Twelve days ago, my second cochlear implant was turned on, or "activated" as we CI insiders like to say. No heavenly chorus sang, but I heard the phone ring in the adjacent reception area. Could that have been God working through AT&T or Verizon? Nah, I didn't think so, either.
Because this is my second implant (the right side was done last year), I know my hearing will improve bit by bit for the next six months. Who knows? In ten years, I may hear better than Hubs since Father Time doesn't hold much power over metal and plastic replacement parts.
One day after activation, I had to enter the soundproof booth—my least favorite place in the world because it represents all the hearing tests I've failed over the years. With only the new sound processor turned on, I flubbed bits of the first two sentences the audiologist read to me, but the third came through loud and clear: "They like orange marmalade."
The marmalade message was special for two reasons. One, I didn't get it via my ear. A CI bypasses the damaged ear and directly zings the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve sends the signals it got from the implant right to the brain, which recognizes them as sound. In other words, within 24 hours of my implant's activation, my brain pieced together the signals and gave me back an intact sentence. Cool, huh?
Two, the message resonated emotionally because my mom's an orange-marmalade junkie. We had a jar of the shredded orange stuff on our breakfast table every morning when I was growing up. Nowadays, she opts for the low-sugar versions.
The upshot of last week's activation and subsequent tweaking (we insiders call it "mapping") is gratitude for the advances in medical science that made the implant and mapping possible--and for the people who work to deliver better hearing to those of us who might catch one word in ten without it. Cochlear implants changed my life.
Have advances in medicine or medical science changed life for you?
Do you like orange marmalade?