Part II Fade to silence: A brief history of my hearing loss progression… and why I don’t drink red wine any more

In my previous post I provided a short chronology of my hearing loss progression. Today and for the next couple of posts, I thought I’d spend more time delving into what transpired the past year-and-a-half. There’s no getting around sugar-coating this period in my life. In short, it was a time filled with stress, anger, and despair as the ringing in my ear fluctuated (louder some weeks and not so loud others) and my overall hearing got worse…and worse. It affected my family life – how I interacted with my wife and children – and my work.

Throughout this period my doctor did a great job monitoring the situation and was upfront that I would likely be a good candidate for a cochlear implant (CI) down the road. He said he would do everything he could to keep me in, “the hearing world.” Back about a year ago, when my hearing was still fairly good, he said I was between a rock and a hard place because I only had one good ear left and if I got a cochlear implant I would likely lose all natural or residual hearing in that “good” ear as a result of the operation. I would, in essence, be deaf. Also, there were no guarantees on how well I would adjust to a cochlear implant because every person is different. some people can get back up to hearing almost perfectly while others may only have a 60% word comprehension level. Results vary as does the time it takes to adjust or “re-learn.” You can probably guess that, at the time, I didn’t find the cochlear implant route particularly appealing.

Hearing Tests and Audiograms: Here’s where I digress briefly to talk about hearing tests and audiograms. Hearing tests involved putting me in sound-proof rooms and listening for beeps – high frequency beeps to low frequency beeps (or vice versa). When I heard a beep I would raise my hand or press a button. Not only do hearing tests involve listening to beeps, they might also involve repeating words or sentences. From these words and sentences audiologists could provide a “word comprehension” score. Around a year ago my word comprehension was around 85-90% in my good ear with my hearing aid in. About a month before getting my implant it was down to 8%.

Since age five I’ve been in more audiology testing booths – in more countries – than I care to remember. Why? Because I’m an army brat that lived in a lot of places growing up. Everywhere we lived my mom and dad would take me an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor in hopes of finding something that would help my hearing. Mom and Dad, I love you – thanks for doing everything you can to help me out! In later posts I’ll share some very interesting – and funny – stories about the lengths my parents went to for my hearing; whether it was getting acupuncture treatments in El Salvador, recovering from a surgery in a British army hospital burn ward, or flying to Panama in a cargo plane to visit an ENT specialist. Stay tuned…

Three years ago I didn’t really need a hearing aid. Please understand that my benchmark for “good hearing” was being able to hear out of one ear. Since I’ve adapted over the years to having one “bad” ear it hasn’t even been an issue for me.

Listening is Exhausting: One thing that everyone should understand is that listening is exhausting for people that are hard of hearing – just know this. To emphasize this point, please go ahead and click on the link in the previous sentence and read. I expend considerable amounts of energy just concentrating on what people are saying, reading lips, and filling in the gaps mentally with “likely” words from all those missing words in sentences I couldn’t hear (the mind is amazing at putting puzzle pieces together). And doing all this in real time. For many years I didn’t tell people I was hard of hearing and got away with it. However, not telling people you are hard of hearing is a mistake. If you are meeting people for the first time you should just let them know upfront; it will save you from those awkward moments that will likely arise. Plus, there is nothing to be embarrassed about!

At the end of the day I am typically exhausted; particularly when I travel and attend conferences, which may require listening to presentations and socializing afterward. As my hearing got worse over the past year it became even more difficult to put all the pieces together. If people think I am intense there is a good reason why! I often begin meetings by letting people know that I am hard of hearing and to not be alarmed if I stare at them intently with a furrowed brow; that I am actually quite harmless and that all I will be doing is trying to hear what they are saying. People appreciate candor, particularly if it is couched in humor…

The other night while watching the first Lord of the Rings movie, Bilbo Baggins said:

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

I really like that quote because it’s how I usually feel after a long day of trying to listen to people!

