An Emotional Journey to Bilateral Implants | Part V

Kate finally had her second surgery – so far, so good… She’s going to be switched on. Let’s see how it goes…


19 June – I am being switched on!

It’s been just 11 days since the surgery, and I’ve now been switched on for 4 days.

The switch on took 2 hours and my family came along – Ben and the kids, mum, my older brother Rohan and his daughter Saskia.

When my audiologist  told me she was ready to switch me on … a rush of blood hit my head, and I felt like I was going to faint. It was about to happen! Oh my god. Everything I’ve been worrying about over the last couple of years is about to be thrown into my head… Right here! Right now!

Then click – “It’s on Kate, how does that feel?”

Everyone looking at me expectantly… and there it was…

A tinkling, hazy mesh of electronica. Scattering through my head.

I can see voices vaguely through a veil of matrix-like cascades of numbers that are sounds. I know they are sounds and words, and voices, but they don’t sound like it.

The audiologist reads to me the “Ling Sounds” and I have to repeat them back. I get the first two wrong, ah and sh… but once I know what they sound like now, I get them right, again and again. Hearing them without seeing her lips. It’s incredible – it’s like I am a baby again, having to relearn to hear completely from scratch…

And then I am handed a mobile phone and told to listen to music. No, this won’t sound good, I think. I choose Nina Simone’s My Baby Just Cares for Me… press play… and there is it…. A song I am so familiar with and…. I CAN HEAR IT! I can hear the beat, the melody, but I can’t understand the lyrics… tears come. I have a cry, even though I promised myself I wouldn’t. It’s like music was the tipping point. Music had been so important to me.


Everything is accompanied by a tinkle of three tiny notes at a pitch that I don’t think I’ve heard for many, many years. It’s like everything is sparkling.

My switch on

I am brought back to the memory of my first switch on, almost 8 years ago – the alien language that I felt I would never decipher. It sounds like how I remember the first switch on!

And how weird that even though I can hear so clearly through my first CI, I am still having so much trouble understanding speech through my second. How incredible that my brain can hear things so differently through each ear, even though the devices are almost identical – and that I can’t benefit from the practice the other had – I still need to ‘re-learn’ to hear in the new ear….

And wow, I am tired. It’s hard work, even passively trying to hear.

I am trying to be gentle and kind to myself, and not expect too much. I knew it would be hard. But it’s like parent-hood. Everyone tells you it will be hard, and you know it will, and then you have a baby and WHAM! Far out, you think. That’s hard.

So what have been the sound ‘highlights’ so far?

I was sitting, reading a book while Arlin my 6 year old was colouring in next to me. There was this delightful sound that just felt like a drink of water to my head – it was Arlin colouring in and the texter tip was making the most beautiful squeaking over the paper. It sounded wonderful. I just sat back and listened to that squeaking for a few seconds.
I said “I can hear you drawing, Arlin! It sounds great.”
And his little face … he’d been so worried about me, and he said: “I’m so glad you can hear it mum!”

The moment I heard the squeaking texter!

And water… Water sounds insane!  Can you imagine Jimi Hendrix playing a guitar solo, lying, sweaty, on the ground, wildly playing three or four notes on the upper scale of his electric guitar, jamming, eyes clamped shut, sweat flying, and he is playing it like it’s life and death, and he’s had way too many drugs…. Well. That’s what water sounds like. Damn! I get a concert every time I wash my hands.

I have mapping sessions every week now to adjust the sound, and I expect this to be a journey of relearning to hear that could take months – and I know it will be worth it.

To be continued…

Views expressed by Cochlear recipients and hearing health providers are those of the individual. Please seek advice from your medical practitioner or health professional about treatments for hearing loss. They will be able to advice on a suitable solution for the hearing loss condition. Outcomes and results may vary. All products should be used only as directed by your medical practitioner or health professional. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative.

Cochlear, Hear now. And always and elliptical logo are either trademarks or registered trademarks of Cochlear Limited. D1255107 ISS1 JUL17 Cochlear © 2017 All rights reserved.

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