Monday, July 14, 2014

Four Years!

I know I haven't updated this blog at all recently (and some people have asked me about that), but this milestone warrants mention: four years!

Four years ago, after my sophomore year of college, I could not have imagined myself at age twenty-four, in England, going into an audiologist's office in Oxford to get my now-annual cochlear implant remapping. I couldn't have imagined all the turns my life has taken within that time, nor that my listening really would progress past the chaotic initial stage. One thing about this blog is it offers a terrific way of looking back over my former self. For fun, here are a few tidbits of what I wrote four years ago, in July 2010:

Finally, I shut the CI off. By this time I'm utterly exhausted. Pulse, pulse, pulse. It never stops. Lipreading has required all of my strength and focus, which the electric jolts try to tear away, and I feel like I'm floating outside myself, in the land of the surreal... Never have I been so appreciative of silence. Is it possible that any of this pulsing mess will ever make sense?
I feel like I'm inhaling the sound and holding it in the core of my chest. It resonates through my whole body. It drowns out my thoughts, consumes my being. All I can do... is sit numbly and surrender to it.
I went back into the office yesterday, thinking that it'd at least be a quiet environment. Boy, was I wrong. I turned on my computer and started typing, and it was as if someone had set off an avalanche. A thousand stones tumbled off a cliff, banging and clattering down into my mind. After thirty seconds, I stopped and panted. Even the mouse made unbearably loud noises - click, click, click! I turned the scroll wheel to navigate a webpage - clickclickclickickickck! This went on all day. Whir. Click. Bang. Shhhh. Click. Roar! Utterly peeved and agitated, I would sit back in my chair to try to give myself a reprieve - and then immediately jump and tense when I heard myself exhale. Who knew my breathing was so loud? When my coworkers came in to talk to me, their voices shook my skull - boom boom boom. By the end of the day I was impossibly stressed, tensing and holding my breath so I wouldn't make a sound, inhaling before launching into another round of typing. When the phone rang, I almost leaped to unplug it and throw it out the window. I felt like vomiting, screaming, passing out, bursting into tears, or all four. Shut up!

Phew. For all the early wonder of those days, I smile and feel happy that I'm not there anymore. On the other hand, today I got on my bike here in Oxford and went into the clinic and chatted with a few charmingly British audiologists (one of whom taught me a few BSL signs while I regaled her with my American-isms). Then I tried my hand at listening to a few auditory exercises (in British accents, of course; I can't say I did very well with those in the open-set category), and then hooked up to the computer and got my first remapping since I left California last June. The audiologist increased some of the quieter sounds on the map, adjusted several of the frequencies, and added ClearVoice back in, which I'd taken off before, and so far I'm enjoying it. The more subtle sounds in my environment are definitely permeating my awareness more than before, meaning that I walked out of the audiology clinic thinking, Wow, there are so many distinct voices in here. And also, My gosh, I am so noisy, even when all I'm doing is putting my bag on. After a remapping, I always get that disoriented, giddy, strange, noticing-all-things-audible-about-the-world feeling all over again. Sounds I haven't bothered to notice for a while jump out at me, and new ones surface along the way. I'm sure it'll start to feel exhausting by the end of today, but for now it's pleasantly humorous.

(Also, can I say a word about how nice it is to go through this CI programming process with the NHS...? Once I actually managed to get an appointment, it was smooth sailing. I might get back into some audioverbal/speech therapy here, too, which should be interesting. Maybe I'll come back from the UK with a British accent!)

And a quick auditory update on the last year, you say? Well, British accents, British phrases, many other international accents, the sounds of double-decker buses and endless church bells around Oxford, music in cafes and noisy undergraduate conversations, coughing in libraries and lecture halls, more new friends' familiar voices, the sounds of crowds and minaret bells and the sea and different birds and regional tunes and so many other noises while on travel -- all of these, and more, have figured into there! I still lipread, yes, and always will, but, I must say, my world (on both sides of the pond) is so much richer for hearing it and working on understanding what I hear. Onward!