My Ears

February 21, 2020

 

So. I’m going deaf.
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Well, that’s hardly news. I’ve been marching towards deaf my whole life, it seems.
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They first noticed it in elementary school, when someone finally caught me cheating during one of those hearing tests where we all climbed into a motorhome-type vehicle, put on headphones, closed our eyes, and raised our hands when we heard the beeps. I didn’t hear the beeps, but I also didn’t close my eyes completely, so I just raised my hand when the other kids did. After a couple years the adults noticed this and had me stay behind to take the test by myself.
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And that’s when I started taking hearing tests in little soundproof rooms at the doctor’s office. When I was younger the rooms were adorned with Disney posters and stuffed animals. As I’ve gotten older I’ve often wished I was still offered a teddy bear each time I’ve had to take another hearing test. Who doesn’t like a teddy bear?
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My hearing got steadily worse over the years. I made it through school with the help of a lot of friends who never got tired of me asking them to repeat what the teacher said or show me their notes. I also got very good at just teaching myself, which came in quite handy later in life.
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I got my first set of hearing aides when I was in my early 20’s. I’ve had several sets over the last 20 years, as my hearing loss has slowly exceeded the capabilities of each pair.
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7 years ago, when I was pregnant with Daniel, I lost what little hearing I had left in my right ear. My left ear wasn’t much better, but I’ve gotten by with a hearing aid in that ear. But even a hearing aid is just a microphone that keeps getting turned up louder and louder as the hearing gets lower and lower.
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I’ve slowly lost things along the way that I once loved. Concerts are now a distorted abundance of noise - as if every audio channel is turned up to 11, and I’m standing next to the speaker. Eating at restaurants and carrying on a conversation is nearly impossible. Parties are exhausting. I read lips for most of my comprehension, so anything more than one on one conversations can be difficult to follow. I miss theater most of all. The music is distorted and I can’t comprehend the dialogue.
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My hearing loss has isolated me in ways that are big and small.
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Recently my one remaining ear took a dive. Even with a hearing aid my comprehension has plummeted. I’m hovering near the bottom of the hearing chart. There’s very little left to lose.
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I always knew this was coming. I just thought maybe it would be a little later in life. I hoped it would be.
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But here we are.
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I was given this news by a very somber audiologist. It’s never good when someone who works with hearing impaired people all day is left speechless by your results.
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At first I was very sad, maybe a little angry. I started looking up sign language courses and lip reading tutorials.
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A cochlear implant was an option, but it scared me. I pictured it as brain surgery, as the splitting open of my head to implant a new ear. (Obviously I’m a medical wizard).
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But then I learned more about the cochlear implant surgery. It’s outpatient, first of all, which I deduced (through the wizardry) meant it probably doesn’t involve cracking open my brain.
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I did research, spoke with doctors, met with a woman who has an implant, joined implant groups on Facebook.
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It’s still scary, if I’m being honest. Surgery is always scary. The possibility of it not working is scary too. It’s my last best hope for hearing.
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But of all the things I’ve lost and all the things I have left to lose as sound fades away, there is one I’m willing to fight for. One thing I’m willing to do something scary for.
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That thing is my kids. I want to continue to hear my kids. I want to be able understand them always, and listen as their voices grow into adults. Someday I want to hear my grandkids too.
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So. I’m getting a cochlear implant.
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I was supposed to be getting it in June. I planned for that and have been making arrangements based on that date. But at my last appointment my doctor said a late March appointment has popped up.
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So. In a little over a month I’m getting a cochlear implant.
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They aren’t like hearing aids. You don’t just turn them on and magically hear. You turn them on and your brain has to relearn how to hear. It can be months before the implant works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
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It’s scary. But exciting. Maybe there’s something waiting on the other side of this gradual glide into silence. Maybe the world will be turned back on.
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Maybe.
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Here we go.

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Dawn is a mom, writer, and designer from Sacramento, CA. She is tired.

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