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Teamwork

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!

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Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

I like to do this thing where I think ‘At this time last year, I was …’. It’s kind of amazing to look back and see how much things change in a year or five years or whatever. Dave and I were talking about this today because seven years ago at this very moment, I was in the recovery room at the hospital. This day marks seven years since my bilateral cochlear implant surgery.

Seven years ago, Eric was just about to enter college and Paige was just about to enter high school. How weird is that?

Dave reminded me that August 21, the day after I was activated, was the day we moved Eric into his dorm. I remember that like it was yesterday; I could hear sounds, but everything was weirdly robotic and voices were still very strange-sounding, especially the voices of Eric’s roommate and his family. I remember listening to the rhythmic sound of the car tires on the expressway until the sound made sense to me; same with the sound of the turn signal clicking.

So much has changed in seven years. I didn’t know back then whether the surgery would even work, and I wouldn’t hear sound again for another month. (Activation was a month after surgery, after I was mostly healed.)

My Advanced Bionics Harmony cochlear implant processor and headpiece

My Advanced Bionics Harmony cochlear implant processor and headpiece

The processors I wear (Advanced Bionics Harmony) are old news now, even though they were the latest and greatest when I got them. Since then they’ve introduced the Neptune (an off-the-ear, waterproof processor) and the Naida. I still follow the boards on Hearing Journey and offer support/mentoring to people who are curious about getting a CI, but I really can’t offer hands-on experience with the newest technology … and that’s a strange feeling. I might look into upgrading once we move and I know what our financial situation is going to be, but right now every spare penny gets saved for our future home. My Harmony processors are working fine for now (the rechargeable batteries are getting a little worse for wear though; I might need to buy some new ones).

I haven’t really been writing here that much lately. It’s not like anything bad is happening; summer is here and things are going along just fine. A couple of times I started to write a blog post and then got a sense of déjà vu, like I’ve written about the subject before. A quick search then shows me that yep, I wrote about that exact subject two years ago or whatever. I’ve gone through these periods before and I’m sure it’s just temporary. For now I’ll try to pop in and say hey even when there’s not much to say … and eventually I’ll be writing like crazy again.

So here’s to the next seven years – hopefully by then I’ll look back on this post and think ‘Wow, I was still using Harmony processors back then!’

Words Are Very Unnecessary

On our way home from Dave’s one-month checkup with his hepatologist in Fort Wayne, we stopped at Subway for lunch. Although we like the food, Dave kind of hates going there because the ordering process confounds him. They ask a lot of questions, and for someone with hearing loss that’s a real drag.

I have an easier time with this kind of thing (as long as it’s in person) because I lipread, so I am usually the one to order. I just consult Dave first to make sure what he wants, or if he starts to order himself then I will relay the questions to him if he misses them.

Since it was just a light lunch, we did our usual and got the same sandwich in the foot-long size, and then split it. This location had a drive-through but we decided to go inside because I really struggle to understand anything through those speakers.

We were the only customers, and as we walked up to the counter the guy started talking. I wasn’t close enough to read his lips and had no clue what he said (he was talking really fast and also had a bit of a southern accent). I did my usual and just assumed what he probably said based on my past visits to Subway.

Well yes, I can relate to this.

Well yes, I can relate to this.

I told him the type of sandwich we wanted and the type of bread. He said something else that I missed, but I knew they usually asked about cheese and I thought I’d caught part of his question. “Did you say something about pepperjack cheese?” He nodded, and I confirmed that we wanted it. Then he asked if we wanted it toasted, which caught me off guard. I had to have him repeat the question a couple of times. After I answered him, I added, “I’m deaf and I’m reading your lips, so that’s why I sometimes miss what you say.”

Now, usually I add that I have cochlear implants and I hear with them; that way people know that I do hear sound but they also know that I’m reading their lips as well. But I figured eh, this is just a quick lunch order and why go into all that detail? Here’s what happened when I just let that statement hang in the air without further clarification:

The guy stopped talking.

He had been keeping up a constant patter while we were there, which was making it hard for me to tell if he was asking a question, making a comment about our order, or even perhaps just talking to himself. My statement silenced him, and what a gift it was!

