Every cochlear implant blog I’ve read is the same. I thought I’d be the one to buck the trend.
Unfortunately, I’ve done exactly the same thing that everyone blogging about the journey to getting a bionic ear does – stop updating their blog at about six months after switch on.
I don’t know why, but everyone seems to stop writing at around that point. I always wondered why. Was it because they were too freaked by the new sounds to think straight? Or was it because they’d just run out of new things to say?
I haven’t run out of things to say – in fact I have a lot I want to say still… but what’s happened is that I woke up one morning, and the implant was just… normal. Ordinary, even. This is probably one of the last few blogs I’ll write, so I’ll just get it out there.
It’s just a part of life now. Like my old hearing aid was. Like my glasses still are. I get up in the morning, I switch it on, I hear stuff. It’s pretty straightforward. All those deep, complicated thoughts I had about the morality of the implant, about the related issues… they seem silly and trivial now.
I’m hearing more and more stuff every day. Speech is clearer. Music is clearer. The television is almost an overload of auditory information now. I can hear the traffic outside my hotel room, the air conditioning hum and the clack of my fingers on the rubber keyboard.
Has my life changed at all as a result? Yes, but in ways that I didn’t expect.
I’m getting emails every week from people I’ve known for years but never expected to get emails from, telling me that they’re getting an implant. They ask me questions, I try and answer them as best as I can.
I bump into people in the hospital who recognise me from my blog, and shake my hand. Then they ask me questions, and I try and answer them as best as I can.
The waiting room in the hospital is like a deaf club, with three generations of one deaf family sitting, waiting for their teenage daughter or granddaughter’s switch on. Everyone’s signing to each other, sharing jokes and asking how I’m getting on with mine.
Another teenage girl sits with her silent, sullen hearing parents, quietly asking me which implant I got and how much I can hear. She tells me how many of her friends at school have them, which is why she wants one too.
I find certain sounds really set me on edge. Rustling crisp packets. Furniture scraping on a stone floor. Cutlery rattling in a kitchen. A weekend away by the seaside was ruined by a horde of people on loud, blatting motorbikes roaring up and down the front. Maybe I’m just getting old.
There’s lots of sounds that I like, too. The ting of clinking glasses. The pop and hiss of a champagne cork. The music I liked before, I like even more. Instead of just the bass line, I now hear the voice of the singer, and the melody of the song. I can’t perceive the melody, but I know it’s there.
Videogames are amazing now. Gunshots feel like an explosion of compressed air that genuinely make me jump. The chittering of a zombie in the darkness makes me very, very scared. Sounds I hear are making me feel stuff that I didn’t feel before.
Speech is starting to feel like a puzzle that I might one day solve. A month ago, I met with a man to recce a location for filming. I’d never met him before, but he came up to me, shook my hand, and started speaking.
When he started speaking, something amazing happened. I felt like an invisible arm was put round me, lifting me up, supporting me, taking some of my weight, whispering ‘Here… let me help you.’
My brain felt lightheaded. I realised I was lipreading him… but I was also hearing him. My eyes were relaxing. I could feel my actual irises defocusing slightly as my bionic ear took up some of the strain of trying to work out what he was saying to me.
I was so giddy with happiness, that I felt like stopping him mid sentence with a single finger on his lips, saying ‘Sir… I-I just want to say… I can understand you really clearly. I understand you more clearly, and more precisely, than I’ve ever understood anyone in my entire life. You beautiful stranger. Kiss me.’ But I didn’t. I just nodded and smiled, and carried on listening.
My son brings me my implant sometimes, in the mornings. I’ll be in the bathroom, shaving. He’ll push the door open and bring the implant to me, and watch me put it on, smiling his cheeky little smile, rubbing his hands and looking for the telltale red flashing light that means its working. Then he’ll put his arms up for a hug. I’ll pick him up, spin him round and take him downstairs. When I do that, he laughs, a big shoulder shaking belly laugh.
I can hear my son laughing. It’s the best sound in the world. I didn’t hear it before. That’s worth more than anything else.
I’m still deaf, though. In a noisy pub or office, I can’t make out people’s words.
When it all gets too much, I just take it off.
Then there’s nothing but silence. Perfect, unbroken, never ending silence.