Billy 2.0 – The Beginning of the End

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.

13 Comments

  1. Your loving cousin says:

    *organises a furniture moving party in a kitchen made of cutlery by the seaside on a motorbike power by crisp packets*

    Reply
    • Amy Pogrebin Bremenstuhl says:

      I'm glad I stumbled upon this blog!
      I understand what you mean by your child's laughter~ I have a little baby girl and oh, her laughter~ I just can't get enough of it. I find myself doing the same thing over and over and over just to hear her laugh~ poor thing.

      I noticed that many bloggers stop writing after 6 months as well because they feel they've run out of things to say~ for me it's the opposite~ what should I say this time? But, in all honesty, my pregnancy left me very little energy to write. And, now a baby~ I'm slowly getting energy to write again.

      And, lastly, silence! Love it. I'm writing this in complete silence!

      Reply
  2. Margie Fitchlee says:

    I am approaching my 4 year anniversary of my switch on....I was a late deafened woman who started losing my hearing in my late 40's.... and 59 years old when I had my surgery...life got pretty scary and lonely for me...then after reading about the success of many others who had the implant surgery...I took the plunge...put my fears of the surgery behind me...and haven't looked back since....of course things are not perfect...but they are perfect for me...I wish I could say I can understand music without a hitch...but I still can't...I am however so thankful for this technology and the skillful hands of Dr. Ernesto Diaz-Ordaz in Buffalo NY...he is the man who saved me!!! I WRITE ARTICLES FOR THE BUFFALO IMPLANT GROUPS NEWSLETTER.....I hope to inspire or help just one person out there contemplating the surgery to take that big step....they will amaze themselves at what will lie ahead for them....I truly enjoyed reading your blog....keep writing...there is so much more to say....thanks Margie Fitchlee

    Reply
  3. viv thom says:

    Dear Billy
    This made me cry of course. It's so educative to read about your experiences and wonderful to share in your loving family moments like that. For what it's worth the noises you dislike are the ones I find difficult too and I can't hear people in noisy rooms nowadays + can't lip read either

    Reply
  4. Anonymous says:

    Bily you are correct in saying people don't seem to update there blogs after 6 months. I was reading your latest one and thought how true everything is normal. I have been switched on since December 2012 and just had my six month check with the Audiologist and Rehabilintationist and they are saying I am doing really well. So who could ask for more when you can hear pretty dam well. My main goal now is to practise on the telephone as I find that really dificult especially with a digital phone. I hear better on analogue. So thank you for your blog I liked reading it. Good luck for the future

    Reply
  5. deaflinguist says:

    That image of the invisible but supportive arm is wonderful, and so true.

    Reply
  6. Anna Carrington says:

    Tears in my eyes too - glad that you are doing so well. All the best.

    Anna

    Reply
  7. Anonymous says:

    "When it all gets too much, I just take it off."

    Is it wrong to envy you?

    Reply
  8. Jon Mager says:

    Excellent blog and it would be a shame if you didn't continue because it is worth reading about the long term transition post-CI. I remember being impressed by your ability to lip-read a variety of strong Scottish accents when you visited us in Aberdeen. I wonder if your development of hearing speech without relying on lip-reading extends to hearing different accents or, going further, recognising someone by voice alone?

    Reply
    • WLMager says:

      Voices are definitely more distinct and accents are easier to hear as well as lipread. One of the strangest things is that voices which I found annoying to hear through my hearing aid are more 'pleasant' with CI. I don't think I'll recognise people by voice alone, but I definitely recognise the differences between people's voices.

      Scottish and Irish people are a bit easier to lipread now which is a massive relief for me!

      Reply
  9. Anonymous says:

    Read this on The Limping Chicken ... Meant to reply then. Here I am now. Lovely reading. You have a way with words... But most important of all, you don't sugarcoat the CI journey. That's why I said at the beginning of your journey, and I'll say again now, this should be compulsory reading for all parents thinking about implanting their children and for all others on the edge.... Best of luck and look forward to more updates. Your son sounds wonderful! Lmr xx

    Reply
  10. Rita says:

    Very helpful im in the midst of making the decision to hear or not to hear. Like you i lip read exceptionally well and manage to get by working in the public sector without too many hitches , but i find my self "taking off when it all gets too much" more and more .

    Rita

    Reply

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