He quietly made the sandwich and just kind of looked up when he got to the veggies, waving his hand vaguely in the direction of the options available. I smiled and said we just wanted tomato, nothing else, and no sauce.

Obviously he thought I couldn’t hear anything and there was no point in really talking to me anymore, so he resorted to his version of sign language – and it was perfectly fine with me (even preferable, if I’m being honest). I thought it was kind of hilarious; it’s been a long time since I’ve had someone react that way when I say I’m deaf. Even before I got my CIs and I really couldn’t hear, when I told someone I was deaf and reading lips, they would still keep talking to me the same way they had been.

(Before I get to my next story, I have to interject and say that Dave had his viral load tested at this appointment, and we got the results yesterday. As of one month into his three month treatment with Harvoni and Ribavirin, he has cleared the Hepatitis C virus! He never cleared it in 2013; he went from over 4 million to 11,000 but that was as low as it went. This time he started at over 3 million and BOOM … now it’s undetected. ! ! ! !)

The other hearing loss-related thing that happened around here was during a power outage. The power really doesn’t go out very often here, and when it does they get it back on within a few hours (at the most). It seems to go out at weird times, though, not during storms. The last time was about a week ago, after we’d had some rain come through. During the storms all was well, but about 3:15 in the morning my eyes just kind of flew open. I could feel that something wasn’t right; I just didn’t know what it was. I realized Dave wasn’t in bed, and then I looked over at the clock and saw that it was off – we had a power outage.  (Dave had realized about five minutes before me and was getting candles.)

It wasn’t hot so we didn’t have fans on (or else the room suddenly getting hot would have woken me up). I realized that when I’m sleeping I’m more sensitive to light (and the lack of it) than I realized. I always assumed I wouldn’t wake up from a strobe light on a smoke detector, and that I’d need something that vibrated the bed to wake me up. (Those systems are, by the way, very expensive.) Now I’m kind of wondering if the strobe light would actually do the trick. I must be more sensitive to that kind of thing when I’m sleeping since I don’t have hearing to rely on. Very interesting!

 

The First Time I Went Deaf

For some reason, spring is not kind to my hearing.  Every time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, I remember the first time I went deaf.  Well, the first actual hearing loss that I suffered happened when I was too young to remember; I wasn’t born with a hearing loss, it was discovered when I was four.  A couple years earlier I’d had roseola and was hospitalized with a high fever, and the doctor speculated that was what caused my initial hearing loss.

But I wasn’t deaf, just hard of hearing.  More so in my right ear than my left, but I could hear sounds in both ears.  (I wore a hearing aid in my right ear.)

Spring, though, has brought deafness to me on two separate occasions.  I’ve written quite a bit about the hearing loss I suffered in mid-April 2008, the one that left me completely deaf and prompted me to start this blog.  As traumatic as it was to suddenly lose the rest of my hearing, I think the first time I lost my hearing as an adult was worse.

I don’t remember the exact day, just that it was very close to St. Patrick’s Day.  I remember taking a rubber stamping class that focused either on making cards for spring, or maybe cards to celebrate St. Pat’s and Easter.  In any case, the hearing in my worse (right) ear was fading and it made the class a real challenge.  I didn’t socialize as much as usual because it was too hard to follow all the conversations around the long table where we worked.  Instead I worked on my projects and went home, feeling worried and stressed.

Originally I thought it was my hearing aid, so I took it in to be checked out.  I was really sure this would fix things, so when I was told that the hearing aid was fine, I got a bad feeling.  I didn’t have an ENT, so I went to an urgent care clinic and told them what was happening with my hearing.  They took a look and said I had an ear infection, which was weird because I felt perfectly fine.  They prescribed antibiotics, which I dutifully took even though I didn’t believe the diagnosis.

When the antibiotics didn’t help, I found a local ENT.  This was an older man with not much of  a bedside manner.  He just did a hearing test, looked inside my ear and then told me I was deaf in that ear.  No, he couldn’t tell me why – there was no obvious reason.  Sometimes it just happens.  End of story.  He sent me on my way, furious and confused and devastated.  How had I lost all of the hearing in my ear?!  My hearing loss wasn’t supposed to be progressive.  I never, EVER expected to lose more hearing in my lifetime.

