten Years of Deafness

I haven’t posted in forever so I’m sure nobody’s reading this anymore, but for the first time in ages I actually have cochlear implant-related news.  In April 2018 it will be ten years since I went deaf (and ten years since I started this blog, geez).  I can remember getting my cochlear implants and thinking they were all I ever needed – I couldn’t imagine needing to upgrade. But ten years on, and I’m down to one headpiece that functions well, one that is okay for the most part, one that doesn’t work at all and one that cuts out every time I smile, turn my head, etc. (the cord is frayed and loses connection).  I think the only functioning T-mics I have are the ones on my two processors; the backups long since stopped working. And I received a letter from Advanced Bionics this spring telling me that my Harmony processors are now obsolete and no longer covered. When I called last year to get a replacement headpiece, I was told they don’t make that style anymore and I should really upgrade.

“Oh, I’ll wait until we move,” I said. “I want to see how our finances look at that point.” I had no idea how expensive it would be to upgrade, and it made me nervous. A house was more important to me than hearing at that point.

So now we have a house. (Yes! We bought a house in June, in Michigan. I really need to start writing here again.) My headpieces really started acting up, so I contacted Advanced Bionics with my long list of questions.  And I’m shocked to say that less than a month later, I’ve been notified that my insurance approved the upgrade, they are accepting my two backup processors as a trade-in to cover the 20% balance I owed (which leaves a big fat ZERO due) and my new processors are being shipped to me today!

I also had to find a new clinic since I haven’t been mapped since I lived in Illinois, so I’ll be going to Western Michigan University to have these babies activated and mapped. I can’t even tell you all the new features I’ll have – I’m getting the Advanced Bionics Naida Q90 in ruby red – so I have some learnin’ to do.

Advanced Bionics CI Q90

Isn’t she pretty?!

But I’m pretty sure I can listen to music wirelessly with the ComPilot (which I’ll wear around my neck) and Bluetooth technology. I used to have to hook all these wires up to have the music go right into my CIs, so I’m really excited about this!

What a difference (almost) ten years makes.  I’m still reeling.


I went to a new dentist last week, for my regular cleaning and updated x-rays.  I’ve never been fond of the dentist to begin with, but since I got CIs it is extra challenging because being reclined makes my CI processors (aka my “ears”) fall off.

I’ve tried many things over the years — wig tape, headbands, scarves, even a knit cap.  Nothing is foolproof (although the knit cap worked the best, since it also helps to keep my magnets where they need to be).  However, I am not about to pull out a knit cap in August.

This time around I used something called a Snuggie from Advanced Bionics, basically tubing made to fit my Harmony processors that fits snugly around my ear.  It works perfectly to keep the processor from being pulled off my ear as my head is reclined back.  The only issue that remained was keeping the magnets from being knocked out of place by the headrest.

Advanced Bionics Snuggie for the Harmony cochlear implant -- the clear tubing goes around the ear

Advanced Bionics Snuggie for the Harmony cochlear implant — the clear tubing goes around the ear

I played around with a scarf tied strategically over both magnets, but eventually decided it was too fussy.  I figured I’d just deal with the magnet situation if and when it arose.

In the end I didn’t have too much trouble; they were able to adjust the headrest so that my magnets stayed in place during most of my visit.  They did slip off when I was told to turn my head to the side, but those instances were brief and my other magnet stayed in place so I had enough hearing to still follow instructions.

What really impressed me, though, was when the dentist came in for the exam portion.  She had a bit of an accent, and originally asked me a question when her back was turned (she also had a mask over her mouth, just for an added challenge).  I had no idea if she was talking to the dental hygienist or me, so I stayed silent.  She turned back to me, and I met her eyes and said, “I can hear you, but I also read lips to understand what you’re saying.”

Her face lit up and she pulled the mask down.  “Thank you for telling me! That’s very good to know.”  Then she turned to the hygienist and asked her to repeat everything for me — although the dentist kept her mask on, everything she said was repeated by the hygienist so I could read the hygienist’s lips.  I’ve never had anyone in the medical profession do that for me before and it made a huge difference.

Not only did I get a clean bill of dental health, I came away feeling like my needs were met with respect, kindness and ingenuity.  It almost makes me not dread going to the dentist again!