Red Red Wine: So how did I cope over the years, coming home exhausted? Well drinking wine certainly helped – or so I thought. Over the past couple of years, as my hearing declined along with my positive attitude, I found myself drinking more wine than necessary. By “necessary,” I was latching on to the oft-cited studies about the health benefits of red wine… At any rate, I felt a glass or two of red wine every night was just fine. Until it wasn’t.

About a year ago my doctor referred me to another doctor to rule out other possibilities as to why my hearing might be declining. They were eliminating possibilities and one of those possibilities was that it might be auto-immune-related. The doctor prescribed methatrexate and told me in no uncertain terms that I was not allowed to drink ANY alcohol.

“you mean, like, ever?” I gasped.

He replied that as long as I was on the medication I should not have any alcohol because it would cause liver damage. Well, I got my prescription filled, went home, started my medication and stopped drinking wine.

A couple of months ago I talked to the doctor who prescribed the medicine and told him that although the medicine didn’t help in slowing down my hearing decline (therefore, not auto-immune-related) it was the best medicine I’ve ever taken. Now that I’ve stopped drinking wine I’ve realized how much of a crutch it was in terms of dealing with stress, exhaustion and just wanting to escape. I haven’t taken methtrexate for a couple of months but that doesn’t mean I want or need that glass of wine. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against drinking wine. It does have its well documented health benefits, and people enjoy it immensely! It’s just that I wasn’t drinking wine because I enjoyed it; I was drinking wine because I felt I needed it to handle my hearing situation. Truth be known, alcohol only made it more difficult for me to hear and concentrate! Not what I needed after all… 🙂

I really had not intended to write about drinking wine in my blog. Heck, now I can see how people pore out personal stuff that others might cringe at, saying to themselves, “I’ll never write stuff like that for the world to see!” If there is one thing to get across with what I wrote, it’s to be mindful about what you do and why you are doing it. I was very fortunate to be nudged down a path with taking methatrexate, a path I didn’t foresee, and I’m better for it.

What I’ve Learned: As you’ll read in future posts, my hearing loss has created wonderful opportunities throughout my life and led me down paths I would never have taken had I not had any hearing loss. It’s not about what’s “good” or “bad;” it’s about what “is” and going with it. This will make more sense later… Here’s what I want to know: If there are so many “silver linings” in the midst of adversity, when are they no longer “linings?” Which begs the question, “when are we truly facing adversity versus just living life?”

In my next post I’ll get to recent events that led up to the surgery. Yes, Roxanne and I are now going to continue watching the first Lord of the Rings movie for the fourth day in a row…

Fade to silence: A brief history of my hearing loss progression

As I mentioned in my previous post, hearing is a very complex process. Let me back up to the beginning… I was born in 1961… OK, OK, I won’t go that far back. I’ll only provide relevant information as it relates to me going deaf.

Mid 1960s: When I was five years old I completely lost hearing in my left ear due to German Measles (or mumps) – essentially nerve damage. Over the years I adapted and life went on just swimmingly (I’ll share the many ways I’ve adapted in later posts).

1994: I had my first tinnitus episode – loud ringing in my right ear that made it very difficult to hear. Extremely frustrating and scary since this whole tinnitus thing was new to me. I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease (Endolymphatic Hydrops). The doctors ran a lot of tests over a couple of days including what I call the, “Sputnik Monkey tests.” Essentially the “Sputnik Monkey tests” involved me standing up straight, strapping me into a harness, blindfolding me, and then altering the angle of the floor beneath my feet. Amazingly when the floor angle was slightly altered I immediately fell on my face… almost. The harness did what it was supposed to do –  it broke my fall, leaving me dangling above the ground like an inebriated puppet.

So what did this mean? It likely meant that when I had German measles the nerve damage also compromised my vestibular system or inner ear balancing mechanism. Basically I’ve relied my whole life (since age 5) on my eyes for balancing (proprioception). The doctors proceeded to test me several more times just to make sure. Each time with the blindfold on I fell immediately – it was actually very funny. The times they did not blindfold me I was able to stay upright. The doctors then asked me a bunch of questions like, “do you play sports? What type of sports? Do you have trouble walking on the beach at night? etc. Yes, I replied that I’ve played sports all my life, tennis, racquetball, soccer, long distance running.

