"You are definitely a candidate for cochlear implant."
I had been waiting to hear those words. But when my doctor said them to me yesterday, my heart skipped two beats. I qualified for candidacy. It was determined that I need a cochlear implant and would benefit from its use. I can begin the process of getting an implant for my deaf ear. Now begins the back and forth negotiations with my insurance company, the countless appeals, and the necessary medical tests before my surgery date is finalized. I'm hoping it will come sooner than later.
"It'll be like learning a new language," my doctor told me. "And it won't be easy. It won't be hearing as you are used to hearing. It is digital. It is electronic. You'll have to teach your brain to understand it. But I think you are highly motivated to learn and will be able to do this."
He explained it would be a little like dropping me in the middle of France, where I didn't know the customs or language, and asking me a few days later how things were going. I'd be a mess, I'm sure. But after a few weeks, I would have learned how to navigate my neighborhood and probably learned some important phrases to help me get around. "If I checked on you after 6 months," he continued, "you will probably have learned some social language and have friends who you speak casually with every day. After a couple of years, I wouldn't be able to tell you from a native." That's what using a cochlear implant is like.
I admit, I'm a little giddy about it. I came home and tore open the information packet he gave me. It came with a little plastic model of the external speech processor for me to "try on for size and fit." I put it on. It was BIG. And it was a big deal. I was consumed by emotions of nervousness and excitement while being completely aware of an enormous sense of apprehension. It's permanent. There won't be any turning back or changing my mind once it's done. I couldn't shake the dread of how the magnet inside my skull would attract the undead to me when the zombie apocalypse occurs!
I will still be deaf. It is not a cure for my deafness; it is only a tool to connect me to the hearing world -- a tool that will require many hours of practice and rehabilitation. But it is steady and consistent, my doctor had told me, unlike my own hearing, which seems determined to keep me guessing.
Most people think the implant restores hearing. Turn it on and "click!" You can hear again. It's not quite that easy, I've learned. Without the processor, I will hear nothing. With the processor, I will hear this:
Nope, it won't be easy. But with time, it will improve, and I will have a restored sense of normalcy in my hearing world. As normal as it can get.