I found another clinic, doctors with a great reputation (ironically, they were the first to do a cochlear implant in Illinois) and made an appointment.  I wanted a second opinion; I wanted answers.  The doctor I saw was kind, patient, and answered all of my questions.  Besides a hearing test, I also had blood work done and a CAT scan to check for an acoustic neuroma.  (Side note:  This was in the internet’s infancy, 1993, and I happened to see on the order that they were looking for an acoustic neuroma.  I had no idea what it was, so I went to library and looked it up.  And proceeded to freak.  A tumor!  I’m going to need brain surgery!)

The CAT scan and blood work came back fine, so I was started on a regimen of steroids to see if my hearing would come back.  In the meantime, I was struggling to hear, to continue doing my job (I did word processing – on a Wang word processor) and communicate with people, mainly my then-husband (this was pre-Dave) and my son.  (My daughter wasn’t born yet.)  I was gripped with anxiety, sure that every day I would wake up and be completely deaf.  I had no idea why this was happening, and no reassurance that it wouldn’t happen again.  I didn’t have an ear mold for my left ear, so I couldn’t wear a hearing aid.  Although I had still had some hearing in my left ear, I already had a profound loss and didn’t know if it was getting worse.

In the end, the steroids didn’t help.  Hearing tests showed that I had lost all of my usable hearing in my right ear and just a small amount in my left, leaving it solidly in the profound range.  I jammed the ear mold meant for my right ear into my left ear so I could hear.  I cried myself to sleep every night.  I felt alone, isolated, and absolutely terrified.

The doctor was kind as he explained that sometimes this just happens and they don’t know why; they call it Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL).  Maybe it was a virus of some kind, maybe my hearing loss was actually a progressive one and not caused by the fever when I was a toddler – who knows.  Although he couldn’t promise me it wouldn’t happen again, he said it would be very rare.  He recommended hearing tests every six months or yearly for a while, to keep an eye on things.

I don’t remember how long it took for me to stop being nervous every morning when I put on my hearing aid.  For the first couple of years, I would panic when my hearing aid battery died, thinking I was losing my hearing again.  It was embarrassing to wipe away tears after replacing a battery and hearing sound again.

What really helped me calm down was getting new hearing aids.  I got analog bi-CROS hearing aids, which helped me ‘hear’ sounds on both sides.  I had to get used to wearing a hearing aid in each ear, but that wasn’t too bad.  The one on my right ear was just a transmitter, since I couldn’t actually hear in that ear.  But it picked up the sounds on my right side and sent them wirelessly to the hearing aid/receiver in my left ear.  When I first put them on, it was like light flooding a dark room.  I didn’t need an adjustment period; I loved those hearing aids from the first moment I wore them.  Things sounded the way I remembered them, even with no hearing left in my right ear.

It took 15 years for the other shoe to drop, for me to lose my hearing again like I always feared I would after the first time.  When it happened, though, I knew I had no more to lose.  It was a different type of grieving and adjustment, losing all of my hearing, but it was a small relief to stop worrying that it would happen again.

It happened, I survived.

Snippets from a Sunday in November

I’m planning our Thanksgiving menu, which currently consists of ridiculous amounts of food for the four of us.  I don’t care; leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving.  I calculated how many pie crusts I need and how much butter; I nailed down an appetizer.  After all that planning, I was horrified to realize I forgot to write stuffing on the list.  Stuffing, one of my favorite components of the meal!  (Shakes head, wonders about self.)

***

I’m still counting calories over here, a month and a half later.  I’m happy to report that I am WAY less bitchy and obsessive than I was when I did Weight Watchers; I’m also losing weight more consistently (slowly but consistently) and not doing the thing where I feel like I’ve starved myself all week and then gained two pounds, you know?  That was always discouraging.  I’m giving Livestrong.com a big thumbs up for ease of use.  Just be careful how you set it up, if you do use it.  I did the thing where I put in my current weight and then how much weight I wanted to lose per week, and let it calculate my calories for me.  (As a side note, it yelled at me when I said I wanted to lose two pounds a week.  “THAT’S NOT ENOUGH CALORIES PER DAY, CRAZY WOMAN!”  Being short sucks sometimes.)

