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Nine Months Later

My greatest experience with the cochlear implants occured on May 2nd. I was four rows from my all time favorite band. I was so anxious to see and feel how it was going to sound like. Coming nine months after the initial hook up date, I had gotten into my comfort zone with the implants, and things are starting to jell all together for me.

Third Day came out and opened with “King Of Glory, ” and as soon as I heard the song begin, I knew what song it was. They played a lot of my favorites, such as “Your Love, Oh Lord,” “Come On Back To Me,” “Rockstar,” and “I Have Always Loved You.” Then, towards the end, I began to wonder if I would have had the same experience with my hearing aids. As soon as I thought about that, the band began to play “God Of Wonders,” and I knew it wouldn’t have been the same.

This was the greatest experience by far…….until the moment I will be able to hear her voice.

In the past nine months, I have experienced so much more than I ever thought possible. Words alone cannot expressed what this has done for me, and how much it has completely changed who I am. For those who have not yet talked to me with the cochlear implant, you will be very surprised at who I have become.

It is the second greatest thing I have ever done in my life.

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Nine
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It was just a normal Christmas day, with everyone in the house, and the little kids playing on their new games on the Playstation, and me and my aunt Julie hanging out, just talking. She brought up some points about how I have been changed, and how things are different now with me being more involved in things, especially conversational wise.

Then the phone rang. It was my brother finally calling after being home from Iraq. He was in Mississippi with some friends of his for Christmas, and I was wondering if he was going to call me to let me know he made it home. He called, and after my grandmother gave me the phone, he just kept going on and on about how he was FINALLY able to talk to me on the phone. That was the only thing he was talking about. I was trying to get some information about his impending visit to here, but he couldn’t speak anymore on the phone.

He was in tears, calling it his CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

It really is a miracle for me. I am more and more thankful everyday for the cochlear implant, and the change on my life.

 

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This past weekend, I spent Saturday night at Mike Duncan’s house. (That’s Mike from the Mike Duncan Project). He was in the process of doing some voice work for his band’s new album, and I was standing behind him listening to him. Towards the end, he hooked up the sound system to my implant device with my “ear phones” and played his new song for me. To my amazement, I was actually hearing the music, and his voice with such amazing clarity, and I was in awe of it. Again, there is always something new and “amazing” to my new ears that most people would take for granted. To be able to sit there and actually hear what he was saying, and singing, I was blown away.

I can’t wait for you to hear his new song, “Not Far Now” which is a great song.

Then I spent the rest of the evening with Mike and his wife, and his four kids as we played some kind of card game. Mike pointed out that I was speaking so much clearer, and his wife agreed. I have been told that I was talking more clearer and more easier to understand, but since I only heard what I was saying, I was never knew how it sounded to other people. More and more people are now saying to me that my speech is so much better, and I am more “communicative” and “attentive” than I was before.

This thing has changed pretty much everything about me. I have more confidence, and I am doing so much more than I have been before. I know I said that it won’t change me, but sometimes you can’t help yourself. Change is unavoidable, I guess.

I have decided that for the time being, I am not going to get the second ear implanted. I am going to wait for awhile before I make the final decision, but I don’t feel that I need it at this time, and I am not yet to the point of where I would need it. In the future, that may change, but until then, I am going to stay with the one that I have now.

I am very much looking forward to hearing a few “new” voices this week. (To me, its all new voices). I have a few friends that I have not seen since before the implant was turned on, and I am seeing them this week or the next. In the meantime, my brother is coming home from Iraq on December 22, and I will be hearing his voice, and my father’s voice in the weeks after that.

Still waiting and hoping to hear some of your voices as well.

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This week marks the third month that I have received the cochlear implant, and I am still amazed at every thing that is going on. I am still amazed every time I put the device on at all the things that I have been able to hear and sometimes I have to sit back and just “calm” myself down. At times, it does get overwhelming, and I have to take the device off in order to keep my sanity, but in the past couple of weeks, I have been keeping it on for a lot longer periods. This will allow me to slowly adjust to every sound, and it will allow my own brain to pick up on some things. Before, with the hearing aids, I would only wear it when it was necessary for me to wear it, like at work or going out to places. Now I am keeping it later in the day, and hearing the noises around my place, and the neighborhood has been scary at first, but again, I am very slowly adjusting.

I have taken walks through my neighborhood just to catch some sounds. There are some annoying sounds, and I would like to think they are crickets, but I am not sure. Could be some birds, but aren’t they supposed to be in the South right now????

This past Sunday, I was at a Christmas party for work, and someone took me aside, and told me that I was a completely different person. She told me that I was more relaxed now, and not so tense as I have been before. She also said that I have been more engaging in conversations, and more pleasant as well. I have heard this from so many people, but it never really kicked in until I heard her say it. The dj was playing some good music, and I was actually able to get involved, and listen to everything. I was able to know what was playing, and I was just having a good time.

