The Road to Silence – Part III: The New Normal


Have you ever tried to experiment what it would be like to not hear anything?

I mean complete uninterrupted silence. You can’t even compare it to being underwater. If I recall, when you’re underwater, you can still hear things swishing and people talking from above.

After I had my cochlear surgery, I was completely deaf for one month. This is a requirement in order for the surgery to heal before my “activation day”.

I can tell you that my high pitched ringing was still evident (or maybe that was just my brain used to the sound for so many years). But, everything I did from the time I woke up until the time my head hit the pillow at night was done in silence.  It’s amazing how observant one becomes by the loss of a certain sense. While watching people and their facial expressions, body language and lip reading, I could tell how people were feeling, possibly what they were discussing, and became keenly aware of my surroundings since my eyes now did double duty in becoming my ears as well. My husband and I used to play a game where I would guess what someone was talking about. Normally, it turned out I was right. So, I guess from that aspect, my deafness has made me acutely aware of people’s actions and facial expressions. It has proved to be a valuable tool.

When I walked my dogs, I would have take a 360 view of cars and people before I crossed the street. People thought I was rude if I didn’t respond to them if they made a comment to me. At times, I would get taps on the shoulder and people mouthing to me, “Did you hear me?”

That’s the problem with being deaf. People can’t see that you’re deaf. It’s obvious to a normal person when they see a blind person or someone who is handicapped. But, when you’re deaf you look normal. It’s not until you have to explain to them in a loud voice (because you can’t hear yourself talk), that you are deaf.

For one month of complete silence, my family and I communicated with written notes, text messages and email. Yes, the closed captioning was still scrolling to the left on the tv screen, and I looked for signs of visitors to the house by my dogs’ reactions. I was eagerly anticipating my “activation day”,  and dying to find out what things would sound like once my devices were turned on.

I was still on my secluded island.

One thing was for sure though: The ONE advantage to being deaf is when you sleep. A major thunderstorm hit last night! Really? I didn’t hear a thing. My husband snores like a chainsaw? I didn’t notice. And, of course two years later, I still don’t since I don’t sleep with my devices in my ears – it’s just not comfortable for me.

March 11, 2009 was my activiation day. When the audiologist turned me on (the devices, I mean), She said, “Can you hear me?” At that point, I felt like I woke up in the Emerald City. Dave and the audiologist, as well as myself, all sounded like munchkins. This was a normal response. From a technological standpoint, your brain now is doing the hearing for you. So, I had to put my brain thru some personal training sessions on how to re-learn sounds that were once familiar to me: my voice, my husband’s voice, normal house sounds, dogs barking, crinkling of paper, water running – you name it.

So, for six weeks I would go back each week to my audiologist and get a “fine tuning”. The processors have different programs: One is for a normal setting, like your home. A second program can be used for the phone, and a third setting can be used for louder situations. There’s volume control and circumfrence mode to maintain how far “out” you want to hear things.

When we walked outside after our activation day with my devices firmly in place, I stopped and listened. I asked Dave, “What’s that noise?” He said, “Those are birds chirping, hon.” At that point, I realized the sounds I had taken for granted like birds chirping and leaves rustling thru the wind weren’t sounds I had heard in probably 5 years.

I cried. Not only because I was able to hear these simple sounds again, but in realizing how much I had missed in my life for all these years due to my hearing loss.

Now, when I walk my dogs, I don’t listen to music.  I don’t want to take for granted nature’s natural sounds since I missed them for so long.

If you recognize within these posts that you have a hearing loss, don’t delay in getting tested to enhance your hearing experience. You really don’t realize how much you miss the simple things until they are gone.

Stay tuned for my last installment: Emotional and Physical Side Affects

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