It has been a while since I have posted a blog post for hearingspanglish.blog and I am glad that you are with me today. I was hesitant to write the blog and to publish it. Why? Because I really wanted to write about my cochlear implant marathon from the view of rainbows and unicorns. I reflected back on one of the reasons that I started hearingspanglish.blog and it was to be vulnerable. Brene Brown says it the best “One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide”.
Let me share this next part of the journey and I am committed to being vulnerable and courageous no matter what.
THE COCHLEAR IMPLANT MARATHON TRAINING
Getting a cochlear implant is much like running a marathon. I cannot personally say that I have run a marathon and this is not on my bucket list. However, I know the training that others have put in to get to this elite level of sustained running. Just like marathon running, the cochlear implant marathon requires training, the right tools/equipment, focused mindset, injuries, challenges, and keeping up with your PR (personal record).
MARATHON SET BACKS
What happens in your marathon training when you experience an injury or set back? The medical advice for runners is if it hurts, stop. Listen to your body and if you are emitting pain, your body is telling you something. Same with the cochlear implant marathon; during your training you don’t want to experience setbacks. Pre implant I talked about my hearing being blurry like a camera out of focus. Over the past few months, I have felt unfocused and a set back with my CI hearing. I started to question myself and had a list of “maybes”. Maybe I just need to pay more attention. Maybe I am multitasking and that is why I cannot hear. Maybe someone is talking too soft. Maybe someone is a mumbler. Maybe it is the mask. These are a few of the maybes that have been going through my head about my “unfocused CI hearing”.
One way to benchmark progress and setbacks is to audiometrically track CI thresholds and word recognition scores. I was having setbacks each time and my own PR (word recognition) was not improving. Before making any mapping changes, the audiologist would measure my CI thresholds and each time my high frequency CI thresholds measured a decrease. During the appointment, an electrode would be turned off and with a retest the CI threshold for the high frequencies would return to a better response. I would leave the appointment hearing better again. Over time my hearing would seem unfocused again. This all happened gradually making it hard to recognize the unfocused nature of having more difficulty. I would attend my next scheduled mapping and once again, the high frequencies would be worse than the others, turn off an electrode, and we are back to hearing. After several of these mappings and turning off electrodes, I began to really question the root of this aching problem. This is where the CI marathon set back kicks in. This is that setback that is annoying and aching, but you can still keep going even though you are not at the capacity that you need to be at. I recognize that I am not functioning at full capacity and need to figure out why. I could not level up to my own PR.
SET BACK DIAGNOSIS
This is the point in marathon training that a runner will go to the doctor to find out the root of the annoying and aching injury. This is the point in my CI marathon that it was determined that this setback needed more attention. After my audiologist consulted with the CI surgeon it was determined that a CT scan would be the next step to see if there was another reason for this unfocused hearing.
The waiting period after you take the next step to find out the root of the problem can be a mind game. I knew when I signed up for the CI surgery and device that there is always a risk involved. However my emotional, irrational mind was beginning to take over all of the uncertainty that lay before me. It was an effort to push these feelings outside of my head and they inevitably creeped back in.
On my scheduled day for the CT, I was also scheduled to see my CI surgeon directly after. This appointment left my heart racing and my hands sweating. I was by myself and at this time wished I would have brought someone with me to the appointment. Right after the CT, my name was called to go over the results. My gut feeling was confirmed. There was something wrong. The electrodes that deliver the high frequency stimulation were migrating. What I had been experiencing in my day to day life was confirmed by this CT. A mix of emotions flowed over me with relief knowing that there was an answer and the urge to cry knowing that my CI marathon ear had officially experienced a “setback”
What do marathon runners who experience injury do next? They have GRIT and start focusing on the proper recovery. Physically and mentally runners refocus so they can get back to the place that they can achieve their next PR. Applying to the CI marathon, I have met with my medical and audiological team for the next step to proper recovery which will involve replacing my current CI. I am grateful for the support that I have from family and friends to keep me mentally focused on positivity.
Just like no runner wants to have a set back when training for a marathon, I did not want to have this set back in my CI marathon journey. Staying positive, I am grateful for the courage to tell my story and hope that someone else will benefit in the future. It is a blessing to be an audiologist with a cochlear implant and I am grateful for this marathon CI adventure. Stay tuned for a future blog on the road to recovery!