The doctors then explained that I’ve adapted very well under the circumstances and to keep doing whatever it was that I’ve been doing. So basically I can spin around and around and not get dizzy – perhaps a useful skill for a NASA astronaut? There is still time… The major take-away from all this is that I do not exhibit all the symptoms of Meniere’s disease, namely vertigo. Having tinnitus or ringing in the ears is bad enough; I couldn’t imagine also having vertigo – I understand that it can be quite debilitating.

Fortunately, this episode in 1994 was short lived; the ringing stopped and hearing in my right ear bumped back up to near normal. The major drawback was taking prednisone – a drug whose side effects were so bad that I seriously considered not taking it again even it meant going deaf;  which was easy for me to say back when I had most of my hearing intact in my good ear.

2007: My second tinnitus episode flares up and lasted longer than the first one. I did my round of prednisone, reduced salt intake (low sodium diet), stopped drinking coffee (minimized caffeine intake which included chocolate and other life-enriching things). My hearing declined slightly after this episode.

2010:  Roxanne knew that my hearing was gradually getting worse so she convinced me to get a hearing aid – and it really helped! Please, my dear reader, if you know someone who has a hearing problem please talk to them about getting a hearing aid – it will make a huge difference. If YOU have a hearing problem just get a damned hearing aid and don’t worry about how you might look! Heads-up, there are over 48 million people in the US with hearing loss and this number is only growing. By the way, October is National Protect Your Hearing Month! More on hearing aids in later posts…

2012: Third major tinnitus episode. The loud ringing in my ear remained rather constant despite prednisone treatments. My good ear was beginning to burn out. Regarding ringing in the ear, it was loud, roaring, pulsing, ticking, high pitched, low pitched; a constant distraction that did not go away. Quite maddening.

Summer 2013: My word comprehension in my good ear was down to 8%. I basically relied on reading lips now. I became a cochlear implant candidate.

In tomorrow’s post I will wrap up my chronology by filling you in on what transpired the past year – becoming a cochlear implant candidate, taking various medications, navigating the world of insurance, and learning more about the world I will be entering…

I need to sign off and start watching that Lord of the Rings movie. I believe we left off half-way through the first movie; at this rate we’ll finish the trilogy by Christmas! Roxanne has been patiently waiting…

Etiquette for Interacting with People Who Have Disabilities

An excellent post about how to interact with those who are deaf / hard of hearing

Can You Hear Me Now?


I got into work today, and my office mate was talking with one of my co-workers about a course he is working on about etiquette to follow when interacting with people who have disabilities.  I mentioned my blog, and he told me he would get me in touch with the woman who is creating the course.  I will have to post about that later.

It got me thinking though.  I think a lot of us, myself included, are nervous and unsure of how to interact with people who have disabilities. Do we look at the interpreter or the person who is using the interpreter? Can we touch the wheelchair? How should be act around a guide dog?  Things like that.  If you slip up, knowingly or not, it can be awkward, offensive, and embarrassing.

This website is a great resource for what you should and should not do when interacting…

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A funny thing happened in New York City…

Thanks to all of you who replied with comments and sent emails regarding the blog! I’ve already received emails letting me know that the website link is being shared with others that are hard of hearing or are considering a cochlear implant. There is so much more to share about people being Hard of Hearing (HoH), deaf, Deaf or in denial, so your feedback helps provide that extra encouragement needed to continue my blog journey, share my experiences, and in the process provide additional information that may help others.

