Back to Mass Eye and Ear for my 3 month post activation follow up. Go through the paces. Testing, tears and mapping (device programming). I’m doing well. Better than your average implant recipient. My ability to detect different sounds is at the mild hearing loss level. Unbelievable right? My whole word recognition score has gone from 55% to 66%. So why the tears? I continue to want to fly wildly down the black diamond ski trails but I’m still working my way off the bunny slope. It’s normal. I still to struggle with hearing challenges such as soft spoken people, group situations, and background noise.
I’m told to focus on my what I can do versus what I can’t. This is good advice and I really do want to listen to it.
The following day I finally have my appointment with a speech language pathologist. It’s part of the standard set of follow up appointments for new cochlear implant users at MEEI. I honestly have no idea what a speech language pathologist does but I’m hoping she can offer some advice on rehab activities that would be good for me. I was so impressed with this woman. First of all she was a very caring and sympathetic listener. After I vented about some of my frustrations she commented, “Sounds like you tend to be hard on yourself”. Uhm, yeah, that’s true. She did some basic testing to get a sense of how much I could understand without lip reading. She started with some sets of words, then sentences, then some unstructured conversation. I did well.
She also asked me questions that I’ve never been asked before. Some really basic stuff like, “When did you first notice your hearing was causing you difficulty? As a child? In high school?” , “Do you think you always had some hearing loss?”, “Do you feel comfortable asking for help to hear others better?”
She touched on the strategies I already use to make my hearing loss known and give others tips to communicate better with me, such as face me, don’t cover your mouth, slow down a little, etc., etc. I said I was hoping I could put some of these tools away now that I have a CI. Maybe eventually, in some situations, but I will never have “normal” hearing and I need to accept that.
The speech pathologist also pointed out that the effort for successful communication does not rest solely on my shoulders. It is a shared experience and others can and will help me, if I tell them what to do. Maybe I sound like a dum-dum but this was revelatory for me. No one has ever talked to me about my hearing in this way before. I realized just how alone I’ve felt in dealing with the challenges of living with severe hearing loss. And a lot this starts with me, thinking I’m supposed to handle it on my own. Where do I get these ideas?