This is going to be my first holiday season with the implants, and I am looking forward to it with great anticipation. Now, I will be able to answer the song………Do you hear what I hear?

Still looking forward to some voices I haven’t heard yet.

If you or someone you know has a severe to profound hearing loss and wears a hearing aid, I urge you to at least consider getting the cochlear implant. I consider this to be the second greatest thing to ever happen to me. The journey, the year long wait, was a very tough and emotional time, but in the end, on that August 14th, of 2007, it was worth everything I went through to get it done.

Along the way I have met many people who have the implants, and those whose family members have the implants. They have shared their own stories and their own struggles to receive the implants. I am very grateful for these people who shared these stories with me as it helped me tremendously on my own journey.

In the first two months I have had the implants, I have experienced what would be considered a year’s worth of experiences for some people. I am going to rank these moments right here:
1. PNC Park, Pirates baseball game with Sandy Wilson. Read the poem, Music Of The Ball Park, to read my thoughts.
2. My buddy, Mike Duncan, opening up for Aaron Shust. I have to thank Scott Tady for the great seats, and the great experience.
3. Brad Paisley country concert with my aunt and her husband. We were so far away, but I was able to understand the words, and the music.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers football game with my uncle. The crowd noise was a little too much, but being in that environment was an awesome experience.

My favorite thing about the implant is that it has improved my ability to be able to speak on the phone. My mother, father, as well as my sister, Amy, both love the fact that they can talk to me anytime now. I have been getting into the routine of calling everyone on Sunday nights. It has really improved our relationships.

Another favorite is that I am actually able to understand and listen to music a lot more easier, and more clearer now. I still struggle to pick up voices but at least I can understand what they are saying. I try to listen to the radio a lot more now, and it is amazing to me how much more clearer, and better it sounds to me. However…….TALK RADIO IS STILL BORING !!!!!!!!!!

I love having this cochlear implant. I can’t stress that enough.

I still have more that I want to experience, and here they are:

1. My mother’s, father’s, Amy’s, Danielle’s and Jimmy’s voices in person.
2. Gracie’s and Abigail’s voices in person.
3. Some people’s voices that I have not seen since before the operation, and before the turn on moment.
I can’t believe it has been two months, and already things have improved so much for me.

I had my one month programming appointment today, and part of it was a hearing test to see how far along I am with the implant. When Rhonda showed me where I am now compared to where I was before (with the hearing aids, and without the hearing aids) there is a major improvement. She told me that I was more relaxed, and I seem to be more upbeat than the last time I was in there. I told her it was because I don’t have the stress of not knowing how my hearing aid was going to behave, and how it was going to act during the day. Now I am feeling stress free from that, and my attitude (as well as many other things) have picked up. On my way to work from Downtown Pittsburgh, it was pouring down rain, and I had my radio off, and I was listening to the rain pelt my truck all the way to work. That is one freaky sound. To me, it sounded like a machine gun blasting through my roof.

Then she asked me the one question I have been thinking about for awhile. “Would you consider having the implant done for the other ear?” I have thought about it, and I was going to wait at least a year before I even seriously think about it. To get used to what I have now, and develop my own benefits from having this one. But she said that because I am so far ahead of people with my level of hearing loss who have the implant, she thinks that I would be able to benefit more greatly from having two implants, and that I will be able to handle the process and the procedures all over again. The surgery part was the painful part, and then there was the waiting to be “hooked up,” but now that I know what will happen, I am actually thinking about it.

September 29th is going to be another big day for me. I am going to be at PNC Park watching my favorite team, the Pirates, play the Cardinals. Now baseball is my real love. I can’t wait to spend some time at the stadium and hear the real sounds of baseball. I have always said that baseball is poetry in motion…….I can’t wait for that day already. Already have my tickets.

I may have mentioned this before, but I got a taste again of this. My co workers at work are telling me that I am more relaxed, and more “pleasant” to work with than before. They say that I am more mellowed out, and that I am not easily getting mad at what is going on around me. I have been working really hard on trying to be more attentive at work, and more focused now that I am able to keep in touch with everyone.

In the past month, since August 14th,when I was hooked up, there has been so much going on. In addition to the Steelers game, the Aaron Shust concert, and of course, working, I have had what they would call an overload of emotions. There has been so much to take in, and so much to learn, the stress level is through the roof.

Every day when I wake up, my first thought, other than the obvious, is that I am wondering what new sound will I learn today. What will be the experience that I am going to go through today? In the past, with just the hearing aid, I was always afraid that my hearing aid will not make it through the day’s noises, and that I will have a hard time communicating. Not with the cochlear implant. Since it is still a new device to me, I am learning how to block out the background, and focusing on the sounds in front of me. I am able to adjust my settings, which could be called “selective hearing” and only hear what I need to hear.

