Wind Chimes

It has been a whirlwind in my head in the past 72 hours. Let me catch you up back from activation day on Friday. My mom, my brother, Keaghan, and I anxiously arrived at Maegan’s office (my audiologist) at around 10am. There was another audiologist from Cochlear named Sonya who helped with the set-up. With the Processor hooked up to my ear, we went through a hearing test where I would let the audiologists know whenever I hear a beeping sound. Then I went through another hearing test where I hear a set of four beeps and tell the audiologists which beep is louder than the other. After twenty minutes of testings, I turned on my regular hearing aid to listen to some last instructions from Sonya. Then we turned off my hearing aid for the big moment.

In the moment when it was turned on, my entire head went into shock. It felt like there was a mini wind chime in my head that rings at each bit of sound in the room. It was overwhelming and it was hurting my head. I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. Without thinking, I started stressing out. All I could hear was chime after the chime, and I didn’t like it. After a couple minute of the audiologists talking to me, I began to be able to distinguish what they were saying. I had to think for a few seconds to understand what anyone was saying. Everything sounds so different. Even my own breathing sounds entirely different. It would sound like this high pitch whine as I breathe in and out. Sonya explained that this is a normal part of the process. My brain will get used to the chiming and it will go away eventually. I should eventually be able to be broken into this way of hearing a month from now. Sonya explained that the best way to adjust is to talk to as many people as possible. This is because people vocalize unique sound that music and TVs doesn’t project. When my brain takes in those unique sounds, it learns to understand the complex signals the electrodes gives off.

After having some time to absorb the new sounds, the audiologists went over some of the the new equipment I got with my Sound Processor. I have a remote that controls the volume and program of my Cochlear. I got a microphone, which is a must-have if you know me. I also got a phone clip to talk to people on phone and listen to music via Bluetooth. I even got a waterproof case for the Sound Processor so I could go swimming with it!

I’ve been taking it easy and avoiding places with a lot of noise. There were some aggravating moments that irritated me even in the calmest environments. For example, I went to the bank with Keaghan and struggled to process the drive-thru system sound and interface. I’ve taken the Processor off for a couple minutes here and there to take a break. I’m encouraged to wear it as much as possible in order to get used to it more quickly. Thankfully the audiologists said that I can wear my regular hearing aid in the other ear. I’ll turn off the hearing aid on occasion to exercise my brain with the Cochlear and become more dependent on it.

On a positive note, I am hearing some things that I haven’t before. I can now hear iPhone keyboard clicks whenever someone is texting in a quiet room. I can hear sounds coming from another room, like the dryer running, more clearly. I would hear random chiming and beeping sounds and I would have no idea where it came from. It’s all very new to me. I will definitely hear more and more as my brain adapts to it. Like I said before, I didn’t expect the Cochlear to make my life easier overnight.

My Cochlear sound processor!

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Big Day Tomorrow

I’ll finally get my Cochlear turned on tomorrow! The appointment is at 10am in my audiologist’s office. I have no idea what to expect so I will be going in with an open mind. It feels like Christmas morning all over again. I will still be going another month hearing out of one ear, but this time it’s with the Cochlear ear. This way I will get the most exposure to the new way of hearing. After a month, I’ll be able to put my aid on my left ear again.

I appreciate everyone’s love and support because I can definitely feel it! I will update you all with another post tomorrow.

Growth Spurts

Almost four weeks after the surgery and my ear feels fantastic. The incision feels good and I can sleep on my right side just fine without any complication. There is still a subtle feeling of numbness but it doesn’t bother me too much. I’ve definitely developed a serious habit of sitting/standing so that my left ear is next to whomever I’m speaking to. Though if you ever saw me sitting to the left of someone, I probably didn’t want to hear them (😉). Only a couple more days until the activation!

Another reason behind growing out of my hearing aids is my growth from my year of postgraduate service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC). In short, JVC is similar to the Peace Corps in the sense where people are given the opportunity to volunteer full-time for a year or two. While the whole year in itself have challenged me in different ways,  I’d like to specifically point out my experience in teaching religious education along with some of my JV roommates (or community mates as we liked to call each other). We agreed to volunteer on the side (we liked saying yes to everything) to teach kids for about 7 months to guide them through their first Reconciliation and first Holy Communion. While I was initially excited for the opportunity, it challenged me in a way that I didn’t expect. I encountered difficulty in hearing the kids speak in class due to their higher pitched voices. My community mates wound up running the class while I quietly sat in on each lesson. I would do whatever I could to pitch in, though a lot of the lessons were discussion-based since it was a smaller group of students. While my community mates didn’t mind and were very understanding of my disability, I was very critical of myself. I began to think about the future and how I would have my own kids someday. While I was aware the Cochlear would enhance my hearing in a different way, I never thought I needed the upgrade until toward the end of the 7 month time-frame of teaching. I really didn’t want to be limited from hearing children in the future, especially if someday I have my own. This perception also made me think about the bigger picture and all the small details I may have been missing out on every day. Ever since then, the idea of the Cochlear implant began to grow on me as I grew out out of my aids.

