The Appointment!

Then came appointment day. We drove up to Opelika the day before (3 hour drive one way) so I could rest and be at my hearing best when I met with Dr. Blythe the next morning. [Hearing exhaustion is a huge deal, the more rested a HoH person is, the better we can understand speech.}

Let me tell you, the appointment was a big surprise to me! I went into the room and right away turned the exam chair around facing away from a very bright octagonal window, looked over the seating in the room and decided where I would sit. I don’t mind telling folks how to speak with me – especially doctors, it’s important I understand as much as possible (Barb helps with the rest). I have a whole speech I give – “If you want me to understand what you are saying please face me, stay away from windows and bright lights, speak slowly and enunciate clearly”. etc.

Dr. Blythe came into the room, worked at turning the chair back around and proceeded to wash his hands (facing away from me) and talk. I immediately protested! Nope, that didn’t work at all, he ignored me. He told me to sit in the exam chair. I explained I wouldn’t understand him and he commanded me to sit! YIPES. So I sat, he looked in my ears and cleaned out some wax while moving my head around roughly. I looked at Barb and mouthed “No WAY!” I did not like this guy! I was steaming.

He had me sit down in the chair I’d chosen earlier and began to ask questions. I asked that he slow his speech and speak more clearly. He replied that he was speaking at normal speed in a normal voice and that the problem wasn’t what he was doing but that I do not hear. I thought “Wow that’s a news flash!” I thought.

Suddenly, Dr. Blythe’s brusque demeanor completely changed. He said that he can look at audiograms, “AC Bio” and “Hint” tests all day long and not get any sense of how an individual functions in the real world.

The whole beginning of the session was a test of my functioning and how much Barb helps me. He changed the way he was speaking which helped me understand more and explained the surgery, risks and recovery process. By the end of the session, I had completely changed my mind! Though I’ll only see Dr. Blythe twice, I know he’s the surgeon for me. The office scheduled my surgery – January 16 which happens to be my birthday.

Barb and I went to lunch and drove back home to await surgery. I’m not sitting on my bunz here, though. I received an invitation to a cochlear community meeting in a nearby city and sent an RSVP to attend both the meeting and an open house.

We both had fun meeting more CI recipients. They gave me advice about post-surgery tricks and about how to adjust until the appointment when I would receive my processors, have them activated and they were adjusted to my comfort. I asked each person, “What regrets do you have about your CI?” and each person has said “Absolutely NONE!” Meeting with folks helped calm my anticipatory nerves down. It was pretty bad as my surgery date was fast approaching!

I just realized that I’ve left out a key piece of information. The implant surgery is one step out of many. It takes a while to heal – two weeks in my case. Then you have an appointment with an Activation Audiologist – Dr. Roberts will be mine. She did my qualification testing and by using the baseline set by testing, will know where to begin when she turns on my processors. See, the processors work with the implanted device. They transform sound to electronic impulses that the implant brings to my cochlea.

I like this explanation: the tiny cochlea is similar to a piano keyboard if it were rolled out flat. The implant has electrodes along that keyboard and the processor stimulates the keys that the nerves in my ear no longer stimulate. The cochlea learns to understand those sounds as they exist out in the world – human speech being the most important to me. Each processor has a pair of microphones that pick up the sound, then the processor ‘decides’ which sounds are most important for the ear to receive. Background noise, for instance, is relegated to less important status and the words of someone speaking to me is brought right to the cochlea.

Really, activation day is the day I’m excited about! CI recipients often describe activation day as the first day of their new lives.