You know, when I first started researching cochlear implants three years ago, all I wanted to do was to find a way to recover the hearing that I was rapidly losing. I honestly never would have believed that cochlear implants provided BETTER hearing, and I had no idea of the added benefits that would come along with that better hearing.
At my six-month bilateral testing, I scored 100% comprehension with both ears together in quiet (no lipreading at all), and something like 95% in noise (I don't have a copy of that paper...I need to get that). That alone is startling...before the CI, I very seriously doubt if I would have EVER been able to score even 50% in quiet without lipreading.
I struggled through every church service to hear well enough to combine what I was hearing with what I was seeing to produce a plausible sermon. I struggled with conversations every day, constantly telling my husband and children to "look at me!" when they were talking. I am still amazed today to realize that now, when I am sitting in Bible class and someone comes and sits in front of me, I don't have to start stressing about being able to hear because I am generally going to hear about 95% of what is said without ever even looking at the speaker. I don't have to read the captioning at my HLAA meetings anymore because I can understand our guests effortlessly. Actually, before Christmas, we were on our way to dinner and my mother-in-law was attempting to talk to me in our car...while I was driving, her in the backseat, in the dark, with David Cook blaring. I answered a few of the comments she was making, but finally told her, "I don't know if you realize this, but we are carrying on a conversation with the radio on!" She was stunned to realize that not only had she forgotten that I was deaf and carried on that conversation, but that I was able to hear her. I don't like those conversations, though, they're a little stressful...but who would have ever thought I'd be able to do that?
But one benefit that I never thought about has showed up in recent months...and it has been totally unexpected and very much appreciated. I have noticed that it has become easier for people to understand ME. The people that know me and love me will staunchly claim that I have always had "fine" speech for someone as profoundly deaf as I have been all my life, and I love them for that. I haven't ever had a lot of people peg me as deaf immediately...they usually say, "You have an interesting accent...where are you from?" I started telling them a while back that my accent is "Southern Deaf Girl"...it almost always makes them laugh and it hopefully keeps them from being too embarrassed for asking.
My aunt Betty was the first person to ever say anything about my speech after my implants...she was in from Texas last year and she hadn't yet spent any time with me and my newest ear. After taking for a few minutes, she said, "Wow, Jennifer, I can tell you're hearing better, because your speech is better!" I was startled that it was that noticeable...but pleased, because she has known me all my life, and that was an interesting observation.
Saturday I was at Wal-Mart and stopped to talk to one of my former co-workers, Miss Peggy. We were cashiers together and talked a lot on breaks and such. It has now been a year since I worked at Wal-Mart and I only rarely see Peggy anymore. I talked to her for a few minutes, and she suddenly said, "Do you mind if I ask you something?"
A question like that is usually the preface to something personal, so I was a little startled, but said, "Sure, go ahead!"
"Are you taking any speech classes? Doing anything like that?"
"No, nothing like that at all, why do you ask?"
"I just HAVE to tell you that your speech is SO MUCH BETTER!! I hope you don't mind me saying that or get offended that I mentioned it?"
"Oh, no, Peggy, not at all....to the contrary, you just made my entire week!!!"
Apparently, one added benefit of being able to hear all those wonderful speech sounds is that I am now getting better at pronouncing them all. I am tickled about that :)
Sorry for being so scarce lately...but I went to the Gears4Ears a week and a half ago, have the Walk4Hearing this Saturday (it's not too late to donate!), and the convention coming up in five and a half weeks! AND the kids are getting out of school in two weeks...oy! :) I have a few things to write about though so stay tuned for more posts coming up soon! :)