Today (9th August) marks almost a decade of bionic hearing for me. It was on this day nine years ago that I underwent an operation to have a cochlear implant fitted to my left ear.
I recall feeling really scared in the hours leading up to the operation, anxious about if the operation would work or not. If it failed then I had gambled with what was left of my natural hearing.
I recall saying goodnight to my daughter, wondering if it would be the last time I would ever hear her voice, desperately trying to soak it up to remember how it sounded in my head. That was a painful moment for me.
As I was put to sleep, I recall praying that it would work. A few hours later I woke up looking like Mr Bump with a massive bandage on my head!
I discovered on waking that I was suffering from acute sickness, double vision and vertigo. The double vision settled down after a day, but I continued to experience vertigo and sickness for a few days afterwards.
I was originally meant to stay in hospital for one night, but ended up staying two nights due to difficulties in my body waking up after the operation, as my legs wouldn’t move nor could I go to the loo! The first night was a real challenge for me, as I had no hearing, struggled to communicate with others and unfortunately was being “cared for” by night nurses who clearly thought I being melodramatic about not being able to wee! However several hours later they were very apologetic once they realise I was serious and needed assistance to go. Thankfully after that the rest of my stay was uneventful, and I was cared for by more sympathic and caring nurses.
For three weeks I lived in a world of silence to enable my head time to recover from the operation. It was a strange period in time living life as normal but without sound. Communication with others was held via guessing what was being said via lip reading, signing/gestures or by getting them to write it down.
I had to contend with side effects such as food tasting metallic and horrendous headaches. Gradually these all settled down as my body recovered from the operation.
On the 29th August 2007 I was switched on. I recall that moment of anxiety just before it was switched on, and the relief when I jumped in reaction to sound as it kicked into action. From a world of silence to that of hearing with a simple flick of a switch.
Initially sounds were unclear squeaks, but gradually as my head began to make sense of it, they became clearer. For a short while voices sounded like people had been taking large swigs of helium!
Over time my hearing has adapted to the cochlear implant. From those initial days where I struggled to pick out sounds to hearing a range of sounds now, it’s amazing to think how far my hearing has progress with the aid of technology.
To give you an idea of the different it made to my hearing prior to my operation when I was just relying on sounds only with no visual clues I scored 23% in being able to repeat back a sentence correctly. A week after being switched on I scored 87% undertaking the same tests. What an amazing difference. Even the audiologist was shocked by the difference as usually people only score about 60% a week on.
Nine years has gone by. I have experience ups and downs with my cochlear implant but mostly ups. There are still some situations where I struggle to hear, such as in noisy environments, which shows that the cochlear implant doesn’t “fix your hearing totally”. All it does is improves on what was lost, and gives me the chance to engage in the hearing world, rather than face a lifetime of silence.
There’s been some amusing moments over the years, such as when my then toddler daughter proudly announced that “My Mummy has a cock implant!” to some friends of ours.
If I went back in time, would I still take the same gamble with what was left of my hearing? Yes I would, because my hearing was rapidly declining to the point that one day I would have woken up to a world of silence.
I’m so glad I live in the age of technology where hearing can be aided via a cochlear implant. My life would have been so different had I not had that opportunity. I am truly grateful for those who invented and continue to make improvements to the cochlear implant. I am also grateful for the NHS as without it, there’s no way I would have been able to afford or access treatment.
Has the cochlear implant made a difference to my life? Yes, because without it, I would be living in a world of silence, and it would have impacted on so many aspects of my life. For example prior to my cochlear implant being fitted I couldn’t hear a smoke alarm going off, even if I was stood right underneath it. Now I can. It means I can continue to be independent, live my life fully and soak up all those sounds in the world around me.
Almost a decade well worth celebrating indeed.