I’ve been out socially 3 times in the last 3 weeks, which is a lot for me. But it’s fascinating how easy it is now. Last night, I was out with about 20 coworkers, half of which I know, half I’ve never spoken to before. I had a GREAT time. It was so easy to participate in conversations. Did I still miss things? Of course. But not anywhere near what I would have missed before.
People love talking to me about my hearing, which I’m more than happy to talk about. I find it all just as fascinating as everyone else does. And I love that it serves as an opening to other interesting conversation sometimes.
So 3 weeks ago I went to have beer with Ed and some of his coworkers/our friends. It was tough. I’d only been activated for 2 days, I hadn’t figured out my battery life yet. Definitely didn’t really understand speech yet. Last Friday we went out with two of the same people from that first night. It was a fairly crowded room, but I could understand most of the conversation within our little group. There were still some issues because I’d just got a new mapping that morning and was trying out a new program. I wasn’t quite understanding at the level I had been earlier that day, but it was much better than it would have been prior to the implant. Only 9 days post-activation.
Last night kind of blew my mind. I had several one-on-one conversations with people, and participated in several group conversations – a lot with people I had never talked to before! There was a point where I just sat by myself and took it all in. I could hear (but not understand) conversations in all the groups that were around me – even the one two tables down from where I sat. It sounded like real voices, not muddles of noise as it would have previously. At one point I asked one of my managers if he could hear that too – he said he could but couldn’t follow the conversation that far away. So we talked for a bit about what normal people hear and it led me to realize that part of the biggest problem I’m having right now is that I hear *everything*. Sure, normal people do too, but they have heard those sounds all along and mostly just tune out background noise without even thinking about it. I have a lot of thinking about it, adjusting, and learning yet. This may end up being my biggest struggle actually.
Yesterday after lunch (where we had a meeting and I’m pretty sure I understood at least 90% of what was said), I came back to my desk to hear the coworker across my cube wall on the phone with a customer. It was distracting – not in a bad way, just in a way that I didn’t get much work done while he was on the phone. See, I could understand what he was saying to the customer. So I was so fascinated by that, I had to stop and listen to him. I count that as my listening exercise for yesterday! Thanks to Gabe for not being annoyed that I was eavesdropping on that call – I told him that night that I had done so and we stayed for a couple more hours talking about all sorts of things. See? Hearing, and the ability to do so, leads to great conversation.
I am ridiculously tired today, and I don’t think it’s from the beer. Auditory fatigue is definitely a real thing. (I highly recommend that linked article. Read it when you’re done here if you haven’t already.)
Overall, I’m doing great. I still have these two programs – one just a louder version of my original program and one with more depth to the sound. I like the second program better, but I understand speech better with the first one. The second program has more of those moments, especially when listening to music, where the sound feels like it’s one channel instead of two. The first program is definitely not there yet, but again speech is better. On the first program, I am able to listen to the Dresden Files audiobook while walking the dogs rather than while reading along. It takes some work when he does different voices for different characters, but I’m definitely getting it. Even a week ago, I wouldn’t have. Things are moving fast and I’m adjusting pretty quickly.
I go for another mapping session on Friday. I’m supposed to tell her which program I like better. The answer is both – they both serve different purposes.