For the last 15 years, I refused to watch uncaptioned videos on the Internet. Which basically meant I wouldn’t watch videos on the Internet, because captioning is a fairly recent thing. I ended up more frustrated because I couldn’t understand than I enjoyed the video, so I just didn’t do it.
I was recently reminded of a Muppet Christmas Special that I used to enjoy as a kid in the late 70s/early 80s – Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas. Alice Otter was my favorite (not just because we have the same name), because she sang the great closing song that you might know from other Muppet adventures – Where the River Meets the Sea. I think it was actually sung at Jim Henson’s funeral.
I was trying to remember the words and how it went, as well as the rest of the story, so I found it on YouTube and started watching. It was about 15 minutes in when I thought, “holy crap! I’ve been watching this without captions!” I always used to joke that I could never really watch the Muppets after my hearing loss because you can’t exactly lipread them. And here I was, watching Muppets without captions and understanding them! I suspect part of this was because somewhere in my brain was the memory of watching it as a kid, and if I’ve learned nothing else in my hearing loss, it’s that auditory memory is forever – you just have to access it.
Awhile back, I had decided that Doctor Strange was going to be my first movie in the theatre without captions. I did expect that to be more like a month ago, but we finally managed to see it Friday night. He was one of my favorite comic book characters growing up, so I knew the story going in, and I knew anything I missed would be made up for with beautiful visuals. I admit that I struggled, especially at first, getting used to the voices. But it was the first time I understood any of the previews in 15 years. Some characters/voices were better than others – Benedict and Tilda were great, but the bad guy was awful. I don’t think I got a single word he said. So I think I managed about 75% or so without captions. Which is stunning, given where I was only 3 months ago, pretty much 0% (okay, technically 37% in a sound booth, which translates to like 12% in real life).
I did have my 3-month mapping appointment, and I scored 94% speech recognition in the booth on my cochlear implant side only. Remember that a quiet sound booth is nothing like real life, so I think 75% with both sides is probably super reasonable. Quite honestly, probably pretty close to people with “normal” hearing.
However, I hate my new map. It’s been over a week and the CI side still sounds like it’s got a little bit of almost an echo, where the sound feels like it’s underwater. It is getting better though, so I’m willing to put up with it – this is apparently extremely common with a new map. The old map was feeling like it was getting a little static-y, so it wasn’t ideal either. Just another thing my brain has to figure out.
Feeling very much like my world is still changing, I never quite know what each day is going to sound like. But I’m okay with that, because where there was once nothing there is now beauty. Beautiful sound.
[If you have read to the end of this, I greatly appreciate it. If any of my stories have moved you, I’d like you to consider an end-of-year donation to my organization, Hear Indiana. As you’ve read in this blog, they are 90% responsible for me being where I am today. Thank you to those of you who have given this year! hearindiana.org/donate]