Thursday, January 13, 2011

To the Mattresses

As I think was apparent in my last post, this is where the real work begins - or continues! My time after returning from a quarter abroad was largely a time for me to regroup, to literally and figuratively catch my breath, and I did little structured listening outside of a few covered-mouth conversations. Leading up to my remapping two weeks ago (which, in a nutshell, readjusted the electrode input and gave me a new program with a noise-reduction filter, which has been amazing for loud/distracting/overwhelming places like restaurants - I find that I can make out individual voices from among the hubbub!), I was content to let things glide along for a bit.

But now that I've returned to the structure of classes and the college lifestyle, I'm a bit more motivated to pick up the listening-exercises pace again. This is especially true after jumping back into an environment in which I'm surrounded by hearing people who: 1) unthinkingly assume that my abilities will be up to "normal-person" par, 2) ask me how the hearing is going (a natural question to ask, since I haven't seen them for so long) and therefore make me want to stay in practice, or 3) seem to have no idea how much my life has changed in the last six months, making me feel simultaneously dismayed and gleeful. Yes, a complicated mix, but that's the way things go.

So, I'm dogged again. The audiobooks are back. Appointments with an auditory therapist are upcoming. In class I challenge myself to listen, really listen, to the professor and predict what he/she says before the interpreter signs it. (Amusingly, this has brought up several instances where I notice that the interp has misstepped or paraphrased. Score!) Phone conversations - after literally a three-month hiatus - are working their way into my daily schedule.

These conversations have been the hardest part. They're not "conversations," per se, in that when my parents call we're not talking normally about anything. Rather, they're structured listening exercises, often accompanied by computer instant messages out of necessity. The usefulness of technology. Talking on the phone is way harder than talking in person, mainly because the range of frequencies inherent to human speech is literally compressed over the connection. Hence, speech doesn't sound like what I'm used to. It doesn't sound as dynamic and lifelike. People tend to sound far away, whispery or muffled, or just plain strange. Complicating the problem is the fact that I have absolutely no real previous phone experience with hearing aids to fall back on. I'm using the phone for the first time in my life. And sitting in a room by myself with a receiver pressed to my ear, straining to decipher the disembodied voice from the other end, is a real whoa! moment. It feels unnatural, I almost don't believe that I can do it, I start to panic, and the vicious cycle begins.

But, as with everything else, I've found that practice is key. Three days this week I've gone to the mattresses with the phone. The first time (also my first time since September, mind you) I was a wee bit too ambitious, and ended up feeling shaken, to say the least. Tonight I was actually smiling, picking up on impromptu bits and sometimes finding myself able to automatically reply. A bit like doing headstands at times, but the confidence that practice brings is astonishing.

Now, what happens when I do this every day? I can't wait!

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