Had my next set of appointments today at Selly Oak. Came away feeling really good about it all. I was really nervous about going today because I had both girls with me, and my husband couldn’t make it to help out but in the end it just reinforced what a fabulous team they are there. They were so good and so patient, allowing for the small delays (yes you can have another rice cake, no you can’t climb the chair etc etc)! The Small One unfortunately, having just cut her first tooth was very grumpy and the Big One was being a typical 3 year old but I never felt that having them there was an inconvenience to them. This helps me so much as it’s often hard enough being a Mum, out and about with two children on your own, let alone to appointments that are of incredible importance to you. You put your children first so often, so when it’s time to sort something out for you, it can be hard to find professionals who will cater for the fact that you have baggage. I’ve been fortunate to have lots of help in looking after them whilst I’ve been to all my appointments so far, but at least I know now that if childcare is not available, I do have a kind and friendly team on my side.

So anyway, my first appointment was with the Hearing Specialist again, re-evaluating the hearing aid that she gave me the last time I was there. Over the last 3 weeks I’ve been wearing this super new hearing aid which I understand is Phonak’s newest and most powerful hearing aid Naida I have slowly got used to it and am much happier with it now than I was when I first started wearing it. The volume is incredible, I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing more things than I ever have before. I even heard the baby crying upstairs last night as the telly was off and there was no other sound – something of a novelty to me, having always needed to rely on the flashing light before. I’ll carry on using the light of course, if there’s any noise downstairs I still can’t hear noise from upstairs, but wow –on that occasion, to have heard her all by myself, and to be able to run to her without the need of someone else to tell me she was crying, was just fantastic.

However there have been issues with clarity, especially in noisy environments. Although I’ve got used to the slightly different way that everything sounds (that you get whenever you try a new aid) what I couldn’t get used to, was the difficulty in singling out voice in particular, in noisy environments such as the supermarket, or in a restaurant. Everything was just distortion, too much sound wrapping round each other and my head couldn’t work head or tail what was going on.

They had a look and installed a program which I can set the aid to, in noisy environments and this is something I cannot wait to try out. Depending on how I get on, it may or may not work and if it does, sorted. If it doesn’t do the job, then I’ll simply go back next time and let them know and they’ll try something else. How exciting though, that technology has improved so much that they can just do something at the flick of a switch!

The second problem I’ve found is that as it’s such a powerful hearing aid, I’ve had a lot of problems with feedback, especially when I wear my hair down, which is something I like to do on occasion! After explaining, and demonstrating to them what happened when I closed my hand in nearer to the aid on my ear, they programmed in an “add on” which is basically an anti-feedback program which has helped no end! Wow.

I then had to do another speech recognition test, where I had to listen to the computer, with no lip pattern and tell them what I heard the voice say. Last time with my old hearing aid I got 42%. She didn’t say what I got this time, but she did say it was a lot worse than last time, with my new hearing aid. I wasn’t surprised, I got hardly anything that the computer said. I found it quite hard actually, it’s a bit embarrassing and you feel almost sheepish and like you’re letting them down, sitting there just shaking your head at each sentence when they’re looking at you eager for you to catch something. I know that’s silly, but it’s similar when you’re having a hearing test and you realise that although you can’t hear anything, you know they’re putting some sounds through and you do an uncomfortable shift in your chair as you wonder if they think you’re putting it on.

This may or may not make sense to you, but it is a good and bad thing that I got a worse result with the speech recognition result compared to last time. It’s a shame that the hearing aid hasn’t provided the clarity that I require, but it does prove that the hearing aids just aren’t going to tick every box for me with what I need. I need the volume that this hearing aid does indeed provide (yet still I’m wanting more!), but the more volume that the hearing aid gives, the more it reduces the clarity of what you can hear. I imagine that if your ears could take incredibly loud voice, the louder it got for you, the harder it would be to make out what was being said? You’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s how I am understanding it at the moment. The old hearing aid was great for clarity of sounds, but what good is clarity if I can hardly hear anything to make out as the aid is too quiet?

So, this does mean that a CI is looking more and more appealing, along with clarity will also be volume and vice versa. I am feeling all the more sure each time I visit the HARC at Selly Oak that a CI is what I want.

My second appointment, straight after the hearing aid re-jigging was with the hearing therapist again. She explained that she’s found a lady who lives in the next town to me, who had a CI in 2007, and who had a 3 year old daughter and she had similar worries to me. I’ve got her e mail address now, I’ll e mail her this week and arrange to meet up. How nerve-wracking! But I know it’ll be really good for me at the same time.

We talked some more about how I feel about the CI and what my expectations are. I had to complete a couple of questionnaires and the hearing therapist went through my results. My expectations of a CI, it appears, are quite realistic mostly, but in some areas it seems that I am underestimating what a CI can do. A CI will help immensely with understanding voice without lipreading, to me this just seems impossible, can this really be the case? Will I, for the first time in my entire life, be able to understand the radio? I may not (in which case I won’t miss it) but it’s certainly not impossible and some people have found that they can learn how to listen to the radio after a CI when they couldn’t before. Oh my goodness me, wow. I have visions in my head of now being able to listen to the traffic news and therefore know on the days when to avoid the motorway home from work and take the back routes instead, how brilliant would that be not to be stuck in a humongous jam on the M6 just because I didn’t have access to that information?

Using the telephone, watching the television without subtitles (something I would never dream of doing at the moment) and following in social situations, could all be easier. It’s not going to wave a wand and make me hearing, but even just a small improvement will be such a big deal for me. Once I’m an established CI user, I won’t have to put quite so much energy into understanding people, lipreading and following what is going on, so I’ll have more energy and brain space for other things. I may last longer and not be the first to go home. I will find events where I have the children easier, as if my head has to turn to check on the baby whilst a fellow mum is talking to me, I will be less likely to miss what was said in those split seconds. This is all a dream to me. I have always “just got by” but I’ve missed out on so much. Too many jokes have gone over the top of my head where I’ve just smiled and laughed pretending i got it so not to come across as gormless or stick out like a sore thumb, or if someone repeated said joke to me it’s never quite as funny the second time and you’re left giggling at the joke long after everyone else has finished being amused and the natural flow of the banter has been interrupted. I’d much rather have caught it first time round. There have been so many times when, with a group of hearing friends having a rapid conversation or debate that it’s taken me so long to work out who is talking, that someone else is talking instead and I simply cannot keep up. Often I find myself taking a break from it all, and having a look at my phone, or going to powder my nose even when I don’t need to. Taking that break means a fresh start when I return to the group – it’s more of a natural interruption to ask following a trip to the ladies; “What did I miss?”.

The hearing therapist was really positive about my chances getting of a CI being agreed to and I’m so excited about the prospect of life with one. I know that it will take several months after switch on, to get used to the new sounds, to learn everything again and it’ll all sound horrific to start with. But I just know it’ll be so so worth it in the end. Please keep your fingers crossed for me that the scans go well on the 2nd October (I have a CT and a MRI booked) and after the consultant receives the reports from all the people I’ve seen so far, they give me the go ahead. My toes are crossed too. It’s hard to walk these days.

Going on from today’s post, I’ve got another in mind that I’ll write tomorrow about BEING the deaf one. So please watch this space x