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 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.

 

 

Photo: “Birds in the Bush” linocut by Jill Kerr

On social media, it’s sometimes tough to tell the difference between clickbait and real posts. Clickbait are the teasing posts that tempt us to clickand then immediately regret it. She opened her front door, and what happened next—I couldn’t stop laughing!

Clickbait also secretly gathers information by urging us to reply. “Type yes and share if you agree” or “Can I get an amen?” 

But some people post real ‘provocative’ questions to get a conversation going. For people with hearing loss, it might be a lose-lose question like what would you rather lose, your hearing or your eyesight?  One question that’s guaranteed to whip up a storm: What’s the right name to call ourselves? Deaf? Hard of hearing? Hearing impaired? A thousand of us can’t resist—we click and jump into the conversation with our fists up.

So, today, let’s lighten things up a bit with some goofy questions to take our mind off the serious stuff of the world. I’ll give my answers, which may be widely and wildly different from yours.

 

  1. If you had to lose your hearing in one ear, which ear would you pick?    IF I still had natural hearing in both ears, but had to give up one ear’s worth, I’d choose the right side. For the simple reason that I look better from the left, so of course I’d want people to speak to that ear.

 

  1. If you had to give up hearing 2 speech sounds, what would they be?  The S sound; I like it but don’t always hear it and there are many ways to replace it in speech. In his essay ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’, humorist David Sedaris writes about avoiding the use of ‘S’ because he lisped and didn’t want to take speech lessons. Instead of answering ‘yes’, he would say ‘correct’ and  ‘rivers’ became ‘a river or two’. I would also give up ‘TH’ because it’s almost impossible to hear. Friends could replace it with D, an adequate stand-in.  “Den, Gael, after da show, we’ll go to da bar.”

 

  1. Back to the would-you-rather-lose-your-hearing-or-eyesight question. I won’t even answer this one! As a person who depends on eyesight to help me hear, i.e. through speechreading, thinking about this makes my stomach hurt. I know that Helen Keller said blindness cuts you off from things and hearing loss cuts you off from people, but neither she nor I had a choice in the matter. So let’s try something easier. Would you rather lose your hearing or your sense of humor? Or your ability to put eyeliner on straight? Or your good taste in clothes? In a heartbeat, I’d give up the steady eyeliner hand.

 

  1. If you could wear your hearing aids anywhere on your body, where would it be? I’ve been thinking about this and I can’t decide between wearing them in a nose ring or my bra.

 

  1. For people who live with tinnitus: Various tinnitus apps use white noise and pleasant sounds such as ocean waves to mask the whooshing, roaring, dingety-dinging, bell-clanging and whatnot sounds of tinnitus. If you could mask your bad sound with a food sound, what would it be? Popcorn popping, bacon frying…oh hang on, those sounds would be just as bad as the tinnitus, if you heard them constantly and loudly in your head. Alrighty then, let’s forget this question.

 

  1. Is there a sound you’ve lost that you’d like to have back?  I’d like to understand someone whispering in my ear, although I can’t remember if I could ever do that. Still, I’d like that sound-gift, as long as the whisperer isn’t one of those people who spits while speaking.

 

  1. OK, let’s ask it (she sighs). What should people who are deaf, have hearing loss, are hard of hearing, or hearing-impaired, or a HoH, or Deaf or a deafie call themselves? Whatever they want, and you should, too, even if you refer to yourself differently. Because. It. Doesn’t. Matter. 

 

I hope you answered these questions honestly and to the best of your ability. But let’s move on from the frivolous, rhetorical and silly questions to concentrate on the important stuff—like taking care of the hearing we’ve got and improving our communication with hearing loss. Those things, we have control over.