Catherine Cooper: New sounds for the first time

Posted on October 2, 2012

It was a challenge to take the boys back to school at the start of term. The noise in the playground. Voices everywhere. Children chasing around. Scooters and bikes rattling. I guessed it would be like this, so wore my old hearing aid on my other ear for support.

It was lovely to see old friends again, some of whom I hadn’t seen for the weeks over the summer holiday. I should have prepared some words on how I was getting on and what I was experiencing, but it was and continues to be really difficult to explain.

During noisy times, the best description of the sound I’m hearing is like a jangling set of keys on a key ring. But it’s not always like this. The biggest change I’ve noticed is being able to pick up quieter sounds. Seriously quieter sounds.  And higher pitched sounds too.

Here are some examples of what I’ve heard recently for the first time in my life:

  • Birds twittering in the garden
  • Leaves rustling in the trees, and my t-shirt flapping during a run
  • Clock ticking (if I hold it close)
  • Exercise bike in the gym “pinging” at the end of a programme
  • Match flaring after being struck on a match box
  • Candle flickering when blown
  • Smoke alarm (no connection to the two above)
  • Rice Krispies snapping, crackling and popping
  • Rubbing sun cream on skin
  • Spraying perfumes
  • Buttering toast
  • Rubbing hands together
  • Dragging feet on the carpet
  • Breathing (after a run…)
  • Remote control buttons when pressed
  • Difference between S and SH

Quite amazing really, and nothing short of a miracle.  But there’s still a long way to go.  After all, I can pick up these new sounds and sometimes distinguish them from other sounds, but I’m not yet always able to remember what they are.  As they warned me, it’s going to take a lot of practise. It’s a whole new language. I can only imagine this is what it’s like for babies, learning the sounds of life for the first time.

Listening to voices remains incredibly hard. Even now, I still cannot tell the difference between Dan and the boys.  It’s a real effort to make sure I find the time to sit down in the evenings and practise listening.  Dan will say aloud the months of the year, or days of the week, or family names or numbers.  He reads out news articles as well, or paragraphs from books. I close my eyes and try to work out what he’s saying.  The more I do it, the easier it gets.  But it’s slow progress. Every word needs to be re-learnt. No doubt I will rely upon lip reading for a while yet.

One small success though – if Dan stands at the other end of the house, in the conservatory, and talks normally, I can hear if he’s asking whether I want a cup of tea or mug of coffee. That’s quite neat.
My next appointment at Addenbrokes in Cambridge is today. This will be my third programming session, where they will again check and adjust the range and volume of frequencies handled by my implant.  It will be another long day, but certainly interesting to see if it makes any further improvements.  Fingers crossed.

This article was first published on Catherine’s own blog, which you can find here:

Catherine lives in Norfolk and has a young family. Born profoundly deaf in 1978, she leads a busy life using a combination of hearing aids, lip reading and sign language. Following a deterioration in hearing in recent years, she is now in the early stages of getting a Cochlear Implant, and currently awaits feedback on her suitability. This is her story, told as it happens.

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