I’m back! Today was my first of several cochlear implant consults. Before I get to the nitty gritty of this post, I want to add that I may be atypical in that these anecdotes are not necessarily going to be cheery or uplifting. When I was searching for stories about cochlear implant candidates, most were positive albeit apprehensive. I am not excited to get an implant. In fact, I’m dreading it. I do not want one. Not in a house. Not with a mouse. Many people are excited at the prospect, and that’s great. Many people are also excited to get a Brazilian wax. Again, great. But not for me.
For me, a slew of too many things can go wrong. First and foremost, the surgery might not work. Because they destroy your cochlea in order to implant the device, there’s no turning back. Meaning, if the surgery doesn’t work, you’re now deaf in that ear. So instead of being marginally deaf, you are now REALLY DEAF. Yes, I’m yelling. Also, the surgery might work, but you have no idea how well. You may hear as well as you did with your hearing aids. You might get back 90% of your hearing or anything in between. This is a gamble, and I’m unconvinced the odds are ever in my favor.
Also, you need to be vaccinated to avoid pneumonia and meningitis. You know, things that can kill you. And finally, facial paralysis. While rare, it is a risk. I find all of these things terrifying. Are you beginning to see why my pessimism springs eternal?
Okay, back to today’s foray. I met with Dr. Rebecca Lewis at the House Ear Clinic where I’ve been going off and on for over a decade. Before my appointment, I drank several cups of coffee to put me in a good-ish mood, but I don’t think even a dozen Starbucks Venti Americanos could have done the trick. Dr. Lewis spoke softly, which immediately pissed me off, and I snapped, “Can you please speak up?” Not my finest moment. But I have to say that I’m tired of hearing professionals not speaking loud enough, or at least asking me if they need to boost their volume. Know your audience, people!
Fortunately, she was kind and understanding and offered to type instead. I told her I didn’t need that, only to speak up, which she did. And then I felt like a jerk because she was so incredibly nice and accommodating. She started with the questions: when I started noticing my hearing loss, when I got my first pair of hearing aids, how many pairs I’d had over the years. The more questions she asked, the more depressed I got.
Then on to the Dreaded Sound Booth From Hell (DSBFH), where you hear pre-recorded words like “boat” and “chum” and “phone,” and you have to repeat them back. Guess who failed miserably? I already knew I qualified for the implant, but they test you again to make sure you do indeed suck. I’m hearing one in four words, although that’s with no visual cues. I’m a lip reader extraordinaire, so my numbers go up significantly when I can see a person’s face. I come in handy if you’re watching sports– I can usually tell you what the players are saying. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of swearing in sports.
After the DSBFH, we went back to Dr. Lewis’s office to discuss the numbers and to learn how the implant goes in. That’s when I lost it. Crying, sobbing, feeling sorry for myself. Had my wonderful husband not been there to console me, I may have crawled into the corner, complete with paper bag over my head. But I blew my nose with as much dignity as possible (not much, for the record) and powered through.
The good news, and lord knows I need any glimmer I can get my hands on, is that unlike in the past, the implant is so thin now, they can slip it behind your ear near the mastoid bone. No longer do they have to shave part of your skill to get it in. And because it’s wafer thin, no more bump. Both of these make me want to barf, btw, just thinking about them.
Next up is my consult in 2 weeks, meeting with the surgeon and learning more about the implant. I want to be that noble person you look up to and admire for their bravery and resilience. I’m not that. And to quote my own book, because hey, shameless promotion, “I have the courage of a flea. Courage is noble, fleas are not,” I do aspire to be a positive role model, though. Someday. But today is not that day.