Back in 1994 when I first started losing my hearing in my “good” ear I visited the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis to learn more about options (hearing aids, sign language, lip reading, etc.). At the time I thought the deaf community was one big happy family that worked together to help people with hearing disabilities. Boy, was I WRONG! The deaf community is divisive to the point of animosity toward “other” camps; to those that don’t see things a certain way (sign language vs. oral communication, defecting to the “hearing world” vs. staying in the deaf culture, intermarrying, etc.). If you are interested in reading more: Deaf Culture and Ethnicity, Ethics and the Deaf World for starters, to give you an idea how complex this community is. Perhaps I’ll delve into this some more in future posts. Like so many things in life, when looking from the outside-in, we see cohesion and similarity on the surface when in fact, the things that look the same are very very different when looking from the inside-out.

So, how am I feeling? I am still sore but bruising around the right side of my face is starting to fade. I still get fatigued easily and take those opportunities to nap. Good news: I finally got a full night’s sleep last night (Sunday)!

How am I adapting? since my hearing loss in my right ear has been gradual, I am not freaking out the way I probably would if I lost all my hearing at once. I’ve had time to adapt. How have I adapted? Sometimes the hard way… For example, earlier this year I was staying at a hotel in New York City where I was presenting at a conference. I set my alarm for 6:00 AM and also had the front desk call my room at that time. Well, my hearing had gotten so bad that I did not hear the alarm go off nor did I hear the phone ring. I just happened to get up around the right time and decided to go jump in the shower. After getting out of the shower I was shaving with a towel wrapped around my waist, when all of the sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the hotel room door open! In stepped a heavy-set security lady. I yelped! She yelped! My towel stayed on.

After recovering somewhat from my rather high-pitched screech, I causally asked if I could help her. She replied that she was sent up to my room to see if everything was alright because, “after multiple phone calls to your room with no answer, it is our policy to check and make sure everything was OK” (code phrase for making sure there was no dead body in the room…). I explained that I was hard of hearing and didn’t hear the alarm or phone go off. A bright idea struck me just then and I said, “hey, would it be OK if you came up to my room tomorrow morning and woke me up?” I had forgotten that I was standing there with nothing but a towel around my waist and razor in my hand. Apparently she hadn’t. She smiled, looked me up and down and said something to the effect that, “it just wouldn’t be appropriate” and that they have devices for persons with disabilities they could install so she wouldn’t be needed.

Well that little incident prompted me to explore options such as vibrating watches, strobe lights, etc. I scoured the web and came across a great device – a Pebble watch. This watch not only has a vibrating alarm, it has blue tooth capability with my phone – to vibrate any time there is an incoming text, calendar appointment, phone call (which I can’t hear) or email. I turned off the vibrating option for incoming email since I would be shaking all day long…


Pebble Watch

This device is not gimmicky nor is it a novel geek gadget; it is essential and I wear it all the time now. Just a heads-up to all of you that the “wearable technology” market will be going gang busters in the near future. stay tuned for many other “Smart Watches” coming to stores near you and most likely just before Christmas… Google Glass soon to follow…

I am going to attempt to do something different this evening. I am going to try to “re-blog” interesting posts that I think might be interesting and/or helpful. I am also going to “publicize” on Facebook and Google+ so bear with me If you get multiple emails this evening. I’ll figure out how to not inundate your inbox for those of you that are “following” me.

My third day after surgery…

Sunday was no walk in the park… probably because I stayed home all day… Most of the time was spent in the Den with an occasional outing up to the bedroom for short naps. So what was I feeling today? Tired, sore, and now that I wasn’t partaking in the scheduled pain-killer-tablet-taking ritual, I was in pain. Not “intolerable” pain but one where the side of my head felt really thick, Quasimodoish (except the hump was on my head), with ear throbbing and an “uncomfortableness” migrating away from the incision area that gradually increased over time. It was at those times that I took pain killers. the good news is that I’ve tapered off from taking 6 pills over a 24-hour period to taking only 3 pills. Other than that, I felt groggy, a little light headed but otherwise content!