There Was an Old Lady Who Got a Tattoo

A while back, I casually told Paige that if I were to ever get a tattoo, I’d get some type of spiral.  “Something that symbolizes the cochlea, for my cochlear implant,” I explained.  Then I forgot about it entirely.

She asked about it again last month at Easter dinner, wondering if I was still planning to do it.  “Oh no!” I laughed.  “I’m too old for that kind of thing.  I’ll leave it to you kids.”

And then I kept thinking about it.  I started searching online for possible images, thought about the size and placement.  Originally I wanted it right where my inner wrist begins.  “I don’t know about that,” Dave cautioned.  (He has two tattoos, one on his right arm and, well, basically his entire back.)  “You’re going to see it all the time.”

“But I want to see it!” I argued.  Still, he had a point.  And there’s all those veins right there on your inner wrist; that would be painful, wouldn’t it?  So I decided maybe further down, my forearm rather than my wrist.

I came up with a rough idea of what I wanted, after rejecting a few things.  I knew I wanted it to be mainly black and then to gradually change to a reddish orange inside, to symbolize how my cochlear implant brings color to my world.  I knew I wanted it to be about the size of a quarter or silver dollar.  (Originally I wanted it teeny tiny, but I rejected that fairly quickly.)  And I wanted it to be kind of rough looking, not smooth, perfect lines.

After I settled on what, I started checking out where.  I read a lot of reviews and it didn’t take long to settle on a place called The Parlor Tattooing in St. Joseph, Michigan.  I liked the work that they did, the place looked clean and spoke to me aesthetically, and the reviews were all positive.  Dave called and they said I was welcome to come by for a consultation; because it was small, they might even be able to fit me in the same day.  Otherwise, they were booked out until June.

Oddly enough, I didn’t think too much about whether it would hurt.  I did do a search on the most painful places to get a tattoo, and one site said the wrist would be painful … as in, do that for your second or third tattoo, not your first.  Other people were like, “Eh, no biggie.”

So yesterday, April 14, I realized it had been eight years since I went deaf.  This used to be kind of a sad anniversary for me, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.  I used to feel like I was the only person who’d gone through this horrible situation but now I know that I’m one of many, and we all just do what we gotta do.  I have my CIs and I hear better with them than I did with hearing aids, after all.  Instead of being maudlin, I decided to have a strange man permanently ink my body to commemorate the day.  Why not?!

Now if you’re just a boring non-cool, non-hip person like me, going to a tattoo parlor is a little intimidating.  As we drove there, Dave asked if I was nervous.  “About getting the tattoo?  No.  I’m nervous about making small talk with the tattoo artist.”  Yep; other people worry about whether it will hurt.  I worry about whether I’ll be able to hear over the music and sound of the tattoo … machine? Gun?  And what will I say to this person I probably have nothing in common with?  Or will they even talk to me at all?


We got there about 20 minutes after they opened.  I wasn’t sure I’d actually get a tattoo, but I figured I’d at least find out how much it cost and set up an appointment.  The shop itself is really cool; lots to look at, the kind of color and décor that I usually gravitate to.  There was a very tattooed, pierced, bearded guy standing outside when we walked up, and he nodded and smiled at us.  Then he followed us inside and asked if he could help us.  I explained what I wanted and he said, “You know, I can do it right now if you want.”  No turning back now.
The image I started withI showed him the image on my phone, and then came the scariest moment of the whole experience.  “Oh yea, just email that to me,” he said casually as he handed me a form to fill out.  “Oh fuck,” I thought.  How do I email this thing?  I’m not to the point where I’d try to text using my calculator or anything, but I don’t just casually email random images to people either.  I nodded slowly as my brain frantically ran through the possibilities.  I touched one button on my phone and … yea, that’s not the right one.  I glanced around casually, hiding my panic as I tried to figure out how to do this without looking like an idiot.  Finally I found the right button, clicked on Gmail and looked up at him.  “Oh here, I’ll enter my email address while you fill that out.”  He took the phone and I breathed a sigh of relief.

The transfer

In case you’re wondering (I always did), they make a transfer of the image you want.  They put it on your skin and then use that as a guide when they do the actual tattooing.  “Do you want the edges rough like this?” he asked.  I confirmed that I did, and he agreed that it looked better that way.  Then we talked about the color.  I was under the impression that switching colors was a big deal, so I was only planning on getting two colors.  But he suggested having the color gradually go from dark red to orange, which I loved.


