Last week I had another checkup for my cochlear implant. Each time I go I am anxious to know how I might be performing during the speech discrimination testing. This is a list of 50 monosyllabic words (consonant-vowel-consonant) recorded words that are played that is typically used clinically to measure and benchmark progress over time. As an audiologist, I have in my head that this is THE benchmark of how I am progressing with my cochlear implant. As I said in an earlier blog, I DID progress with this assessment tool when comparing my hearing aid scores to my cochlear implant scores. This is an exciting benchmark which demonstrated that the cochlear implant is certainly giving me better access to speech sounds than my hearing aid was.
Going into the visit last week (approximately 10 weeks since initial activation), I felt so much internal pressure on myself to hear and understand these words. I wanted desperately to increase this score. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and concentrated as intently as possible. I felt like I was back in graduate school having test anxiety. As the list progressed and I knew that I was missing some of the words, my mind immediately shifted to negative thoughts and I would continue to miss. I could feel the disappointment wash over me when I was told that my score was the same as it was 6 weeks ago.
ONE WORD. No one in the world functionally talks using one, random monosyllabic words, unless you are yelling STOP. I needed to yell STOP to myself and reframe and reflect. After this appointment, I did quite a bit of reflection about where I was and where I am now. I am thankful that before I got the cochlear implant, I had written down my own personal struggles and interviewed those closest to me about what situations they saw me having difficulty communicating. This gave me a springboard to STOP, circle back and reframe and reflect on my pre-cochlear implant communication struggles and evaluate functionally how I perceived myself 10 weeks post cochlear implant. I was also able to ask my closest family and friends to share if they noticed any functional listening changes.
Personally, I have noticed a huge positive functional change since getting the cochlear implant. The beeps, chirps, whistles, and computerized speech of others has been transformed to clearer sounding speech. I feel that my brain has integrated 2 different signals (acoustic and electronic) together and I perceive what I hear as “normal”. Below I am excited to share my STOP reflections!!
BEFORE CI: Looking down to take a bite to eat while trying to hear someone was impossible. NOW with CI: I am able to look down at my food and still hear what someone is saying across the table from me
BEFORE CI: Could not carry on a conversation with someone in the car while I was driving for long periods of time. NOW with CI: Drove to Columbus and back and had an engaging conversation with a colleague.
BEFORE CI: My colleagues could not talk to me through speaker phone (car). NOW with CI: My colleagues report they are now using speaker phone (car) and I can carry on a conversation.
BEFORE CI: My husband (who does mumble) had to repeat himself quite often. NOW with CI: My husband (who still mumbles) reports that he does not have to repeat himself very often.
BEFORE CI: When walking, I would have to try to look at the person the whole time. NOW with CI: I can look ahead at times and still carry on a conversation.
BEFORE CI: Not able to listen to a podcast or audiobooks in the car. NOW with CI: Enjoying my drive time with engaging audio books.
BEFORE CI: Took a lot of energy to hear and understand. NOW with CI: I feel less tired and it take less effort to hear and understand.
BEFORE CI: Could not hear what my daughter and her friends would say to me in the car. NOW with CI: I am able to overhear some of the conversations in the car.
What do you need to yell STOP about in order to reflect in your own life? I will continue to use the monosyllabic “STOP” test as one benchmark for my progress. Most importantly, as I continue this amazing cochlear implant journey, I am going to remember to functionally STOP and reflect about my continuous progress as I discover new strengths each day.