Shocking Sounds of Better Hearing

Gael Hannan
July 25, 2023

Most sounds fade away at some point or cease to surprise us, but others retain their shock appeal until – well, forever!

When I received a cochlear implant on the right side in 2017, life changed – especially my auditory landscape. Not only did sounds become louder, but I seemed to be hearing many as if for the first time. And there were speech sounds that I definitely had never heard, which is why I pronounced pizza as peesa up until 2017. I wrote about this new reality of life when I was implanted but even now, certain sounds have the power to make me sit up straight, whirl to the source of sound and say, “Seriously?!” There are moments when hearing better doesn’t seem to live up to its advance billing.

But a few years ago, deciding to take the next step was a no-brainer. “Sure, I’ll get a cochlear implant! And a new power aid in the other ear. Bring ‘em on!”

The reality set in almost immediately, just a few days after activation. Life was loud and with more than a few audible surprises – some of them beautiful, others less so. Did I really want to hear a nose whistling and stomach gurgling….and I’m talking about my own? And the same sounds from someone else can be distasteful to a person new to powerful hearing technology.

A significant discovery was that the Hearing Husband sniffs. Not glue or drugs…he just sniffs. He’s always done this, apparently, probably due to allergies. But with dramatically improved audibility, it was almost all I seemed to hear. The Sniff followed me through the house – I could hear it from almost anywhere.

Other sounds were less invasive but still surprising. Spinach leaves rubbing together go 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. I didn’t know that car exhaust limps to a noisy finish. He said he was going to charge me a loonie (a Canadian dollar) for every positive identification he makes for me. I should charge him for every sniff I have to hear!

When I hike, the bushes are alive with sound – who knew? Birdwing-flapping, birdy-peeping, and bushes rustling. It’s still difficult to identify birds except for this one: Bam! Bam! Bam! Bammity-bammity-bam-bam-bammity! I love the woodpecker but I’m just not sure if the woods are filled with Woody’s extended pecker clan, or if I’m hearing the same bird all the time.

When I stop walking, it’s quieter because some of the noise has been coming from me! The fleece of my pullover hisses as my arms swing at my side. My hiking boots connecting with the forest floor—stones, wood chips, plain old dirt—create a woodland symphony. It startles me when a branch rubs against my hiking hat; my process records it as a minor roard. And if I’m hiking uphill, the steady rhythm of my own breathing is more ragged than I’d like to admit.

UVOs (Unidentified Vibrating & Hissing Objects) still confuse me. I can identify planes because they’re loud and nothing else sounds like planes, except a big semi trailer passing on the highway. It’s the inside sounds I can’t always identify: the fridge, water running through pipes, the dishwasher, washing/dryer, and the fireplace fan all sound alike. I have to give the Hearing Husband a buck and he tells me what I’m hearing. And then it’s, “Oh, right!” 

If I actually had to pay up, I would owe the Hearing Husband about $3,298 by now. But it would be worth it. And I seemed to have tuned out the Sniff, but every once in a while, a particularly strong one earns him a startled look.

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 please, keep your sniffing, gurgling tummies and open-mouthed chewing to yourselves.

  1. You give me hope, as always.

    I. In the process of…it’s scary, but, I might have no choice

  2. OH WOW!! This really touched me. As I have been waiting for my CI approval and in the mean time I am 2nd guessing myself if I should or shouldn’t get it done. I am single sided deaf as of 3/13/2022

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