Sometimes the most obvious things are the most hidden. When I was first confronted with my hearing loss, a friend said to me, “Jerry, you do an excellent job of lip reading”. I had never even thought about lip reading and surely I did not think I was doing it. That was nineteen years ago.

Practicing with my new cochlear implant has revealed my secret life as a proficient lip reader, after all these years. What that means is I don’t understand diddly without looking at the lips of the speaker. Carol Ann and I can have a CI only conversation for an hour and when she hides here face it’s as though she had suddenly switched into ancient Navaho. It’s distressing.

My friend John on Hearing Journey – an online forum run by Advanced Bionics, the maker of my device – has just received his second implant. He talks about working with sounds that do not remotely resemble speech – yet. He gently reminds me that working outside my comfort zone is the only pathway to making sense of ancient Navaho – so to speak. This is hard. Much harder than I imagined.

Having a forum, a relationship with people on the same journey as I am, is proving to be a wonderful and meaningful resource. These people are scattered across the continent. It’s unlikely we would ever meet. I do have a friend – a fellow Mainer – who had her operation on the same ear, on the same day in the same town but different hospitals. Her husband was a nurse and my partner in life CA was a nurse as well. With all those share points we decided that we should meet on one of their trips down to Boston. We are having similar experiences in our initial learning phase. We encourage each other and take nourishment from the knowledge that we are in good company, and are not alone.

3 Comments

  1. Jerry, you are amazing!

  2. Russell Clepper

    You’re on a fascinating journey, brother Jerry. At least the written word is still available for communication and you’re very adept at it. So, from what you’ve said here, I suppose this is a common experience for people with a CI, that is, hearing speech but not understanding it at first? Do you know if most people eventually learn to interpret speech with time?

    You’re probably growing new neural pathways to that effect, I suppose. The brain is so complex, and so completely us. We know you’re in there!

    • Ah, dear Russell. Thanks for the comment. And yes, in time the brain figures out that the noise it hears is a familiar voice. In conjunction with the hearing aid in the opposite ear there is a vast improvement. Love to you both. JH

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