Thursday, December 13, 2012

The New Normal

I think I'm finally settling into the New Normal here.  The two-month mark for my cochlear implant surgery passed quietly on Monday.  When I pointed this out to William, he said, "That seems like it was so long ago." And to me, sometimes it feels like hardly any time has passed, and sometimes I feel like this is how it's always been.  We're back on our regular routine, and I feel like I'm fully functional again.

My physical scars are nearly gone. The only lingering effect from surgery is that my right ear is still numb, meaning that I can't wiggle both ears. There goes my good party trick--you'll have to settle for seeing my left ear wiggle.  The vertigo problems are gone, mercifully.  My sense of taste is almost completely back, except for the taste of some sour foods.

In terms of hearing, I feel like I am mostly back to where I was with hearing aids.  Voices are intelligible (no more bells and tones!) but I'm still not very good at participating in group conversations. (I tested this theory out at a baby shower last week, and I was pretty much lost trying to keep up with everyone. Why do women all have to talk at the same time?)  Voices sound different, though, deeper and richer. It's like everyone's voice was turned down about five notes.

One thing that makes me a little sad is that music is just a mess right now. I can't hear the difference between, say, Middle C and an octave higher or lower than that.  Everything sounds very monotone. In church a few weeks ago, the kids were learning a new Christmas song. The music leader asked them, "Can you hear that part where it gets very high at the end of the line?" I couldn't tell, and after she pointed that out, I tried to listen and still couldn't hear the difference in the notes. So, if you have the opportunity of sitting next to me during church and find yourself wondering what in the world is wrong with my singing, just know that I'm doing the best I can.

At one of my appointments with Amy, she asked me, "What's my goal?" and I didn't have a good answer. Whoops. My goal is to hear. It's a good goal, right? Except that it's not quantifiable and measurable. So, let me try again. I want to be able to have a normal conversation in the car. I want to go to a baby shower and keep up with the conversation. I want to hear the phone ring and not get a knot in my stomach wondering if I should try to answer it. If I could put a deadline on my goals, I would. (But even Amy who has years of experience with cases like mine can't put a timeline on my progress.)  Wouldn't it be nice to know when I'm getting close to the finish line?  Of course!  However, I suspect that my finish line is still in the far distance, so I will keep walking on my road back to hearing.

Today, I read this talk by President Thomas S. Monson, Finding Joy in the Journey. It touched me for several reasons. At the end of the talk, he shares a story about a woman who was born nearly blind. Here's the end of the story and the part that I identify with:
Miraculously, in 1943—when she was over 50 years old—a revolutionary procedure was developed which finally restored to her much of the sight she had been without for so long. A new and exciting world opened up before her. She took great pleasure in the small things most of us take for granted, such as watching a bird in flight, noticing the light reflected in the bubbles of her dishwater, or observing the phases of the moon each night. She closed one of her books with these words: “Dear … Father in heaven, I thank Thee. I thank Thee.”
Like the woman in this story, I'm hearing things that perhaps many take for granted.  For the first time, I'm hearing the beep of the washing machine and dryer when a cycle is finished, the distant roar of airplanes flying over our house, the Salvation Army bell ringer, the little bells on Christmas ornaments, the highest register notes on a piano, and birds chirping outside.  As I'm settling into my New Normal but still trying to figure out what to do with this new ear of mine, I can find joy in the fact that for the first Christmas of my life, I can hear the bells ringing.  The magical sound of things, indeed.