Roxanne has been really great about making sure I’ve been doing OK; telling me to relax, asking if I needed anything, etc. It got to a point where I would intentionally get up and offer to help just to see her frown with lips pursed and hands on her hips, then pointing me in the direction of the den. I could “see” her firm, commanding, yet loving, words coming from her mouth, only there was no sound… all quite funny (at least to me). Around mid afternoon Roxanne left for her first riding lessons in quite some time. She’s been talking about riding horses for awhile and decided she wasn’t going to wait any longer (she rode dressage back in college). That’s what I love about her; she doesn’t talk about what she wants to do, she makes things happen.


Getting Ready to ride and telling Luna to take care of me…

Regarding my family and other animals, I mentioned in a previous blog that we got a 9-week old puppy two days before my surgery. Why? Good question. This sudden acquisition is not without precedent. Four years ago Roxanne and I got married and decided to do a lot of things at once. She and Ethan moved from Charleston, SC, we bought a house, moved in, blended families (four kids in four schools), and then one day, during a brief lull in painting, we were sitting down in the den and Roxanne said, “let’s get a puppy!” and this was the first month…

Fast forward to last week: Roxanne searches Craig’s List, sees a posting with a puppy picture and I knew then-and-there it was all a forgone conclusion. We drove up to Macon, Missouri (known to consistently top the list of the nation’s worst puppy mills) thinking we would go to the owner’s house. But no, they called our cell phone while en route and asked us to meet them at a “Casey’s” gas station for the hand-off. I thought it was all very shaky and I told Roxanne as much. Not that it did any good…

The couple arrived 45 minutes late and handed us the puppy – a flea-ridden puppy – and drove off. I’m not going to go into describing the whole bizarre exchange with language that may unfairly stereotype people or setting; suffice to say, we drove back to Columbia in silence. Once home, Roxanne took the puppy immediately upstairs where she and the kids proceeded to spend the next couple of hours bathing and defleaing as best they could (thank God). The following morning we took the puppy to the vet and all went well – all fleas dead, no worms, and vaccinations administered. The puppy’s name is “Luna” because of her now visible white coat and Blue Heeler merle pattern that could be likened to moon craters. she appears to be a smart dog too!

This morning Roxanne and I took our first outing since my surgery by walking the dogs in a nearby park. Another beautiful day! We didn’t spend too much time outside because, believe-it-or-not, that little walk really wore me out!


Me, Sadie and Luna posing at park

I’ve written about the surgery, how I felt so far with the recovery, but I haven’t really written about not being able to hear anything any more. Perhaps its because I haven’t been in a situation where I’ve really needed to hear a lot. Perhaps its because our family communicates via telepathy. One thing to note about going deaf is that it isn’t all quiet and peaceful inside my head! Aside from the ringing caused by tinnitus, I hear “phantom” sounds that often accompany actions such as turning on the water faucet. I “hear” water coming out of the faucet – even after the faucet is turned off! Likewise I “hear” wind when I see the trees sway and leaves rustle and “hear” a lawnmower when seeing someone mowing the lawn down the street. I’ve read that this isn’t uncommon!

“Hearing” is a very complex activity. So much of what we hear we get from non verbal cues: lip reading (speech reading), body language, context, etc. What we actually “hear” is only a portion of what our minds piece together in any given situation. I find I can read lips quite well and it has served me well in many a situation. If someone you know is hard of hearing or deaf consider doing the following (excerpt from Wikipedia):

Tips for Lip Reading

Lip reading, also known as speechreading, is difficult because only 30% of the speech can be seen, the other 70% is inferred by context clues. Thus, there are little things that can be done to make the process a little easier. Learning to lip read is like learning to read a book. A novice lip reader will concentrate on each sound, and may miss the meaning. Lip reading will be more effective if you receive the message as a whole rather than each individual sound.

  • Make sure you can see the speaker’s face clearly.
  • Hold the conversation in a quiet environment, with good lighting, and not a lot of visual distractions.
  • Make sure that light is behind you, not the person you are trying to lip read.
  • Gently remind people that you need to see their face when they forget and look down or away from you.
  • Ask for the topic of the conversation, if you are not sure.
  • If the speaker over–exaggerates, or talks too loudly, gently request that they speak normally.
  • Remind speakers to move their hands or other objects away from their face.
  • If you still don’t understand after a repeat, ask the speaker to rephrase.

