In My Own Words

By: RABBI RACHEL ESSERMAN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR

The leaves were already past their prime, but that didn’t bother me on my recent trip to see the ear surgeon in Syracuse. The late October date meant there was far less construction and vacation traffic on the road. The surgeon wants to see me every year to check on my cochlear implant and the visit also includes a meeting with the audiologist.
Bottom line: Everything is going well. The surgeon was satisfied after checking the site of my implant and looking in my ear. My answers to his questions – any balance problems, any ear noise problems – were satisfactory. I don’t think my balance has been any worse and, as for the ear ringing, the sound in the ear with the implant bothers me less than the noise in my other ear. At least with the CI, it’s just one roaring sound that I can relax into. The noise in my other ear is more complex – sometimes two or three different kinds of noises are buzzing at the same time. When I wear my CI and my hearing aid, the noise usually disappears, which is wonderful. (If you’ve never appreciated quiet, try some ear ringing for a bit and you’ll soon change your mind.)
My visit with the audiologist took more time. I’d forgotten just how complex the CI is: she had to upgrade the technology by connecting it to her computer and downloading a new version of the software. She also changed my programming a bit, which should help me hear the letters f, s and h better. It was only a slight increase so I haven’t noticed a big difference, but, then again, a little difference could mean a lot in the long run.
We also discussed how the implant is affecting my life. That gave me the opportunity to share the comments I’ve received about my speech – about how much clearer my speech is and how those who knew me before the hearing loss say I sound like “the old Rachel.” (I’m taking that as a compliment.) I also told her about how much I appreciate being able to hear some music, even though the result is far from perfect, and the joy of sometimes being able to understand speech without having to lip read. I couldn’t resist mentioning how much fun it was to be able to understand the speech of computer generated imagery – at least after I’ve watched a program with captioning two or three times. (Yes, I did specifically mention the show “Imaginary Mary” and the CGI character I like so much.)
Both the surgeon and the audiologist asked if I was thinking about having a CI done on the other ear. I have thought about it, but am just not ready. The idea of having the same technology in both ears makes me a bit nervous. Plus, while the sound is so much better with the CI, there are times it blocks out noise so that I can hear only with the hearing aid. The difference in sound is really hard to believe – something I frequently note when I move people from my left side to my right side. (After 30 years of placing people to my left, it’s not always easy to remember to move to the other side.)
It is hard to believe that two years have gone by since the surgery. Once in a while, I forget how hard things were before because my expectation of what I can do has increased. But then something happens and I remember just how lucky I am to be born in a time and place where medical miracles can occur. I am so grateful for the CI and for all the support I’ve received from those who read this column.