Do Not Put it Off!

This week marked the end of my son’s life as a high school student. In a couple of weeks, my parents will be here to celebrate at his graduation ceremonies for Chieftain Christian Academy. Although Chris did most of his senior year at a local community college (since he goes free thanks to “Dad” working there), he still did a couple of classes at home. I’ve been more “hands off” in his education this year, but still had the opportunity to make sure he was logging hours for that 1/2 credit of Bible he needed. I was still his “teacher” for Geometry, something we put off far too long! I was still busy grading papers, generating paperwork for our co-op, and preparing lesson plans for the kid.

Now the “kid” is done, and I find myself asking, “What do I… want to be when I grow up?” My life has pretty much been on hold for twenty years, in spite of working part-time as a teacher throughout. Every school year revolved around the kids, as did every activity, field trip, book purchase, and support group meeting. Now we are “done” with this chapter in our lives and I once feared I would be left feeling deflated.

But… I have a plan of action. That is part of the reason I have been going to school part-time. I’ve been taking 6-9 hours a semester of graduate level courses in Psychology. I’m set up to complete a Master’s program at the end of 2010.

Looking Back

In spite of all of these years of concentrating on my family, I really didn’t think there would ever be a day I could look to my own dreams. It’s hard to believe that it has been almost twenty years since I first began to notice a dramatic change in my hearing. In the beginning it was so hard! Even my own parents and siblings had difficulty believing I was really losing my hearing. After all, when I was being raised at home, I only had a mild hearing loss in one ear. It didn’t make sense to them that ten years could make that much difference in my hearing. I remember one of my kids coming home from Colorado after visiting family, visibly upset because someone had told them that my hearing loss must be “put on”… that it wasn’t real. They had no idea how to respond to the lack of belief in acquired disabilities. They knew I couldn’t “hear” in the dark (since I speech read). They knew how frustrated I was when my hearing aid battery would die. They knew how terrified I was of the phone and how I was slowly dropping out of activities at church since I couldn’t hear. I remember talking to my little sister on the telephone prior to my cochlear implant surgery.

She wanted to know why I would consider surgery and take that risk. I remember staring at the phone incredulous at her question. Here I was reading captions from a Cap-tel phone, in order to even know what she said… and THAT wasn’t 100%. I explained how minimal the risks were to cochlear implant surgery and tried to explain how desperately I WANTED MY LIFE BACK.

Looking Ahead

I didn’t let their reservations stand in my way. Thankfully, my immediate family understood the struggles I faced each and every day and were so supportive! Other late-deafened adults were encouraging and enthusiastic about my surgery. Getting a cochlear implant allowed me to dream again. Because I can hear as well as I do, I look forward to giving back in some way… of doing something outside the home. Don’t get me wrong… I have loved being a keeper of the home and the opportunity to spend so much time with my kids. However, I really thought that at the end of this time I’d be facing an empty nest and feeling unnecessary. Once I could “hear again”, everything changed. I’m at the end of this journey and at the beginning of a new one! I’m feeling rather hopeful, excited and NECESSARY.

I suppose if the posting this week had a POINT, it would be this:

Do you have a hearing loss? Do hearing aids and other assistive devices no longer help you very much? Have you been evaluated and been told that you qualify for a cochlear implant?

DO NOT PUT IT OFF.

The risks are minimal, the pay-off is HUGE. It has been five years since I was activated (May 13, 2005). I have no regrets other than I waited as long as I did. I qualified for a cochlear implant three years before I finally went through with the surgery! I’m dreaming again. I’m excited about the future. I have plans, goals, and am slowly but surely “getting there”. I can hear with this bionic ear of mine!

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


Yup! Wind in the Trees!

Who would have thought even five years later I am still picking up sounds that I hadn’t heard the year before? I have had my cochlear implant for close to five years. I am only mapped once a year now at Johns Hopkins. Whatever my audiologist did this past May enabled me to hear the wind in the trees like never before.

I grew up in Baca County Colorado and we had PLENTY of wind… but not so many trees really. Where there were trees, it meant there was a house there. A bunch of trees in one place, meant there was a town. Many folks think Colorado is all mountains, but a good part of it is grasslands and plains. Yup. I grew up on “Little House on the Prairie”.

When we first moved to Maryland in 2002, I could not hear without the help of two powerful BTE hearing aids. Over the next two years I would lose what remained of my hearing. People with normal hearing do not stop to think about what it means to lose your hearing gradually over time. You don’t even realize sounds “go missing”. I can’t put my finger on when I stopped hearing the phone ring… I only know it was when my kids were little and I lived in NC. I can’t remember when I stopped hearing cats purr, the wind in the trees, or the sounds of a vehicle.

One of my friends who is bilaterally implanted with cochlear implants heard a strange noise in the motor of her car this week. She went by the mechanics and explained that she uses cochlear implants to hear and “I’m not sure if it’s a new sound or just new to ME”. She was so tickled to have been RIGHT about the sound, and very glad to catch something early that ended up being a simple “fix”. Had she not been able to hear it, eventually it may have been a more expensive and difficult “fix” for the mechanic. I was practically jumping up and down for her… understanding what it is like to realize you can hear something! I think especially to adults who are able to recognize something new and understand it’s the result of being able to hear again… these new sounds are special!

With wind it is a little tricky. You don’t actually see the wind, you see what the wind can do to objects both in nature and man-made. I have memories of the sound of a windmill on the ranch I grew up on in Colorado. I’d love to “hear it again” some time! I realized I was really hearing the wind when I parked myself in the yard in a place where the fence acted as a windbreak. If I closed my eyes (so that my brain wouldn’t SEE the wind and influence what my cochlear implant was hearing), I could hear the wind. In the trees. WOWSIE.

So yup! It’s only the wind in the trees. But to me? I’m hearing something I haven’t heard in over a decade I know! I just love my Nucleus Freedom!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal