Before I was implanted, I had been deaf for a little over a decade. While I could survive just fine without hearing, I deeply desired to be able to hear again. I searched within myself for a long time on whether I should or shouldn’t get the Cochlear Implant. Fear was a big reason I hadn’t considered it for the longest time, but I finally realized I didn’t want to miss out on what I knew I would be missing out on. You know the old saying, “You can’t miss what you’ve never had”? Well, I knew what I was missing because I had it before.
While I was hard of hearing for much of my life prior to becoming profoundly deaf, I didn’t ever think I could lose my hearing completely, but I soon found out that you can lose it as easily as you can lose a limb. Whether by accident or genetics, the gift of hearing is truly fragile and something to hold precious just like all of your other senses. And when it was gone, it was gone. I’ve spoken before about my depression, reconciliation and acceptance over losing my hearing and again about post implant hearing.
However, I’ve never before spoken about what it feels like to hear again. It’s nearly impossible to describe what hearing is like, but to describe what it’s like hear again? Let me see if I can do that…
Have you ever had a limb fall asleep and then, to regain mobility to it, you had to move it around until the sensation was gone and you could use your limb again? Regaining the ability to hear was similar, minus the moving.
When I first had the sound processor (the outer ear piece) turned on for the first time, I could hear but nothing was clear. My brain was becoming reacclimated to sound for the first time in over a decade, so all the sound I could hear was akin to white noise. Just a continuous jumble of static. I was advised to keep it on continuously. From the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. Over time, the static started dying down and sound started to sound more natural… like how I remembered it. Certain sounds I had forgotten and they would startle me but I gradually learned to recognize them.
Feeling the ability to hear again was very much like my previous analogy with the limb falling asleep, but but taking so much longer to pass away. The static was like the odd sensation you get when your limb is getting the blood flow back in. While that isn’t the best way to describe what it’s like to hear again, it was very much an apropos comparison. But even with the implant, and unlike the comparison, my hearing is nowhere near natural hearing. And I’ve learned to be OK with that. I can’t filter out background noise like the “normal” ear can, but I can hear and understand enough to hold lengthy conversations.
I hope this helps you to understand, not only me but others, better that it isn’t exactly a “cure” and that it comes with its own challenges that affect us all differently. Hearing again is a blessing for those of us who lost our hearing. Whether or not we also are fluent in sign language.
Have a great week, everyone!