I don’t know about this “hearing better” thing. Do I really want to hear a nose whistling and stomach gurgling…and I’m talking about my own! The same sounds from someone else are a bit, uh, distasteful and shocking to a person with hearing loss with powerful new technology who has never heard them before.
Taking the next step in hearing improvement was a big one, but it seemed like a good idea, a no-brainer. “Sure, I’ll get a cochlear implant! And a new power aid in the other ear? Absolutely, I’ll take one of them, too!”
When both were up and running—the cochlear implant (CI) on the right side and the left-side LiNX2 power aid—the sound landscape of my life changed. Not only did it become much louder, but there were also a lot of audible surprises. Some of them beautiful, others less so.
My Hearing Husband sniffs. Not glue or drugs…he just sniffs. He’s always done this, apparently, and it’s probably allergies or something. But with my new and improved audibility, it’s almost all I seem to hear. The Sniff follows me through the house.
Less invasive but still surprising is the sound of spinach leaves that rub together, shmoom, shmoom, when I’m making a salad. And who knew that a car still makes a sound when it’s turned off? I couldn’t figure out the dmp-dmp-dmp sound in the garage after I parked. I was pretty sure I hadn’t run over something, but I fetched the Hearing Husband to identify the sound. Having never heard it before, I never suspected the car exhaust as it limped to a noisy finish well after the rest of the car was silent. The man is about to start charging me a loonie (a Canadian dollar) for every positive identification he makes. Fine—I’ll charge him a loonie for every sniff I hear, we should come out about even.
On a solo tramp through the woods today, as part of my aural rehabilitation, I took off my hearing aid and listened solely through my CI. The silence of nature is an urban myth; the sound never stopped and a great deal of it was from birds. The flapping of their wings as they moved, excitedly and unseen, in the bushes. Birdsong—some very high pitched and sweet, but mostly lower pitched, like a duck with laryngitis. And who knows, maybe there is something going around affecting birdy vocal chords. It makes them all sound alike. That is, until Woody Woodpecker starts up—him, I recognize.
Bam! Bam! Bam! Bammity-bammity-bam-bam-bammity!
I’m not complaining. I’m just not sure if the woods are filled with Woody’s extended pecker clan, or if I’m hearing the same damn bird all the time. The wind in the tall fir trees made a whoosh sound that took me awhile to figure out.
When I stopped walking, it was much quieter. Turns out I was also a noisemaker. The fleece of my pullover hissed as my arms swung at my side. My hiking boots connected with all sorts of forest floor stuff—stones, wood chips, plain old dirt—which created a little sylvan symphony. My hair crackled as it rubbed against my sound processor and through it all, the steady rhythm of my own breathing. The only thing not making a noise was the woodland carpet of fawn lilies (dog-toothed violets) which just sat there, quietly.
A plane flew over and for the first time since my CI was ‘turned on’, a plane sounded like it was supposed to, an actual plane-drone rather than a UVO, an Unidentified Vibrating Object. This is the category in which I lump together all unseen and unrecognized sounds heard through my CI. The fridge, water running through pipes, the dishwasher, washing/dryer, the fireplace fan and incoming text messages: they all sound alike, somewhat harsh and or even horrible, until I give the Hearing Husband a buck and he tells me what I’m hearing. Once they’ve been named, the sounds take on character and meaning.
Again, I’m not complaining; I’m grateful for the sounds—and also for the fact that I’m carrying fewer loonies around in my pocket. Those things are heavy.
If you’re considering hearing aids or a CI, I can tell you that it’s worth it. Bring on the sound—I embrace it all—but feel free to keep your sniffing, gurgling tummies and open-mouthed chewing to yourselves.