One of the joys of getting brand new hearing aids or getting a cochlear implant (CI) is the new sounds that come on your radar.
As a hearing aid user, I loved how sounds popped up out of nowhere, shooting new information to my brain. Sounds were louder and crisper and the hiss of the ‘s’ sounds almost drowned out other sounds until the brain’s excitement settled down. But 40 years of hearing aid use didn’t prepare me for what I heard after having a cochlear implant. On the first day of switch on, the nyuk-nyuk-nyuk sound of the wall clock, counting off the seconds, was thrilling at first.
Then it drove me nuts.
It’s been two years since implantation, and after a setback due to the hostile invasion of tinnitus into my life, I’m once again experiencing new sounds. (No, the tinnitus hasn’t changed, just the attention I give it.) With every “what’s that sound” that I ask, the Hearing Husband pauses, listens, and tells me what it is or thinks it is. At first, he showed his excitement at every new sound but now, while he’s still delighted at my progress and new CI-fueled abilities, he doesn’t make a big thing of it, like he did with the clock. “She can hear the clock! Hey everybody, Gael can HEAR THE CLOCK!” And then, at my request, he tried figuring out how to turn it down.
This past weekend, we were hiking in the Pinnacles National Park, one of our happy places. It was even happier on this trip, because I heard things that hadn’t entered my hear-abulary before. Just in case you aren’t familiar with a ‘hear-abulary’, it’s like a vocabulary, the ginormous list of words that we know, except that a hear-abulary is the list of sounds that we recognize. Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk was the first new sound in my hear-abulary after implementation. As I write, I’m in our fifth-wheel camper and we have a wall clock that I’d like to throw a rock at. It’s nyuk-nyuk-nyuk sounds even louder because I’m too focused on it.
Here are this weekend’s additions to my hear-abulary:
A flock of wild turkeys running down a paved road – luckily away f
rom me – make the cutest tippy-tippy sound. In my past hearing life, I would never have heard that tippy-tippy over the honks of stressed-out gobblers.
On a hike, the sound of our hiking boots and walking poles (Mooch-mooch-chump! Mooch-mooch–chump!) was loud to my ears. For other sounds, I consulted the Hearing Husband. “What’s that sound that just started?” Because nature sounds register so naturally in the hearing person’s brain, he needed some backup information.
“What does it sound like?”
“Diddly-diddly-diddly…. oh, wait, there’s a little creek! That’s it!”
I’d asked him too soon; with a little detective work, I often figure these things out myself.
I’m struggling with one section of my hear-abulary. Birds. I can tell a crow’s caw and a Canada Goose honk – both are loud and strong. And surprisingly, the chirping of the tiniest birds are often crystal-clear through my cochlear implant, whereas with my hearing aid, those sounds simply don’t exist. It’s all the birds in the middle – say, between a crow and a bushtit – that stump me. They all sound the same to me through my CI, a sound mash of thwatty-shtick-pupple-thwit-thwit. If anyone recognizes that bird sound, I’d appreciate your letting me know.
It’s exciting! People with hearing loss, what hear-abulary sounds have you added recently?