Every mother longs to hear her newborn child. The cry. That sweet coo. Those babbles. That first word. Imagine having a horrible ear infection. Clogged ears. Muffled sounds. That’s what it was like to hear my son for the first year of his life. Why? I’m deaf in my right ear and have severe hearing loss in my left ear.
My hearing loss is due to genetics spanning multiple generations, including my father. My father missed out on many moments with us. Unable to hear the words, “I love you.” Unable to hear conversations. Unable to hear the words to our father-daughter dance at my wedding. I didn’t want to experience that with my son. I wanted to hear his cries, his coos, his babbles. his words, his conversations, and his song at his wedding.
I watched my dad undergo two cochlear implant surgeries and go from being deaf to hearing life: crickets, birds, his daughters say “daddy,” his wife say, “I love you,” and his grandson cry. After 8-months of struggling to hear my newborn son, I decided to take a leap. I began the process of getting a cochlear implant.
The Six-Month Process to Surgery:
1. Qualify with my audiologist in the booth. What did this look like? I had to listen to the beeps, and push a button without my hearing aids, and then with my hearing aids. This showed how ineffective my hearing aids were and showed the need for a cochlear implant.
2. Meet and get approved by an ENT (Ears, Nose, and Throat) surgeon. The surgeon reviews your audiograms, and determines if you’re a candidate for a cochlear implant or not.
3. My favorite: shopping time. Choose your cochlear implant brand, color, and accessories.
4. Get two vaccines: Pneumonia and Meningitis.
5. Get approved by my health insurance.
6. Surgery day!
One of the biggest steps in this process is preparing yourself emotionally. To prepare yourself for a life-changing event: to hear.
November 6, 2018. I was calm until they were ahead of schedule. Then, the tears flowed. Fears. Anxiety. What if I don’t wake up? Will it hurt? Will I get vertigo? Will I get headaches and migraines? What if it doesn’t work? What if I can’t hear? What if I can’t hear my son? The crying, the cooing, the babbles, his words, that song?
Recovery was a piece of cake. I was back to work six days later!
November 28, 2018. I nervously sat in the audiologists’ chair, surrounded by my husband, mother, father, and, most importantly, my son.
Once my cochlear implant was turned on, I heard. I heard my son. I heard my husband. I
heard my parents. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I knew it was them I was hearing. Tears of joy began to flow. Joy knowing it worked. Joy knowing I can hear. Joy knowing I can hear my son. That cry, that coo, that babble, his words, and one day, that song.
Most people think you just start hearing “normal”- hearing speech. However, after having hearing loss and not hearing for so long, your brain forgets how. I spent the next six weeks undergoing therapy to reteach my brain how to hear. The first week, everything sounded like static. The second week, everyone sounded like robots. In the third week, everyone sounded like Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Week four and on, things start to sound more “normal” over time.
It was a long journey and still is a journey. To hear … birds chirping. A woodpecker. An owl. Rain hitting the roof of the house. Rain hitting leaves off the tree as I enjoy my favorite: a storm. The ear-piercing noise of styrofoam rubbing as my students explore. As I sit and watch my son play outside. My son splashing as we learn how to swim. My son cry as he needs his mama. His cackle and laugh as the tickle monster gets him. “Mommy” as my son squeezes my neck tight. “Love you” as we kiss goodnight.
And, for that, I am thankful for the gift of hearing.