How’s my life going with a cochlear implant (CI)?
Well, for starters—although I can’t speak for other recipients—it’s a lot LOUDER.
But at only 32 days since activation, most familiar sounds bear little resemblance to how I hear them acoustically through my hearing aid. The voices of strangers sound curiously alike, as if they’re crying while they speak. What I hear do hear clearly, however, are those high frequency sibilant sounds. Think of the hiss of snakes and steam and the grocery checkout woman who asks “do you want bagss-SSS?” I groan f I’ve forgotten my sound-less cloth bags in the car; paper bags are noisy enough, but the loud crackling of plastic bags has become my Most Annoying Sound ever. In Wired for Sound: A Journey into Hearing, my friend Bev Biderman writes about her surprise at their harshness—she had expected that they “rustled softly in peace.”
On the plus side, I can hear butter melting in a pan—yes, yellow makes a sound! I hear water running in a sink which lessens the chance of my flooding the kitchen again. And after years of theatre-going, I now understand the fuss about people opening candy wrappers during the show. I hereby apologize to anyone, ever, who has suffered because of my oblivious, thunderous opening of candy and chips at the movies.
I’m also hearing lots barmping. ‘Barmp’ is what Newfoundlanders do when they lean on their car horn. Say ‘barmp’ out loud, drawing out the “arrr”. What you just said—ba-aar-rmp—perfectly describes what I’m hearing through my CI.
Me (in my dad’s house): Whazzat?
Louise, my sister: The fridge coming on.
Me: Oh, good heavens, WHAZZAT?
Louise: Dad listening to the obituaries on the radio. (Loudly. With organ music. But he’s 90 and losing friends fast; who’s going to ask him to turn it down?)
Me (in the car with the Hearing Husband): Whazzat?
HH: What’s what?
Me: That ba-aar-rmp!
HH: The car motor. And air brakes on big trucks. Also, drivers barmping their horns.
Me: That’s a lot of barmping.
There are exciting moments when I identify a sound all by myself. On a walk with the Hearing Husband, I heard a chittering sound, like birdies over there in the bushes. He said no, look up, it’s Canada geese flying over. I said I could hear them barmping, this was something different. He listened—and there were little birdies in the bush. Score one for Gaelie!
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