What happened, though, was every time I updated to a new, lower weight, it would also lower my allotted number of calories per day.  Since I’m super-short (barely 5 feet 1 inch), my calorie count was inching down to just over 1,000 calories per day.  I was starting to get lightheaded at points, so I did some reading and apparently a woman of my age and size needs 1200 calories just to keep the ole body functioning.  Anything less and my body thinks it’s starving, which defeats the purpose.

So I switched things around and set my daily calories at a fixed 1200 per day.  That seems to work for me; combined with exercise, I’m losing about a pound a week with no hunger or lightheadedness.

On a related note, one of the things I love about the site is that you can enter your own recipes in and use those calorie counts.  I was being lazy and using someone else’s calorie count for homemade honey wheat bread, which was something like 125 calories per slice.  (Homemade bread has more calories than store-bought, but the better taste is worth it IMHO.)  I finally got off my butt and entered Dave’s bread recipe in and was ecstatic to see that it’s only 80 calories per slice.  And that’s with a slice even bigger than the ones I was giving myself before.  So yay, homemade bread.

Still no idea if it’s helped my cholesterol levels (they screwed up my blood test on Friday and I have to go back tomorrow to have it re-done) but there’s been a positive effect on my high blood pressure.  I’m not sure if it’s the exercise (probably is), but it was 110/60 at my doctor’s appointment on Friday, and I was a nervous wreck.  I get nervous just looking at the building my doctor works out of; once I set foot inside my heart just starts pounding.  Usually my BP is about 135/90 or a little higher, so when I told Dave what it was on Friday he was ready to check me into the hospital.  If it stays low, maybe I can even go off medication.

***

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for someone who cooks, I highly HIGHLY recommend a Recipe Rock.  I’m not linking to one because I’m not trying to make any money off referrals or anything, but if you do a search it’ll come right up.  Seriously, I use mine every day.  Just don’t lose the little magnet ball ‘cause, you know, you need that to make it work.

This is the Recipe Rock I have ... love the red color!

This is the Recipe Rock I have … love the red color!

***

We’re having a weird November day here – we woke up to temperatures in the 60s and lots of wind, and then some big storms moved into the area.  Of course, I’m missing all of it – it seems like nearly every time a big storm comes through I’m au natural (aka deaf), either because it’s nighttime and I’m in bed, or because I’ve taken a shower and I’m waiting for my hair to air-dry (usually one or two hours).

I got out of the shower and Dave excitedly told me about everything I missed (our bathroom has no window so between being deaf and not being able to see outside, I was clueless).  He described how the wind was so loud it sounded like a train, and showed me our neighbor’s back yard, which is festooned with pieces of siding that flew off the house next door.

A little while later, while it was still raining and windy but not tornado-like, he grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the patio door.  There was nothing there except a leaf plastered to the glass outside.  “Aw,” he said.  “Goldie was here just a second ago!”  (If you remember, Goldie is the outside/feral cat who lives under our deck and rebuffs our advances.)  Dave went back to the living room to finish watching his football game.

I dug around and found a cat carrier; during a break in the game, I showed it to Dave.  “What’s that for?” he wondered.

“Well, in case Goldie comes back and it gets really nasty, she can walk into the carrier from outside and at least be safe from the weather.”  I knew how ridiculous it sounded even as I said the words, but I gave him a hopeful smile.

I may not have been able to hear it, but I do believe that man laughed uproariously.

Stop Making Sense

Dave and I were watching a movie the other night when the phone rang.  It’s too far away from the living room to read the caller ID display; normally we’d pause what we were watching and get up to check, but this movie was being streamed through Dave’s computer and we couldn’t easily pause it.  So we figured we’d just check to see if there was a voicemail when the movie was over.

About 15 minutes later, Dave cocked his head and then jumped up.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on – he was acting like he heard something, but all I’d heard was the sound from the movie.  He went to his computer and paused the video, then went down to answer the door.

