Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Day of Hearing - May 2006

It's been 3 years since I first heard through my CI; so, lately I've been doing a lot of reminiscing. The picture displays where it all started for me in Los Angeles, California at the House Ear Institute. Below is the account of my first day of hearing... During the third week of recovering from surgery, still swollen, a little numb, and with a small section of the incision area scabbed, the surgeon audiologist had an appointment for me: May 24 and 25, 2006. Two days before my appointment, I had Randy call them and tell them there was no way I could be ready for hook-up. They said this was all normal, and to make sure to get me down there for hook-up. I couldn’t believe it, it was time to hear. Wednesday we saw the surgeon and audiologist, and within 10-15 minutes, my audiologist (Jane), hooked up the implant’s outer devices. She excitedly looked at me and asked, “Are you ready?” I wasn’t sure if I was or not, but I figured I hadn’t gone through surgery for nothing, so here we go. The three of us were in her small office, and all of a sudden I heard a very loud, high-pitched tone…my device was on and working. Then Jane began to talk to me. I heard her voice, it was overly loud, and the sound was as if she was near yet far. She made some digital adjustments with her computer connected to my implant processor, and she became closer and closer. As her voice neared, it remarkably became clear until it was like normal. Then she had Randy say the days of the week. I didn’t look at him, because I wanted to see if I could understand what I was hearing. I couldn’t, and was disappointed. I tried not to have any expectations, but I guess they’re there even when you don’t realize it. She told me it was going to take time, and that I need to continue to read lips because it will cause me to learn to hear through the implant. While we were sitting in her office, I heard a high-toned “beep beep beep beep”. I didn’t know what it was until Jane looked at Randy (the facial expression of, “Is it yours?”). It was his cell phone. I exclaimed out loud, “Your cell phone; I heard it!”, and they looked at me with delighted surprise. I had never heard a cell phone ring before. My disappointment left, and I began to cry. About an hour later my appointment was over; it was time to leave the small, quiet office and explore the real world. I felt like Neo in The Matrix. Plugged in, downloaded, and off to do important work within a less-familiar world. As I walked outside the institute, not even to our car yet, I couldn’t believe how noisy the world was. How do people manage life with all this noise around them? I heard my sandals clicking on the sidewalk, doors open and close, people talking and laughing. I heard buses and cars go by, but they sort of sounded like a rushing, whistling wind. I couldn’t identify every sound, much of it blended together into a gigantic static, but I was determined to learn. I found myself stopping every few steps to look around, and try to identify the sounds I was hearing. Some I could, but most I couldn’t. Patience, Gina, patience. Since we were in Los Angeles, Randy decided to take me to Universal City Walk to be indulged with things to hear. There was so much noise there that I was completely mesmerized. It felt like I had been in a coma for 20 years and just woke up to find a very different world. After about four hours, I found myself getting tired of hearing. I had become a little overwhelmed. I craved my silence, but kept myself hooked up until I went to bed.