Inter-Cochlea

Going back to my first post of this blog, I said that I decided to get to Cochlear implant because I have outgrown my hearing aids. While it is a simple reason, there were several factors behind that reasoning. One is being the movie Interstellar. If you have not seen it, I would highly, highly recommend it. It has everything you want in a movie, ranging from the breathtaking soundtrack by Hans Zimmer to the emotionally driven dialogue directed by Christopher Nolan. One scene that really stuck with me in my discernment process was the spinning-docking scene. The main protagonist, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), displayed astounding courage that we all should strive for in our lives. Cooper was never afraid to throw himself into the unknown to better himself and the rest of humanity. He relentlessly went the distance in whatever obstacles came up. When it came to the Cochlear implant, it was a huge unknown for me since there weren’t any ways to predetermine the sound and improvement. This movie inspired me to think differently and how I could live a more enriched life through the Cochlear implant.

The In-Between Process

Having the stitches removed was a pain-free process! The doctor said everything looks great after taking a look at my ear and incision. Now there is nothing left on my head from the surgery, except for a little scar that will eventually disappear. My ear still feels a bit numb but the doctor says that’s normal. I have to wait a few more days (2 weeks after the surgery) before I can start running again. It’ll be another week after that before I can hit up the gym and do some heavy lifting.

It has been an offbeat process wearing only one hearing aid. Especially now since I can’t hear anything out of my right ear. Without the aid, I used to be able to hear lower sound such as cars driving by. Now that’s not the case with the implant going through the cochlea. Though I do get excited thinking about the difference I’ll hear once I get turned on.

I skimmed through the Cochlear brochure the other day and found an enlightening chart (pictured below). In noisy environments, the Cochlear will enable me to hear conversations 70 percent of the time as opposed to 18 percent with hearing aids! This is because hearing aids are designed to amplify sounds which means to make everything louder then they actually are. This includes amplifying background noise.  The Cochlear does not amplify but rather it process sound. Hence the name, Nucleus Sound Processor. How cool is that?

How The Cochlear Works

It’s been five days since the surgery and I’m still feeling a little sore but it’s not too painful. I may have been misinformed and it turned out that I didn’t have a checkup yesterday. I only need to go in on Thursday for a checkup along with the stitches removal so no update from the doctor. I left the house last night for the first time since the surgery to get dinner with my brother. I had a hoodie on since my incision isn’t the most attractive feature to have in public. Though it felt good getting out out of the house for once! The incision is healing really well thanks to the helpful cleaning maintenence of my mother. I’ve also counted nineteen stitches across after taking a picture of it. Nineteen!

Since some of you have been asking exactly what happened in the surgery and how the implant works in my ear. I got some images and information from the Cochlear website and thought I’d explain it on here! The instrument below, called the Nucleus Implant, is what has been “implanted” into my head. The big circular figure is the magnet and the two long strings are electrodes that were inserted into my cochlea. The cool part is that the surgeon was able to calculate that the electrodes were placed in the right spots in my cochlea. With that done, it will be able to work properly for sure on activation day!

Implant

The next picture is the Nucleus Sound Processor, which will be what I put on my ear on the outside. The circular piece will obviously be attached to the magnet inside my head. The Sound Processor will transmit information from it’s microphone to the Implant. This equipment will function similar to how hearing aids work. Both have microphone and processes sound, but in different ways.

proc_carbon-coil_smoke

Finally, the figure below gives us the full story. Cool, right? Feel free to check out the Cochlear website for more info!

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First Signs of Recovering

Today is the second full day of recovery. I took the bandage off yesterday and saw my stitches for the first time. It feels very weird on my head now I can see what it looks like. The stitches are uncomfortable but it’s keeping me in one piece. I am avoiding any touching the right side of my head since I’m paranoid about messing it up, although it doesn’t hurt and I’m not in any pain.  My mom has been helping me take care of the wound with hydrogen peroxide and polysporin to prevent it from scabbing. It is also good so that the stitches can come out as painlessly as possible comes Thursday.

My Cochlear won’t be activated until March 18th. My ear will have to heal around the Cochlear for a month before anything can happen. So it will be a quiet month of wearing one hearing aid in my left ear. I’ve learned to not work too hard to hear everything going on. Otherwise, I would lose my mind! I’ve lost one ear so no need to lose the rest of my head. If someone were to try to talk to me from my right side I would just not respond until they walk over to my left ear. My brothers have learned how to do this the hard way 😋.

Sleeping has been an interesting process. I usually move around when I sleep. I sleep on my sides and switch side to side all night. Now I can only sleep on one side and it gets uncomfortable at times. The first night of sleeping was a little rough. My body was still getting used to having the Cochlear in it’s system. I had about 6 hours of sleep and woke up every now and then. The second night of sleep was better and I got around seven and half hours of sleep. Which is enough for now.

I’ve also been lucky enough to have visitors these past couple days! A few friends from Baltimore surprised me yesterday and stayed for lunch. A couple of my cousins came over and brought me homemade chocolate chip cookies (my favorite). Then finally my wonderful audiologist, Maegan, came over this morning and we got to catch up on everything. We had a good debriefing of the surgery and March 18th since Maegan will be the one to ultimately turn on the Cochlear. She also took away the big brief case of goodies from Cochlear that I was given after my surgery but wasn’t allowed to open until March 18th. It’s a good thing since I was naturally tempted to open everything in it.

  Me and Maegan this am!