My mom was standing on our front porch, brandishing her laptop.  “Did you get my message?” she asked as we invited her in.  “No – wait, did you just call?” Dave said as he took her laptop from her.  “Yes – I don’t know what happened but all my stuff disappeared.  All the stuff written on the top, how I get to my bank and Facebook …”

She went on to explain what was missing as we brought her laptop into the dining room and opened it up.  She uses Internet Explorer, which I’m not familiar with (I use Firefox and, before that, Chrome) but it sounded like she was missing her bookmarks toolbar.  I took a chance and right-clicked in the toolbar area, got a drop down box, and saw that her Favorites toolbar was unchecked.  I checked it and voila … all her bookmarks showed up again.

After I showed her what I’d done to bring it back (I know it’s easy to accidentally click on things and have toolbars appear and disappear) we headed into the kitchen to feed her some of Dave’s birthday cake (coconut cake with a wondrous Swiss meringue buttercream frosting that I discovered this year … way, WAY better than the kind with powdered sugar which I find to be too sweet).

I knew she’d been out to visit my brother and his family the night before and that they were going to a Halloween party, so I asked what they dressed up as.  I heard her say, “Joe was broccoli.”  I thought, well, that’s kind of different but it could be a cute couples costume if his wife went as another type of veggie or food.  I was distracted at this point, trying to picture how they made the costume (or maybe they bought or rented it?) and I heard my mom saying something about cutting a wig for him.  Then I envisioned a green (curly, maybe?) wig, or maybe it was more of a head topper thing and not really a wig, and she just trimmed it so it wouldn’t get in his eyes?

Something like this, maybe?

Something like this, maybe?

I was in a bit of a reverie, imagining how this costume had come together, and my mom was still explaining.  “Yes, he had a black eye, and blood on his face …”

“Wait, Mom,” I interrupted.  “What did you say he went as?”  Bloody black-eyed broccoli was just not making sense.

“Rocky,” she said.  “You know, Rocky Balboa?”

Oooohhhhh.

Hearing With My Eyes

Dave and I headed back to the VA hospital on Monday for his dermatology appointment.  During his Hepatitis C treatment, a spot on his back started to change and the doctor wanted him to have it looked at.  It was always a little gnarly-looking, but during treatment it would randomly bleed and it developed more of a cauliflower shape.  (He’s had this mole-like thing for, he figures, around 20 years or more.)

I was a little worried, I admit; being the worrier that I am, I had frequently Googled ‘skin cancer’ and I was pretty sure that’s what he had.  The doctor came in and we talked for a bit; our conversation was going so smoothly that neither of us bothered to fill her in on our respective hearing losses.  We usually don’t mention it unless we’re having trouble hearing/understanding somebody; at the hospital, that would usually be a doctor or nurse with a heavy accent or tendency to talk to us while they’re looking away (writing or typing or whatever).

The dermatologist took a look at Dave’s back and casually said, “Oh yeah, that’s a basal cell carcinoma.”  Before I could freak out, she went on to say that it’s really common, easily treated and usually isn’t the type to spread.  She proceeded to look over the rest of his body and found one more spot that she said was a very early stage of basal cell carcinoma, on the top of his head.

As this was all happening, I was following what she said very easily.  She didn’t have an accent and she spoke clearly.  I really felt like I didn’t have a hearing loss at all; it’s very easy to get lulled into thinking you’ve reached a point where you don’t need accommodations anymore.

She explained that she was going to take a biopsy of the thing on Dave’s back, and we’d get the results in about a week; depending on how invasive it was, he’d either have it scraped off or cut out.  Then she turned away and slipped a blue mask over her mouth.  After that, it was like 70% of the conversation dropped away for me.  I could keep up by catching a word here and there and guessing at the content of the rest of her sentence, but it was so much work.

At one point, she turned away completely and asked a question.  I could tell it was a question by the inflection in her voice, but I hadn’t understood even one word of what she said.  Dave gazed at me over her shoulder, raising his eyebrows in a “What do I say?!” kind of way.  He hadn’t caught the question fully himself.  I had to shrug and mouth, “I don’t know!”  Finally he started telling her about our canning adventures; he had guessed that she’d asked what our plans were for the day and apparently he guessed correctly, because she continued the conversation with no ‘What the heck?!’ expression on her face (what we usually see when we respond inappropriately to an unheard question).