Lipreading is a skill that is easier to develop in those who have experience with spoken language. In one study by Tonya R.Bergeson adults who progressively became deaf, are able to read lips much better than those who suddenly became deaf.

Last night we continued to watch Lord of the Rings and only got as far as Rivendell where the “Fellowship of the Ring” was formed. Sheeesh, fitful nights coupled with wearing days make for poor movie watching!

My second day after surgery…

The surgery was two days ago, Friday. To date I’ve relayed how things went on the day of my surgery, including coming home. Well, it’s Sunday morning so I thought I’d fill you in on how I’ve been feeling since surgery. Again, the operative word is feeling.

The first night I didn’t sleep that well which isn’t surprising. I must say though, I haven’t been in very much pain. From time-to-time I feel a dull throbbing sensation on the side of my head (you know, the area of the scalp directly behind my right ear that was shaved and cleaned; where an incision was made in the skin behind my ear and where the Doctor drilled into the mastoid bone, creating a pocket for the receiver/stimulator, and then into the inner ear where the electrode array was inserted into the cochlea – yeah, that area).

Perhaps the reason I’m not feeling a lot of pain is because I’ve stayed on top of it with pain medication and have taken it as prescribed. Since people tend to get addicted to pain medication (not me of course) Roxanne suggested that I begin tapering off and only take it when it becomes “intolerable.” Which brings us to an interesting subject called “pain threshold.” You see, Roxanne and I have very different opinions about my pain threshold. I say I have a rather high pain threshold while she says I have a very low pain threshold. She reminds me from-time-to-time about an incident several years ago where I thought I broke several bones in my ankle only to find out when going to the emergency room that, I in fact, “almost had a Level-1 sprain.” Roxanne will never let that one down. I ignore her mental jabs.


Hanging out with Roxanne

I spent most of yesterday (Saturday) at the house hanging out in the Den reading (as best a groggy mind could), visiting with the kids, and watching the puppy chew whatever came in close proximity to her mouth. I went outside a couple of times to take in the fresh air; a beautiful fall day here in Mid Missouri. Toward the end of the day I went with Roxanne in the Mini Van to pick up our son at the mall where he was at a children’s theatre practice. Yes, I still had that big Princess Leia bun on the side of my head so I stayed in the van. I didn’t want to scare the kids at the mall even if it is close to Halloween.


Marie and Abby keeping me company


Emily making sure Papa is doing OK


Roxanne showing Ethan her new riding hat

I haven’t experienced any dizziness, nausea or other major side effects that might occur after surgery. I’ve read that some people lose their sense of taste, experience ear numbness and other things I don’t remember right now. I am experiencing ringing in the ear (tinnitus) which I understand might happen after surgery and should go away over time. I am now used to this ringing / roaring sound because over the past couple of years it has been rather pervasive and, at times, quite loud and very distracting. I’ll spare you the history of my hearing loss progression and ringing / tinnitus and save it for another post.

Last night Roxanne removed the head dressing. I figured all of my hair under the bun would have been shaved away for the surgery but lo-and-behold only a small area was actually shaved. Note: all blogs about cochlear implant surgeries have before-and-after pictures; therefore, I felt compelled to follow suit and provide an obligatory photo of my head with mere flesh wound. If you see closely you can discern the gray hair which miraculously appeared after surgery (I was blonde-headed before surgery). 🙂


Nice job Doc!

We ended the day by watching the beginning of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. As majestic a movie without sound as with… I fell asleep before Frodo even left the shire…

I’m here typing away early Sunday afternoon. Another fitful night’s sleep behind me and another beautiful day ahead here in Columbia. I think we’ll take the puppy to the park so it can chew up some trees. I haven’t taken any pain medication since 5 AM and am feeling just… wait… maybe I need to take one pill now before going to the park. Although my pain threshold is very high, who knows how long we’ll be gone…?