The whole thing lasted for maybe 40 minutes, and it never became painful.  (The whole visit, from when we walked in until we walked out, took about an hour.)


And you guys, this kid was so nice and friendly. (If you ever go there for a tattoo, ask for Preston – you won’t be disappointed.)  We chatted the whole time, and even Dave chimed in from the couch he was sitting on.  There were three guys working there and they were all like that – friendly and open.  The whole shop had a very casual, non-judgmental vibe.


I also noticed that every single client was a woman.  There was a younger girl in her 20s getting her shoulder  or upper arm done, me, and then someone a bit older (but younger than me) getting a tattoo on her ankle.  I thought that was pretty cool – girl power and all.

So it’s done, and I absolutely love it.  I do have to say that it takes some getting used to, because it’s a tattoo that I can see as opposed to something on my shoulder or something, where I’d have to use a mirror to see it.  Yesterday I’d move my arm and think, Oh my god, what is that on my arm?! before I remembered, Oh yea … tattoo.  In the winter I’ll rarely see it unless I push up my sleeve, but it will definitely be on view in the summer months.  Since it’s on the inside of my forearm it’s not quite as noticeable, but it’s very colorful and it’s not small.  The important thing is that it’s exactly what I wanted, and it has a lot of meaning for me.  I smile whenever I see it.  If somebody else doesn’t like it, they can take a hike, man.


Dave talked to my mom last night and he told her to sit down before he broke the news.  (I figured she’d be upset about it.)  Instead, she said she’s been thinking about getting one on her shoulder.  I think I know just the place to take her the next time she visits.  🙂

Well, I’ll Be

I’ve had my cochlear implants for … wow, almost eight years now (in August of 2016). In the beginning, there are all kinds of, as we call them, “CI moments” – things we’ve never heard before, or sounds finally becoming clear, or whatever. After nearly eight years, though, you figure you’ve heard all the new things or had all the new hearing experiences you’re going to have.

So this morning I had a song stuck in my head, I’ll Be by Edwin McCain. It’s pretty popular now but when I first heard it in 1997 he was a fairly unknown artist and I didn’t know what to expect when I listened to the CD. I can still remember how it sounded, and how much I loved the song; I listened to it over and over, and knew all the nuances of his voice and the music.

I'll Be

Since I got my CIs, I don’t really listen to music much. When I was first activated, music sounded, well, godawful would be a kind way to put it. It just sounded like crashing noise. It got better every time I went for a mapping (where they hook you up to a computer and tweak the computer programs in the CIs) and eventually there came a time that I listened to a song (by Depeche Mode) and heard it the way I remembered it. I actually heard it better than I remembered it, because I was hearing parts of the song (various instruments) in each ear. I had never heard music in stereo before, because my right ear was always pretty bad – moderate to severe hearing loss until 1993, and then profound (i.e., I heard nothing) from 1993 on. I actually started crying the first time music sounded good through my CIs.

Anyway, Dave and I have different tastes in music and I never got into the habit of wearing headphones; it was just easier not to listen to music most of the time. Every now and then, though, I go through a phase and listen to a song or a whole CD.   I am not into new music as much; partly it’s because I’m apparently an old fogey who likes ‘golden oldies’ (anything from the 70s to about 1998) and partly it’s because my memory kicks in on a song I already know and helps me shape what the song should sound like.

I dug around and found my Edwin McCain CD and decided to teach myself how to copy it to my computer. (Yes, this is the something I had to teach myself. In 2016. Leave me alone.) I clicked on I’ll Be, popped on the headphones, and … hmmm. This is not how I remember it sounding. I was pretty disappointed. Yes, he has a raspy voice but it really sounded like he was growling, not the pretty, earnest song I remember. I kept the headphones on while the files were transferring, assuming it would go to the next song when it ended. I got preoccupied and didn’t realize that the song had started over. But I did notice that now it sounded better, a buttery, smooth rich sound closer to how I remember the song. ‘Huh,’ I thought, ‘I guess he sang the end of the song differently than the beginning.’ Then I put my cursor on the progress bar and saw that it was, like, one minute into the song. He wasn’t singing it better; I was hearing it a second time and my brain was already processing the sounds better. I listened to it a third time and there it was: the song I remembered.

Seriously folks, the brain is an amazing thing. Never take it for granted.

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