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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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!’
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?”
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.