Hearing Journey

We were still traveling home when we found out I could get an appointment for a Cochlear Implant evaluation at University of South Alabama at the Speech and Hearing Clinic. The appointment was with Dr. Wilder Roberts. I knew we wouldn’t be able to make the distance in time, so I flew home for the appointment. Our friends Sue and Marsh picked me up at the airport, we ate out and they offered to let me sleep over before they ferried me across the bay. Since, I’d planned to uber to the restaurant and then across the bay, this was an enormous gift! I loved staying with them, we stayed up late talking – it was one of my perfect times lately!

Meeting with Dr. Roberts and her staff started off with lots of questions before the tests in THE BOOTH. Questions concerning situations that are hard for me to understand in, what about when I can’t see someone? Crowds? Groups? Did I ever feel unsafe (all the time unless I have a hearing person nearby and especially when I’m home alone)? And more.

Dr. Wilder explained the test I’d have in the booth. They would play three different voices speaking simple sentences at normal speaking speed. I would just repeat any words or phrases I could understand.  Into the booth I walked, hearing aids on and sat down in a chair placed a couple feet in front of a single good sized stereo speaker. The team adjusted the volume so I would feel comfortable. This almost the ideal hearing situation; quiet place, comfortable volume, light on overhead, no distractions EXCEPT that I couldn’t see the people speak.

The voices began. I repeated the occasional word but spent most of the time muttering to myself – ‘if the speakers would slow down…’if the one guy would speak more clearly…’ I tried and tried to understand. The test went by quickly, I thought. Suffice it to say, I didn’t do so well. I tested at .1% of understanding in one ear and .4% in the other. That means that out of 100 words, I understood one and four respectively.  I thought they would give more tests but they didn’t. I’d been warned about being exhausted and to plan for a quiet afternoon. I felt alright though.

Dr. Wilder got out the kit with the Cochlear System processor we looked over the equipment. I had already done tons of research and talked to other CI recipients and had decided that the Cochlear America equipment was for me (if anyone is curious, I’ll be glad to share my research and reasoning).  I decided to order the shiny black version – it is at least rather chic (the one that “matched” my hair was a dull mustard yellow, ick).

That over-the-ear-processor (OTE) is sure big! I asked for the smaller processor, Kanso, as well – even though it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles as the larger. We discussed accessories – the swimming covers for the OTE processor, a mic, a streamer for the Kanso. Then we discussed surgeons. Most everybody was booked for months ahead – I felt strongly about going to a surgeon who had done a LOT of implants.

We are scheduled to meet a new Caravan group in Maine to make a 59 day trip through Canada’s Maritime provinces in July. I really need to have the surgery and activation as soon as possible so that I can be doing aural rehab for a while before being confronted with hugely challenging situations. Post-cochlear hearing is more electronic and takes the brain some time to accommodate to so that one can understand speech and speech begins to sound more human.

Dr. Wilder had worked with a very experienced surgeon, Dr. Blythe, in Opelika, AL for some time and very much respects him. I was comfortable because she said he’d done over a thousand implants. She sent her referral and we waited to ‘hear’ from the East Alabama Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic.