Category Archives: Deafness

Phone Talker

I have never been one of those people who enjoys talking on the phone, so it didn’t bother me so much when I went deaf. However, talking on the phone is extremely convenient and useful (as opposed to texting and emailing).

One of my fellow CI friends recently asked how I was doing at talking on the phone. I regrettably responded that I hadn’t tried yet. The fear of failure and frustration was just too great. Well, then I had some major trouble communicating with my mother-in-law on Sunday as she was trying to return my children. I decided then that I would bite the bullet and give it a shot.

Feeling self-conscious, I was only willing to try a phone conversation with someone who really understands how I hear (and how I don’t), so my husband, Mike, was the lucky guy. I called him yesterday at work. From my phone! Imagine that! He speaks clearly and slowly, and I think I understood most of what he said. The call went surprisingly well, and it gave me the courage to try it with a friend. She had been with me during the trouble with my mother-in-law, and she knew how nervous I was. We had a successful conversation, but I know I missed some things she said because we are both chatty people and ended up interrupting each other with giggles and random interjections! However, it still left me feeling pretty good about the future of my hearing and the progress to come.

Today I even Skyped with my mom, and this time she didn’t have to type her words to me. She could just talk to me. It was so wonderful. I am so grateful for this implant. I feel like so much was stolen from me last year, and the ci has given much of it back. I’m at a loss for words now. Hallelujah.

CI Education

I am finding that as I am learning to hear with my new cochlear implant (CI), I also need to teach others how to talk to me. Because as the audiologist reminds me, I am the only one who knows how I hear things, and therefore I am the one who must educate others. Deaf people with CIs may have similarities in how they hear, but will likely experience it very differently from one another. So, even if someone knows someone else with a CI and thinks they know, they need to be open to learning how each person hears. If they want to be heard, of course.

So, hear are the main things I tell people:

  1. Speak at a normal volume. I’ll tell you if it’s not loud enough, or just turn up the volume on my earpiece.
  2. Clearly enunciate your words as close to naturally as possible (unless you’re my family from Georgia, then just talk like a Yankee, for Pete’s sake).
  3. Make sure I can see your lips moving, and if you must turn your head, stop talking before you do.
  4. Surrounding noises, if loud enough, will drown out your voice. If it’s constant background noise, I may not be aware of it, so let me know it’s present and suggest to move to a quieter spot.
  5. Sudden loud noises, like a door slamming or a car alarm going off, will completely take over, and essentially interrupt what you are saying. If that happens, I will likely just ask you to repeat whatever you just said.

Above all, be patient. And please, don’t ever throw up your hands and say “never mind”. Just like any hearing person, deaf people want to communicate with others. I was deafened late in life. I did not grow up learning and communicating with others through sign language. Speaking verbally with others is all I know, and it’s extremely important to me. I, like so many others, took a leap of faith to have a computer permanently implanted into my skull. So you can bet with 100% certainty that CI users CARE about hearing what you have to say. I know I do!

Re-learning to talk to Momma

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but last year, very shortly after I lost my hearing, I also got very sick and was struggling to stay awake. I guess you could say I had “checked out”. In addition to falling asleep all the time, I couldn’t answer simple questions, and I was losing touch with everyone and everything. It was very scary. One thing that grieved me the most at the time was the way my children were affected. In particular, my daughter. She was 3 years old then, and had no idea how to communicate with me. She was lost, seeing me lost, and she just sort of gave up on me. Once I got better and regained my cognition, it broke my heart to discover the major disconnect between us.

My mom had flown in to stay with me as I recovered, and it took her two seconds to see what had happened with Natalie. She didn’t waste any time teaching Natalie how to communicate with me, telling her to make sure she looks at me when she speaks, and to speak slowly, and use hand gestures and simple ASL. Natalie soaked it up like a sponge. As she saw me respond to her, she opened right back up. What my mom did was such a gift. When I thought I had lost my daughter, she found a way to give her back to me.

And now? Now, as I’m learning to hear again with this cochlear implant, I am having to teach my kids all over again how to *talk* to me. Audibly! As it turns out, my daughter had a habit of mouthing her words to me, with no sound, so I’m having to continually remind her to use sound. And as I remind her throughout the day, she gets better and better.  Just in the past couple of days she is really picking up on the “normal talking to Momma” thing, and I am loving hearing what she has to say. She has a fabulous, sweet, funny personality. And I sat her down after her bath tonight and told her so. I told her that I had really missed talking with her, and I am so thankful for my “new ear” so that I can hear what she has to say, and I can hear her giggle when she makes a joke, and of course I started to cry as I was telling her this. But this girl, she understands “happy cries”, and she was not shaken or scared. In fact, she threw off her bath towel and stretched her arms out to give me the best hug ever. And we held each other while I silently sobbed on her shoulder.  

I’ve had these sorts of moments with Luke as well, but I have a different sort of connection with him. Luke and Natalie are so unique, yet both possess the same kindness and understanding. Luke has done very well with the changes my implant has brought. He still likes to use ASL to ask to play video games, but I don’t correct him. I think he does it both out of habit and for fun. When he makes a loud noise or laughs, he knows I can hear him so he looks over at me and smiles his big (toothless) grin, seeing that I’ve heard, and we just stare at each other with sparkles in our eyes and joy in our hearts.

