It has been exactly one week since my switch on, and the experience has been astounding – and not always for the good bits, which is obviously hearing things.
I have discovered several weird things about cochlear implants which have confirmed for me that I did the right thing in waiting until I was well and truly ready to deal with everything that came way as a consequence of it. I knew that things would be difficult, but nothing quite prepares you for it.
I’ll tell you what’s been happening.
Obviously, hearing stuff is the good part! I went to the movies last night to see “Coco avant Chanel” with mum, and with both the hearing aid and cochlear implant, I was hearing the french pronunciations really well. Good old mum, she sat through it with me, having seen it before, because the Spanish film we were initially going to, “Limits of Control”, turned out not to have subtitles! Gah!
I mean, my hearing is getting better, but there is no way I can watch a full movie without subtitles or captions yet. The only other film that was on with subtitles was the one mum had seen. And what a wonderful mum – she offered to watch it again.
So, the good is that I am definitely picking up words that I couldn’t hear before, and it’s clearer.
The very worst thing about the cochlear implant is what it sounds like. It’s just not a nice sound. It’s a cool sound – but it’s not a nice sound – if you can understand that. Most of the time I can enjoy it, because I am hearing things I haven’t heard before, and it sounds like sound effects from Star Wars, a film I grew up with, and loved.
But overall, the sound is kind of like a constant tinnitus, a ringing in the ears… And can you imagine having to listen to that all day, every day? Like every sound translated into an annoying high-pitched ringing?
It gets on your nerves a bit.
The other bad thing is that sometimes I can hear people talking, but I just can’t make out what they are saying. It is SO frustrating. It’s like I am on the tip of the ice-berg, listening to a language that I am not very good at, picking up things here and there, but just not being able to follow.
Lastly, the really weird part of the implant – is that now when I switch it off …. it doesn’t ‘switch off’ in my head.
*cue creepy music*
In the shower, without the implant on, it sounds like it is on. I can hear the implant version of water.
In bed at night, I think I can hear voices, or running water as well.
No, the implant hasn’t malfunctioned, or started being controlled by a Russian satellite hovering above earth for use in spying to get state secrets. Though that would be kind of cool.
I have a theory that it is my nerves in my cochlea going a bit nuts from being stimulated so constantly all this week after years of silence. If you consider, from about 5 years ago, right up until the switch on last week, I never heard anything in that ear, and never even got tinnitus. I always counted myself lucky in that respect, because I know tinnitus can drive you nuts.
But now – at night when I take it all off, and go to bed, I lie there listening to the range of sounds going through my ear like a scale, wondering what on earth is going on in there. I have double checked with Ben, and there is no sound when these things happen. It is literally my nerves creating ‘phantom’ noises.
It must be what it is like when you get an arm or leg amputated – but you can still feel it there.
I had been ready for something like this – mentally preparing myself for my ear and brain to be doing weird things – but it definitely makes me glad that I waited for so long to get it. Because I am a lot stronger and a lot calmer now than I have ever been. I have all the faculties to deal with this kind of thing. I have been thinking that it would not be good to get a cochlear implant with a fragile mental state, as it is these things that could possibly push someone over the edge.
Because I can feel myself lying there in the darkness at night thinking “Stop! Stop!” to my ear, and it doesn’t! The panic rises, all your normal senses are out of whack. It takes a lot to lie there and think of something else.
I think that the only thing that would stop those weird noises would be to put the bloody implant back in! GAH!
But, having said this … deep down I know that these ‘phantom sounds’ that my ear is making are actually a good thing. Those nerve-endings must be freaking out in there, being electrocuted ever second of every day just when a noise happens. It really feels like my ear has been ‘awakened’, and now doesn’t want to ever sleep. Like my ear is taking intensive language classes in the middle of the night while the implant is away, so as to be on top of things when it comes back.
The implant is like the school principle with a big long cane ready for whacking my cochlea into shape in time for exams.
It is my body and my brain dealing with something that humans are not normally meant to deal with.
So, I am just trying to be kind to myself – it is interesting just how hard I am being on myself actually. Trying so hard, when sometimes you just have to sit back and let everything flow over you.
My new motto (well for this week at least) is now “Kate! : be kind to Kate, or I’ll cane you”.