Surgery is a Success!

Surgery Day: Roxanne and I get to the hospital yesterday (Friday) morning and staff efficiently process me through admissions, to changing into a trendy hospital gown, to asking questions (aided by Roxanne since I can somehow partially read her mind, along with lip reading), to signing forms that clearly state that I understand the unlikely dangers that I may encounter as a result of this surgery.


Saying farewell to my hearing aid

One key thing to post for posterity is the information relayed by the nurse when Roxanne and I were waiting in the pre-op room.  And I quote, “you are not allowed to do any chores, housework or dishes for four months… and that is four 31-day months.” Well, being the stickler I am for following orders (when they suit me) I looked at Roxanne and said, “did you hear that?” She gave me one of those “ha ha ha” smiles knowing that the nurse must have been kidding. Then comes in the anesthesiologist and asks questions, etc. and finishes off by saying quite clearly and closely that, “you are not allowed to do any chores, housework or dishes for four months… and that is four 31-day months.” I smiled at Roxanne and she smiled back in a less than convincing way.

Finally the Doctor comes in and explains what will happen and also asks me important questions such as, “now which ear do you want the cochlear implant in?” I tell him and he proceeds to mark my right ear. I know it is protocol but I still thought it was amusing. the Doctor finishes off by asking if I had any other questions and I told him no. He looked at me and said, “are you ready?” I replied, “yes. Are you ready?” 🙂 As he walks out the door he turns around and says, “you are not allowed to do any chores, housework or dishes for four months… and that is four 31-day months.” I laugh and say to Roxanne, “see, final confirmation!” We understood that the nurse, anesthesiologist and Doctor were just trying to break the tension before surgery but what they don’t know that Roxanne and I do know is that I will be milking that quote for the next four weeks…

Off to operating room. No pictures thank you. If you want to see gory cochlear implant operations just Google them – there are more than enough images and YouTube videos out there showing the operation in gritty detail.

Well, the surgery… heck, I don’t know how the surgery went! They gave me general anesthetic and before I knew it I was waking up in the post-op room and feeling quite good! The nurse wheeled me back to the recovery room where Roxanne was waiting for me.  She told me later that I was acting silly and kept talking… I’ll leave that for her to tell… At any rate the nurse asked if I needed anything. I told her I was VERY thirsty! Oh, by the way I was reading her lips since I am now completely deaf (I’ve been deaf in my left ear since age five and now with the operation I can no longer hear anything in my right ear – but that’s OK because I couldn’t hear hardly anything anyway). Back to present – the nurse brought me a cup of apple juice with crushed ice and I must say that it was without a doubt the best tasting apple juice – EVER.


Best Apple Juice EVER

Yep, as you can see from the photo I have a “Princess Leah” bun on my right ear. What became of the other bun I don’t know but I suspect Jabba the Hutt had something to do with it… (I am still on pain killers as I write this blog and feel just fine…).

I don’t really remember the rest of the day too well. The operation was three hours long and we left the hospital around 4:00 PM in keeping with it being an outpatient procedure; which was OK by me since I was feeling just fine. Roxanne drove me home. My youngest daughter Emily was out in the front yard playing with our new puppy (yes, we got a new nine-week old puppy two days before my surgery in keeping with our insane household mentality that merits a post for another day…). I went right upstairs to the bedroom, hopped into bed and smiled at Roxanne – she is the best. After school, my middle daughter Abby came in followed by my son Ethan. My oldest daughter, Marie, is at college now but will be coming over to see me this weekend!

My first posts have been rather long. fear not, all my posts won’t be this wordy (I hope…). Over the next three weeks my head will be healing and then on November 12th the audiologist will “turn on” the cochlear implant. In the meantime I will regale you with stories that led up to getting this operation. One final picture below of me here in my Den this morning. Note: I am pointing to my glasses. Specifically, I am pointing to the part of my glasses where I removed the bow (or arm) because the “Princess Leah” bun is too big!