I am starting to really experience what one of my new cochlear implanted friends always signs her messages with… with CI joy,


Gainfully unemployed

I had a disturbingly realistic dream this morning. I dreamt I was leaving my job. As I did for real last August. All the same people were there, but the office looked very different. More like the office in Nine to Five. Do you remember that movie? Anyway, in the dream I was packing up all of my stuff (which in real life I did not do) and saying my goodbyes. In the dream I was sad and frustrated, but when I started to wake up, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and relief.

I never admitted this while I was there, but I hated my job. Yes, I was doing accounting, but it wasn’t the kind of accounting I enjoyed. I started out at the firm six years prior doing monthly statements and reports and setting up new files, but by the end I found myself in the role of debt collector. Trying to collect from clients who had come to us for help getting out of a financial mess was like getting blood from a turnip. A losing battle. Every. Single. Day.

I still have the box of my stuff my coworkers had packed up for me. It’s been sitting, rarely touched, since the day I picked it up last September. Framed pictures, my iPod speakers, my candle (coffee) warmer. I even have my framed IRS Enrolled Agent certificate, which as of this week is now invalid. I did find my notary public stamp, which is still good for another five years, so that’s useful. The coffee mugs were the first things to come out when I brought the box home. However, I just realized today that my Einstein mug was never there. It must still be back at the office. My sister gave it to me, and it was a favorite. However, I’m hesitant to contact anyone from the office. I am afraid they would not understand my need to retrieve a silly coffee mug after all this time. After all, they’ve never contacted me. I worked there for six years and no one has asked me how I’m doing. Strange, but typical I suppose. Just goes to show a bit of what I hated about working there.

Oh well. The bottom line here is that some pretty crappy circumstances caused me to lose my job, and for that I am super grateful. In a way, becoming deaf rescued me from a life I was afraid to let go of. So, in God’s great power and graciousness, He plucked me out. He knew better than I, what I was afraid of and even more importantly, what I and my family needed. This all still amazes me. Can I get a hearty Amen?

First Impressions

Today was the day my first cochlear implant was activated. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I went in with an open mind, and I’m glad I did. Here are some of my first impressions:

1) Everyone sounds like chipmunks. So when they turned it on and started talking to me, I sat there, grinning like an idiot, trying not to giggle (I failed).

2) Natalie told me she loved me, and I told her I loved her too, and then I started to cry. This is what I was waiting for. I think a lot of times she speaks without sound when she talks to me, and in a very exaggerated way, so it’s going to take some learning on her part to remember to talk normally again. But thankfully, she is a smart girl and a very quick learner. I think as weird as it was for her when I went deaf, this is also a new kind of weird. So we’ll journey this weirdness together.

3) When they were setting the base volume level, they played a series of beeps. I had dried my tears from before, and this just got them going again. It’s been 11 months of having nothing sound real or normal, and those beeps, those sounds, they were beautiful. Beautifully real sounds.

4) On the drive home I could hear the beats to the music, and the road noise from the tires, and I just stared out the window. And again let the tears fall. I was struck with the simplicity and normalcy of sound. I believe I really had forgotten what I had lost. The memory of it, and then the reality of it being returned to me was just overwhelming. Simple sounds we all take for granted. The shuffling of papers, footsteps around me, my own husband’s voice. These are all things I took for granted, and they were taken from me. Yet for some reason only known to God, they are being returned to me. To say that I am grateful is a colossal understatement.

These past 11 months have been a journey, and today is the next step on that journey. I thought at first that it was a new journey, but I think that’s wrong. What I have been through has shaped me in ways I am still discovering, and it has made me who I am today. I am more patient, more courageous, more thoughtful of others. Stronger, yet tender-hearted.

Yet, still Mindy.

Morning soundtracks

You know how some alarms can be set to wake you up with music? Yeah, I kind of have that going on in my head now. It doesn’t necessarily wake me up, but I do have music playing in my head very soon after I wake in the morning. Last week I think I mentioned one day it was Pearl Jam. It’s such a strange variety, I really should have been keeping track all along. For example, yesterday morning it was an old children’s song we used to sing. “On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed!”. This morning it was one of my favorites, “Some Nights” by Fun.

Music is a big deal to me. Clearly. So it was a huge loss when I lost my hearing. You lose so much more than just your hearing. But, by George, tomorrow I’ll be heading down the road to hearing again, when my cochlear implant is turned on. Activation Day. TOMORROW! I don’t know how it will go, or how soon I’ll be understanding speech or enjoying music, but I am praying that it comes sooner rather than later. Later sucks. We vote for Sooner.

I wonder what tomorrow’s morning song will be? Perhaps a little “Eye of the Tiger”?

Sometimes I get a kick out of being deaf

1) I can’t be held responsible for ignoring chatty strangers.

2) I sleep awesome.

3) I’ve been known to leave the garbage disposal running after I turn the water off.

4) You know about SBDs? Silent But Deadly toots? Well, they’re all SBDs to me. No. Warning. Whatsoever.

5) I’m terribly easy to sneak up on. My 7 year old son loves this.

6) Tinnitus: Think jazz horns. 24/7. Nice, but I do miss the chanting monks.

7) Every morning wake up with a new song in my head. Yesterday it was Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam and jazz.

And to top it all off?

8) Dude. I’m getting implants! (Look left! Four more days!)