My work, which I believe, has actually greatly improved. I am able to communicate on the phone, and thus allows me to talk to more people outside the store. I am also more aware of what is around me, and more attentive now to what people are saying in conversations.

I have been calling my parents on the phone more than I have ever before, and my parents really like that. Instead of being dependent on the emails to communicate with them, now I can call them at night, and have a real conversation with them. Which reminds me, if you want me to, hand me your number, and we can talk if you would like to.

I am still trying to find the right programs for my system, and for the environments that I am usually in. My music comes in a lot better, and I am actually hearing the notes, and the voices much clearer. Its still a work in progress.

This past Sunday, I was in Houston, PA for my cousin’s birthday party. I was meeting my aunt and uncle for the first time with the CI device, and they were telling me how much my speech has improved. Same thing with people at work. They say that I still mumble sometimes, but they can actually understand what I am saying.

 

You bet that I am.  I can’t imagine now what it would be like if I hadn’t done it. Other than the first day after I was turned on, I have been experiencing so many different things, and going through so many emotions. Its been very hard for me to write something about it, and I have tried to, if you read my post CI poetry, but for the most part….I have been having a hard time writing….other than “those” poems.

Anyway, I am very glad that I did it. Aside from participating in conversations, and being more active at work, the best thing has been the fact that I am able to talk on the phone. I know I already wrote about this, but its something that everyone takes for granted, and now that I am able to, I have been calling pretty much everyone that I can, when my time allows it. I have always been so dependant on the emails to get through to people, but now, I ask for the phone number, and we talk on the phone. I have called at least one person a night, and I actually feel like a part of society. My work is working on getting the phone that I will use in order to keep up with the people that I am supervising.

Another part is that music is now more enjoyable than it was before. I used to have to play my car radio up to a loud volume, but now I am listening to it at below the half way point. (It gets too loud at times…….I know….I am getting old) I am also able to understand what is being said and the actual tone of voice.

There are still a few voices that I am still waiting to hear, like my parents, my brother, my sisters, and of course, Gracie and Abigail. I am looking forward to all that, but that will come when its time to come.

I had only a short day today at work, and after that was done, I took a walk through Ambridge, a small town. I had to go to the bank, and since it was downtown Ambridge, I parked as far away from the bank as I could, and took off walking. I wanted to experience the sounds of a “busy” small town, and it was a nice walk. I walked up one side of the street, and then down the other side to get to my bank. I stopped and listened for as many sounds as I could, just to gain the experience of it. Instead of my usual wondering what people were talking about, I was actually able to follow along and listen…..(I know that is rude). Amazing stories people tell, let me say that. I tried as best as I can to listen to everything, but because there was some construction going on, I couldn’t grasp what I wanted to.

After I came out of the bank, I walked back to my truck, and then popped into a small store. Part of me wanted to see other people’s reaction to someone with the device on the head, and part of me wanted to get something. I walked for about an hour up and down the aisles, just “pretending” to be looking for something. You should have seen the reactions and double glances from some people, mostly the younger crowd. Since I work in a retail store, I come into contact everyday with new people, and I do get the stares from them. I am slowly getting the hang of having the device, but now, I don’t feel that its there on my head. I only get that when I am feeling it, or adjusting it.

One of these days, I want to take a long walk and just listen to everything, without no worries or thinking about anything. I couldn’t focus completely today because I had a few things on my mind. Just need a stress free and worry free day some time to do that.

Like that will ever happen.

First off, I want to say Thank YOU to Scott Tady.  The seats that we had were one of the best I have ever been in. Great show.

Sunday, August 26th.
My first Steeler game with the Cochlear implant, playing the Eagles. I must admit that I was afraid how everything will be, but once we got to the game, I was able to adjust to the surroundings. I was actually able to hear the announcer, and the scoreboard talking as well. I have never been able to do that before….and this was my 5th Steelers game that I have been to. Let me tell you that hearing 57,000 screaming fans …….pure joy to my heart.

Tuesday was my reprogramming day, and I was reprogrammed to be able to hear the music and talk on the phone. I have been able to talk on the phone for the first time in my life without any repeating from the other line. I talked to my mother and my father, and my sister for some time, and just being able to do that……that will make my life a little more bearable now.

Wednesday, August 28th.
My buddy Mike and his band opened up for Aaron Shust in Chippawa. Shust is a three time Dove award winner and a major artist. To be there for that show……it was an awesome show. But the seats that I had…….amazing…….VERY FRONT ROW…….smack dab in the middle. I was afraid that I was going to be too tall for the people behind me to see, but no one complained.

For the first time, I was able to hear the music…..actually hear what was being said, and I was just in amazement at what this cochlear implant has done for me.

 

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