I could follow her a little better when I knew what the subject of the conversation was, but I was still having to work very hard to keep up.  If she had asked me a question directly, I would have definitely told her I was deaf and hearing with cochlear implants, and needed to see her lips.  But she slipped the mask off fairly quickly and, once again, our conversation became 100% clear to me.  She went on to zap Dave’s head with liquid nitrogen (he was not pleased!) and gave us instructions on taking care of the area where she took the biopsy.

The whole experience really made it clear how much I still use visual clues to ‘hear.’  I can go for so long with no problems because I spend most of my time with Dave, and I can carry on a conversation with him from another room – I’m so used to his voice, I don’t need to see his face to understand.  My cochlear implants work so well in most situations that I can get lulled into feeling like my hearing is 100% normal with them.  Then I have a situation like the one at the dermatologist’s office, and I get served a little slice of humble pie.

It’s all good – no complaints here; believe me, I will never complain about my cochlear implants!  I just need to remember that my eyes are just as important as my ears in my whole hearing experience.

Tomatoes, Fambly, Cochlear Implants

1.  Our tomatoes are starting to ripen, so I took a photo of the four types of heirloom tomatoes we appear to have in our garden.  The small plum-shaped tomatoes are Amish Paste; the larger plum-shaped tomatoes (with kind of an indent in the center) are San Marzano.  (Confession time:  We had these mixed up, and it was only when I referred back to the catalog for this blog entry that I realized this.)

Four types of tomatoes from our garden - 2013

Four types of tomatoes from our garden – 2013

The two types of mystery tomatoes are round, and one is no longer a mystery now that they’ve ripened up.  We confirmed that one type is from Russia, called Nature’s Riddle.  We originally thought it was a pink variety, and then we realized the top was actually yellow.  We ended up finding them in the Striped section of the catalog – the top ripens to golden yellow and the bottom becomes a salmon-pink color.  Pretty cool!  The others are still a mystery … but they are very pretty, we have a lot of them and, luckily, they are delicious.

2.  The family is doing well:  Dave is starting to feel better – his graft versus host issues seem to be letting up a bit.  Paige set out on her own and has moved in with some friends, so we are wishing her well as she moves on to this next stage of her life.  Eric came out for a visit over the weekend and is still enjoying his life in the big city; we had a great visit and got to watch the first two episodes of The Heroes of Cosplay with him.

3.  When I originally got my cochlear implants, I worried for a while over whether I should just get one or do both ears at the same time.  One of my concerns was that having two CIs would double my costs.  So far that hasn’t been much of an issue, but now I’m considering an upgrade and that money thing is coming into play.  Advanced Bionics has a new, just-approved-by-the-FDA processor called the Naida CI Q70.  It is VERY COOL and has lots of new capabilities that I would love to have; it’s also smaller, has an option to wear it off the ear and also to use regular batteries if I want (instead of the AB rechargeables).  I’ve had my CIs for just over five years now, so I qualify for an upgrade through insurance (not sure though if they will pay for one or both – I’m waiting to find that out).  I would still have to pay 20% out of pocket, though, and that comes to a few thousand dollars that I don’t have.

Luckily, I don’t NEED an upgrade – my Harmonies work just fine.  Since there’s no urgency, I can save some money and wait a while before I upgrade.  (We don’t use credit cards, remember, so no slapping down the plastic to pay for these babies!)  I won’t be able to even consider an upgrade until 2014 sometime.  So it’s exciting and a little agonizing (the wait, that is) but ultimately I’m pleased that they aren’t out of reach for me.  In the meantime, I’m paying attention to all the feedback from those who do upgrade right away…by the time I get them, I should be pretty well-versed in everything they can do!

Feel the Noise

Dave walked from window to window, peering out in a futile attempt to find the source of the noise.  “Where is it coming from?” he puzzled, craning his neck out the deck door.  I could hear it too – voices, loud talking, laughter, and frequent, ear-piercing high-pitched shrieks and screams.  Mostly shrieks and screams, to be honest.  It was driving us crazy.

