Today I traveled to Johns Hopkins for my 6 year post-activation mapping of my cochlear implant. A number of things went through my head as I traveled a familiar road to my audiologist at the Listening Center . For one thing, I listened to the GPS give directions and didn’t glance at it once – for I was hearing it. I talked to my assistance dog, Chloe, in the back seat when I pointed out the stadium as we passed and heard her bark in response to let me know she was an Oriole fan.
As I entered the parking deck for Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center , I mashed the button to give me a ticket. I heard the instructions to pay before returning to my vehicle prior to leaving. Walking across the enormous lobby I could hear families chatting while they waiting to check in, and admissions counselors quietly talking to patients ON MY DEAF (implanted) SIDE. As I approached the elevators I heard a series of “dings” as different cars reached the lobby level waiting to take patients “up” or “down”. The elevator announced the floor level on each concourse and warnings to stand clear of the door echoed through the car.
All of these sounds were silent for me in 2005. Six years later I hear them all and do so with relative ease. When I was originally tested to see if I qualified for a CI, I entered the sound-proof booth with my husband. I waited to hear sounds in order to “mash the button” and turned to my husband to say, “Gee… when will it start do you think?” My voice drifted off when I saw the look on his face. SHOCK.
He gestured to the window and then the speakers and said, “Denise, the test has been going for 2 or 3 minutes already”. Neither one of us realized how poorly I was hearing since I relied on speech reading so much. Today I entered the booth with confidence and even took a test “brand new” for me. With crowd noise I had to repeat different voices (male and female) of a conversation. My audiologist was very impressed. She said she could see “the switch turn on” after a sentence or two when my CI picked out the important voices from among all the others.
I realize cochlear implants are not an option for everyone with hearing loss. I also know that some people get a cochlear implant and are not 100% happy with the outcome. For me… the Nucleus Freedom cochlear implant changed my life. I hear SO well, in fact, that I’ve chosen not to go bi-lateral like many in my peer group have done. On my “bad” balance days, I cannot risk having my balance worsen because of a 2nd implant at this time. I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease PRIOR to my first CI, and my family and I cannot tell that it made my symptoms any worse. I have, however, found some research that may indicate a 2nd CI could worsen Meniere’s symptoms – so for now? I wait to see what the future may bring. My audiologist believes I hear as well with one as well or better than many do with two. I’m happy with how I am hearing!