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A little too magnetic, if you ask me. And if that makes me sound big-headed, I don’t mean it quite like THAT. In fact, I just have a small head. And therein lies the rub – quite literally!

When you are first activated as a fully-paid up member of the Borg Collective you may get given quite a strong external magnet to ensure a good contact with the internal magnet, despite any residual post-surgery swelling. Seven months after activation, as the swelling subsided slowly but surely the magnet was steadily making greater contact with its interior counterpart, leading to skin irritation. Looking back, the situation had crept up on me over a couple of months and, because it was clamped so firmly to my head, the cable joint at the base of the external coil was also pressing down on the corner of the mounting to the internal magnet sited just underneath. OUCH. It came to a head this week. (See mounting pedestals underneath the internal magnets for all three major manufacturers: Advanced Bionics, Cochlear, and Med-El.) No wonder some sounds felt as if they were going through my head: they literally were!

After three days ‘offline’, so to speak, to give my poor little head a rest, I threw in the towel and made contact with the hospital this morning. I was fitted in during the lunch break and straight away the offending coil was sorted out with a lower strength magnet that doesn’t need the whole strength of my fingers to prise off. The relief was immediate, and it was explained to me that, as the swelling had clearly subsided, I no longer required such a strong magnet. No more limpet mine sticking to my head, no more pressure on the pedestal. Hallelujah – all sorted out in minutes thanks to the super staff at the hospital! I’ve been mildly degaussed . . .

It was weird going back to not hearing anything for that length of time. Of course I ‘become deaf’ on a nightly basis when I remove my processor, but it was odd. I hated it. It made me feel slightly nauseous, in fact, yet it was still my old familiar world. The really strange part about it was that it was almost reverting back to reality: somehow it was my old reality and I did all the old things, lipreading and so on, and it was really noticeable just how much more I felt the vibrations from the train, things that have slipped away without me necessarily being aware of it. I toddled on, not really too traumatised, at home but uncomfortable, being able to hear almost a dream. Then putting my new magnet back on: reality again, anchored and rooted in the real world, in touch with my surroundings by being able to hear.

It’s really brought it home to me that I live two parallel realities. I’m not a hearing person, though my implant enables me to function pretty much like one and I notice things that other people don’t because they’re used to hearing it and filtering it out. I almost have ‘super-hearing’ or ‘hyper-hearing’ in that respect: someone’s accent sounds very strong or their voice very distinctive to me, but it’s not a superpower. It’s just that everybody else has had a head start in hearing hundreds of thousands of other voices and can file them away in the ‘not particularly exceptional’ drawer. I don’t have that experience, but hearing is now my real reality, and I’m glad to get back to it!

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