Earlier in the evening, we drowned out the cacophony with a super-loud episode of Orange is the New Black.  (So different from the book, but still awesome.)  But we were done with TV for the night, downshifting into Just Before Bed mode in front of our computers.  And our computers are situated in our dining room, next to an open window right by all the screaming.

Dave hissed, “I can’t see anything.  They aren’t in the backyard, or up on their deck; I even went downstairs and looked through that window to check.”  I listened for a moment, then said, “That’s definitely the little kids next door.  I would recognize their screams anywhere.”

All summer long, we’ve been listening to these kids (probably about 5 and 8 years old, give or take a year) scream and shriek.  They don’t seem to be capable of being outside without screaming all the time, right by our windows.  (If not in the backyard next to our dining room window, then on the sidewalk in front of our house, so we can hear them screaming while we watch TV.)  We never say anything, of course.  Kids will be kids, and these aren’t bad kids…just the noisiest kids we’ve ever heard.

During the day it’s aggravating but not a big deal; I’ve kind of gotten used to the constant shrieking, kind of like hearing a dog bark all day long.  But last night was an anomaly; it was fairly late for little kids, almost 10:30 at this point.  It really sounded like the whole family was having a big, rollicking party in the back yard.  Hence Dave’s amazement that nobody seemed to be out there, at least that he could see.  There weren’t even a bunch of cars in the driveway to indicate extra people at the house.  All he saw was the lights shining brightly from the interior.

We finished up our computering (Candy Crush Saga Level 160, whoo!!) and headed off to our bedroom, on the other end of the house.  By this point, one of my CI batteries had died so I was down to one ear, and I could still hear the shrieks and piercing screams perfectly in our bedroom.  It sounded like they were on OUR deck, or just under our bedroom window.  I checked the rest of the neighboring yards, in case someone else seemed to be having a party, and all the yards were dark.  (Apparently we aren’t the only non-partiers in our neighborhood, heading to bed by 10:45 on a Saturday night.)

I felt bad for Dave, who still has some hearing when he takes off his hearing aid.  Isn’t that a weird thing to say?  Usually I’m bemoaning all that I don’t hear without my CIs (um, that would be everything) and here I am, feeling sorry for Dave because he still has some natural hearing.  All I had to do, though, was slip that other CI off my ear and BOOM…total silence.  It was like someone slapped duct tape over every mouth next door.  (What?  No, I haven’t fantasized about doing that…who, me?!)

After Dave took off his hearing aid, I asked if he could still hear them.  I knew how loud it still was, even on the other end of the house and hearing out of just one ear, so I figured he could.  He claimed it was fine and not bad once he had his hearing aid out.  And I gave thanks that I have this unique ability to go from silence to sound at my choosing.  It’s one of the few benefits of being deaf and having cochlear implants.

This morning, Dave looked bleary-eyed and said he didn’t want to take our usual early AM walk.  “I think I twisted my back somehow, when I was sleeping.  Who knew sleeping could be so dangerous?!  And man, I gotta tell you, those kids were screaming for hours last night.”  He yawned and continued, “But I swear, they weren’t outside.  I think they were actually in their house, in the lower level with the patio door open.  I looked and looked, and never saw anybody outside.”

So it was a mystery, our late-night shriekfest.  Dave is hopeful that, since school is starting later this month, the evening parties (or whatever it was) will die down.  I figure that if they keep it up, one of the other neighbors will call the cops on them.  (It won’t be us, especially since I can turn off the noise if it gets too bad, but the neighbor on the other side of us isn’t so generous.)

Summer is filled with loud noises, especially since we have our windows open.  If it isn’t screaming kids, then it’s lawn equipment, motorcycles, train whistles – you name it.  I’m glad that I’m not forced to listen to this noise pollution if I don’t want to.

After we finished breakfast today, I heard someone start up a loud, whining piece of equipment outside.  It sounded like a leaf/grass blower; I especially hate those.  I smiled at Dave and said, “Looks like this is a good time to take my shower.”  And I slipped off my CIs and went happily into the silence.

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!

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