Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Breaking News...I Went Bionic and A Train Wreck Has Been Diverted!

I am Heather, the blogger behind Life in Mute: The Progression Towards Silence.  I started this blog to chronicle my journey through progressive hearing loss, from the world of the hearing into the Deaf. When the world of the Deaf didn't work out for me, I realized I had another option; I had cochlear implant surgery on Aug. 7th, 2012.

My past posts have detailed my hearing loss from the first failed hearing test, across 25+ years, into profound deafness, and a lot of the random deaf ridiculousness between.  Please familiarize yourself with my story if you haven't already.

After giving up on the hearing world and after trying to situate myself into my local Deaf community, I felt like a failure.  I felt that I did not fit in in either world because I did not know enough ASL (American Sign Language), nor could I hear regular spoken words.  When I tried to reach out, I was not openly received.  In the hearing world, I couldn't hear normal sounds, much less normal speech. In the Deaf world, while I knew quite a bit of sign language vocabulary, I could not understand the signs flung back so quickly at me.  I found myself in a situation where I could not communicate effectively in either culture.This made socializing difficult and holding a job impossible.  (The implications on motherhood and marriage will be discussed in another post!)

In summary, I started loosing my hearing in 5th grade (1986), hid it from the adults in my life for years, and got my first hearing aids in 2001.  Since 1986, my hearing loss has progressed from mild to profound.  I don't hear an alarm clock, fire alarm, phone ringing, tornado siren, oven timer beeping, doorbell, speech in noise or speakers more than 3 feet away from me, while restaurants, phones ringing, students in classrooms, speakers at lectures, church, public conversations, meetings, phone calls, etc. are impossible.

In 2012, I hear very little, dogs barking next to me, vacuums if I'm running them, hair dryer if I know it is what is is, screaming person in my face, gun fairly close to me ( I'm not a gangsta, I go to the range), deep bass sounds, concerts, but it doesn't sound like a clear recorded cd.

I'm a little upset about this because I am still paying on student loans that made me a teacher which I am incapable of being now! It's no wonder that I've had to deal with some anger issues regarding my hearing loss!

This year, my hearing took another dip in January, by the next month, I was looking at other options!  Nobody wanted to sign with me, and my hearing loss was out of control!  Job search was impossible! I felt lost, isolated myself, became depressed, angry...worthless!  My life was a train wreck!  I even offered my husband an out, asked him if he wanted me to go away so he could find a more worthy partner.  I even wondered if my daughter would be better off with a mother who could contribute more to the family. A mom who could volunteer at school, hear the bullying on the play ground, have conversations with her and her friends.

My husband didn't jump on the chance to escape.  He reaffirmed his love and commitment to me! He found me a grief counselor, who helped me realize that I needed to grieve my hearing loss so that I could get past the depression, guilt, and anger.

I decided to try a hearing approach rather than an acceptance reproach.  I started looking for things that could make my life easier.  The first thing I did was get a captioned phone.  But it wasn't the phone that changed my life.  It was the installer.  We got to talking about my hearing loss and she whips back her hair and shows me her bilateral cochlear implants and asks why I haven't looked into it.  I knew about them but thought I was a long ways off from qualifying for one.  She looked at my audiogram, disagreed, and recommended I make an appointment with her doctor, which also happened to be the doctor who diagnosed my hearing loss as EVAS.  She raved about her implants and I never would have known she had hearing loss if she hadn't shown them to me. She understood me and followed the conversation with her back turned to me while she installed the phone in my kitchen with hard floors, tall ceiling, and generally, bad acoustics!

So I did it, I made the call, I started the evaluation process, which took 7 months of multiple appointments per week.  Throw in a few dental procedures, appointments to deal with the other health problems that were discovered along the way, and the grief counseling; I was in a doctor's office 3-5 times a week from February-August!  There was one day when I had 3 appointments in the same day in 3 different offices. All of my appointments were in a different city requiring a commute.  My daughter was only in part time care for the summer and I was trying to keep my Etsy shop in good standing.  It was exhausting!

I went for the cochlear implant and after 7 months of appointments and evaluations, I had the surgery on my left ear!  I'm liking it so far, it's not an ideal hearing situation yet, but it certainly has been worth the surgical risks so far.  Haven't lost anything except time and have gained back some of my hearing and rather quickly!

I'll talk about my surgery and recovery, and my current hearing and healing in the next couple of posts.

Right now as I learn to hear with my new implant, I'm still pretty much worthless as a contributor to my family, but I can at least see a path ahead of me and I can see the progress happening daily.  I don't feel like the game is over anymore.  There is hope now where there wasn't before!

Note: When I say I feel worthless to my family, it's because I don't bring in much income, I can't volunteer at my daughter's school activities, I ignore the pleading emails from church asking me to teach Sunday school, I can't do the job I was trained to do.  But I'm not totally worthless; I cart my daughter around to all of her extracurricular activities but am probably thought of as the snob mom because I don't engage with the other parents, I can't hear them. I'm a great cook and a whole foods/organics advocate, so we eat great around here thanks to me (and our good health reflects that). My yard looks pretty good, organic garden included, and I keep house and run a little Etsy shop as well, so no, not totally worthless, just not what I planned, not what the package I presented to my hubby when he signed onto forever with me!  And it makes me feel guilty.  I'm the kind of person who always gives my best to everything, and when my best is broken and out of my control; I feel guilty and I get angry!

This year has been really tough for me and my family, who have to deal my emotions.  If you ever find yourself feeling worthless, if you ever think that you have no value to the people you love, please, I encourage you, please, let them know your feelings because they probably value you a lot more than you do, and, from my own experience, you need to hear that!