Sans bow

Sans bow

Finally, thanks for all the well-wishes and positive vibe messages sent my way. I am really blessed to have such wonderful family, relatives and friends!

So the waiting game. . .

Roxanne here.  .  .thought I might add a quick post to “keep the conversation going” while Chris is in surgery.

I’m just passing time in the waiting room here at Women’s and Children’s (and occasionally men apparently) Hospital.  I have to say, the hospital so far has been phenomenal in finding a way to keep us informed about our loved ones.  They give you this card with a patient number (in red) and then on big screens they post what’s happening – Preparing for Surgery, In OR, Out of OR etc. and little messages like – Everything is going well or in Chris’ case, right now it says “in OR and Making progress” . . ..hmmmm I would feel better if it was the “Everything is going well”  message.

Waiting room companions are hit or miss like airplane seat mates.   Some just like to sit by themselves (like me) and others like to talk.  Then there those who go overboard and talk nonstop.  What’s different in a waiting room is the person can walk around and find new people to talk to.  We have one in this waiting room.  She’s roaming from area to area here and talking to whomever will listen.  I’ve heard her story 3 times now.  (Once directed at me and twice with other people.)  Ohhhh new twist to story.  .  .she just lifted her shirt and showed her scars from her surgery last week!  Ok, Ok, I shouldn’t be so snarky. . .maybe she needs to talk to keep her mind off what’s happening with her husband who is currently the patient.  Come to think of it, I’M DOING THE SAME THING!  Just virtually and all at once!

So enough for now.  Thanks all who are following Chris’ blog.  The next few weeks while he has no hearing will be tough but we’ll get through!  We’ll keep you posted!


So how am I feeling…?

So here’s my second post before going into surgery. My wonderful wife Roxanne commented that I didn’t share any of my feelings about the upcoming cochlear implant surgery in my initial post. She went on to say that people want to know how I feel about this-and-that. Well, she was right, I didn’t write about how I was feeling and I said to her in so many words that, “I was just setting the stage for what the blog will be about,” knowing all along that she knows me better than I know myself sometimes. And that is pretty damn scary. The truth is, it is harder to write about feelings than facts; not sure why, guess it has to do with it being a personal thing.

Here’s how I’m feeling about the surgery: a little nervous about all the extremely unlikely risks and disadvantages that websites feel compelled to publish. Here’s a couple of overview websites about cochlear implants if you’re interested in what cochlear implants are all about:

Cochlear implant – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cochlear Implants – National Institute on Deafness and Other 

Cochlear Implants – Food and Drug Administration

I’m also a little nervous about this surgery being an outpatient procedure. I figured if I’m going to have a receiver and stimulator secured in the bone beneath my skin and have a hole drilled into my head whereby 22 electrodes are inserted into my cochlea which then sends impulses to the brain… I figured I would be in the hospital one night!




What else am I feeling? I am excited about the prospect of hearing again (huge understatement!) but daunted by the potentially long “re-learning” process.  Every individual is different in terms of how long it will take for them to “hear” again. Here’s an excellent analogy by Professor Jennie Brand-Miller as she described the every day learning required to hear with an implant:

Think of your auditory pathways as like a gravel road at the moment … cars can’t go fast on them, electrical signals can’t whizz up them.

But everyday, the workmen are laying down the foundations of a super highway, smooth and capable of cars going 250 kms an hour.  It takes time to  do this … weeks, months and even a couple of years … but you’ll notice the difference … week by week, there’ll be a detectable difference.  You’ll enjoy the journey, no matter what the speed.

This excellent analogy, taken from a blog written by Kate in Australia back in 2010, has really helped set my expectations. Although I’ve read a number of blogs in recent weeks, Kate’s blog inspired me to start my own blog.

This whole “blogosphere” community is really interesting… Here I’ve been working in the technology world for most of my adult life and have somehow avoided being personally or directly involved in the very things that drive technologies in the first place – people, connecting, sharing stories, learning and building community. Hey wait a minute, I’m not taking time off of work after all… hhhhmmmmm. 🙂