Monday, November 23, 2009

Reply to Someone Else's Cold Feet

A participant on, the Advanced Bionics online support community posted she was having cold feet about going bilateral. I've had a lot of thoughts going through my head lately about going bilateral myself. This is my reply to her.

I haven't been saying much on HJ lately, but I'm reading many, many of the posts. I had cold feet about a second implant from the day I qualified. It was a wrenching journey of grieving my hearing loss. I wanted to keep that ear so so so badly! But I had no guarantee that it wouldn't quit totally on me eventually, likely sooner rather than later. It took me three months to say, "ok, you can pencil me in." (I have a really wise and compassionate audiologist!) It took another three months, up until 24 hours before my surgery day, to feel emotionally ready.

I'm a musician born and bred; it runs in my blood. My first implant was an incredible gift! I could understand the words, and I could pick up the melody ok, and I could find pitch with the natural hearing in my remaining ear. I have some amazing and wonderful music stories from my first implant; some are posted here in the Recipient Stories section. Letting go of that sense of natural pitch was the wrenching part of getting the second implant. I knew I would hear speech better and have greater comprehension of what I heard. That has been truly the case.

But. Music is hard. So much of the time it is a roaring mush, with bits of pitch change thrown in. If it's a single instrument or voice, I hear it beautifully! But that almost never happens, especially in church. I tested my second implant on one of these musical websites that gives you a few measures played by a single instrument. Two weeks after activation,with just the second CI, I got 11 out of 14 correct! I can indeed tell the difference between a violin, a viola, a cello, and a bass. (I played viola.) I can tell the difference between a clarinet, an oboe, and a bassoon. Listening to Peter and the Wolf is loads of fun! But my enjoyment of the worship songs at church is very limited, and on new songs I kind of make up my own melody to go with the rhythm I can hear and the bits of modulation I can discern. Some days that's enough; some days it's incredibly painfully sad.

So do I regret getting the second implant? No. Really, really, NO! I greatly appreciate having some directionality; I love being able to walk on either side of a friend and chat and have it not matter because I can hear from either side. I love the crispness and richness sound has with both ears that it doesn't have with just one or the other.

What I "regret" is that my ears quit and I have gone deaf. So my grief is not the fault of the CI's. It's the failure of my physical ability for auditory processing. The CI's ameliorate that SO much; but they don't give me back everything I lost. And they never could and they never can. They can give me back a lot, and my life is so much richer and fuller than it was with hearing aids! But I really do miss my music.

Does that help any with your cold feet? What helped me was friends around me that let me cry when I was sad or afraid or angry, and loved me and hugged me and walked with me through those awful 6 months before I got the second CI. You have to be where you are, and you need people around you who will support you in that journey. Each person's journey is unique. But love and prayer are applicable to everyone's journey!

Sorry this got so long. But I've needed to say this all for a while.

PS I was also scared to death of no hearing at all when I would take off the processors. But that's not been so bad.
Liz H -
late deafened adult; first pair HA's at age 33.
Left CI-Auria HiRes 3/2006; upgrade to Harmony 2007
Right CI surgery 7/3/2008; activated 7/11/2008