I had purposely scheduled my activation for a Friday so I would have the weekend to adjust to hearing with two ears. And that I did. By Saturday night, I was listening to my iPod with my left ear alone and even enjoying it. My speech recognition seemed to be improving by the hour. Just a day after getting turned on I went to The Listening Room and breezed through all the levels of the speech discrimination activities, and the highest one, the expert/olympic module, was/is still under development, probably would have been more challenging. (My surgery was just a few weeks too early to receive Sound and Way Beyond.) By the end of the weekend, I had gone through all 8 of the programs given to me (each one louder than the next). It seemed that I was one of those people I had been jealous of when I got my first implant, those who seem to do well instantly.
Since I had gone through all the programs, I went in for another mapping four days after my new side was turned on. We quickly got through the mapping, and then my audiologist was eager to put me in the soundbooth. I listened for the tones, then she did HINT sentences. I surprised myself with the amount I was able to understand. Either I understood the sentences or I didn't. The ones I understood I got entirely right, but the ones I had trouble with I couldn't understand a single word of. The audiologist finished the HINT test and I started to get out of my chair.
"Wait," she said "I'm going to get ready greedy and test you on words!"
"Are you kidding me?!" I asked.
For the uninitiated, this is probably one of the most stressful hearing tests if you don't have really good hearing. I swear I can feel the anxiety building up as the creepy man voice says, "Ready, duck. Ready, bomb." I'm not sure what the point of saying "ready" is, since I don't think there is anyway to be ready! The man sounds like he's torn between overexcitement and nervousness, and I'm not sure if the speed is adjustable but he seems to go mighty fast! That voice haunts me...
While doing the test I was convinced I was getting every single one wrong. I have a close relationship with my audiologist and we get along great, so I figured she would be understanding. I looked at her through the window with a "save me!" look and she just smiled and nodded at me to keep going. Fine then!
Finally, the testing was over. I went into a long rant to my audiologist about how sure I was that I had failed miserably. She refused to say anything until we got into her office. "Do you know how amazing these results are?!" she asked. Clearly, I did not. Then she showed them to me...
Keep in mind these are my results FOUR DAYS after my CI was activated. Not a long time at all. I also included my right ear's (with two years of electrical listening experience) audiogram for comparison.
Red is right (old), blue is left (new). That's 5-2o dB across the board for my new side alone! And 0-15 dB for my old side is pretty awesome too!
And here is my speech understanding scores for my left ear alone, once again, I repeat, FOUR DAYS LATER!
Pure shock! I was already waaay surpassing my old hearing tests.
The next few days I had a little more skip in my step and my hearing only kept getting better. I was so happy to know that I had made the "right" choice and was feeling a lot more confident in more difficult hearing situations. Actually happy doesn't even begin to cover it. I was ECSTATIC. I was in the "honeymoon phase" of having two implants.
In a perfect world, the story would end there. I would go on to say that now I have super sonic amazing hearing and blah, blah ,blah. (okay, yes, I do think my hearing is pretty amazing now, but that is not the point!)
Not too long after that hearing test, I kept feeling a sharp pain along the very top of my scar/ear on my head. It felt like an awful pinching. I tried to ignore it at first, chalking it up to healing. The pain started getting worse and more frequent. "My ear is probably just not used to carrying so much weight on it." I told myself. That had to be why. Then it got to the point where by the afternoon, I had to take my processor off because the pain was so intense. There were days where I had to remove it at school and keep the processor in my purse, because as much as I loved hearing with two ears, the pain was becoming unbearable.
My mom had said from the beginning we should book an appointment with my surgeon. I refused and insisted that it would get better. She begged me to go. Finally I gave in out of pure misery.
My appointment was on a school day afternoon immediately following the Worst IEP Meeting of My Life. Okay, it was the only IEP meeting I'd even been to, but it was an emotionally traumatic experience. And as I've said before, I'm not a crazy-emotional person. I'm not going to go into many details because I have no way of knowing who reads this blog. (which is also why I don't use my real name, for those of you who were wondering.) Let me just say that the person who was going to be in charge of coordinating my services and was supposed to help me for the next two years of high school just didn't "get it". She seemed like she was out to get me, and I cried until I thought I had no more tears left. Then came the appointment.
My mom was parking the car, so I went into my surgeon's office on my own. It was the one time they took me immediately. I went in and my surgeon came to the room I was in pretty quickly. I described the pain to him and he looked. He asked me to point to exactly where the pain was. He then got out some kind of giant magnifying thing and put it to the side of my head. After looking for what seemed like forever, he looked at me and told me that there were hairs growing inside of the incision that were preventing it from healing. He told me he would use his instruments and go inside the wound to remove them, and it may hurt a little. Great, just what I needed.
He went in and began and the pain was awful. It felt like he was pinching me as hard as he could, and then some. Suddenly it stopped, and I turned my head to look at him. "I just need to get another instrument so I can go in a little bit deeper." AHHH!
Could this day get any worse?
By the time he finished, my mom arrived in time for a question-and-answer session with my surgeon. He went into more detail this time, explaining that because of these hairs growing at the top of my incision, there was actually a small hole forming since it was preventing the scar from healing. Ew. I knew having crazy curly hair would catch up with me someday! My surgeon told me that what he did should solve the problem. I asked if it could happen again. "It can, but it's unlikely," was his response.
Following that appointment I had another appointment with my audiologist because my new side would frequently "cut out" where it would briefly go silent, then I would resume hearing as normal. We tried a couple of things and were hopeful that it solved the problem.
In my dreams!
By the time I got home it was late, and I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was have myself a little pity-party. My parents were pretty understanding, and allowed to take a rare "day off" of school to relax. I'd need it.
To be continued, once again. Up next in part 4: Frustrations.