What I Can Hear Now

From my teenage years and into my adult life I was a person with a hearing loss. By the time I reached 50 I was severely hard of hearing, which means that even with hearing aids I heard a limited range of sounds. I wasn’t deaf, but what I heard lacked clarity. My hearing loss was progressive and over time I didn’t realize what I was missing. Of course, I knew that I couldn’t hear conversation around the dinner table, or bells, or the television. But, what I didn’t realize was how many everyday things make their own individual, distinct sounds.

In December of last year I received a cochlear implant and it was an immediate success. I heard voices with clarity. I heard people behind me. I could have a conversation in the car. My hearing continues to improve. My brain continues to process the sounds that surround me. The brain is a gate-keeper. The sounds are there, but the gray matter is deciding what inputs I hear. Compounding this challenge of decoding my world is the fact that I have no idea where sounds are coming from. It’s like wearing headphones.

The other day I walked out to the barn and stopped in my tracks. There was a ticking, metallic noise. What could it be? It was this:

But wait, there was a louder, squeaking, grating, sound. I stopped again. It stopped. I continued on. The sound was coming from this:

Do people oil their compost bucket handles?

I got to the barn and heard a rapid pat-pat-pat. Not metallic. I looked around. What could it be?

Goat berries dropping on concrete.

I love that sound.


  1. My hearing was always kind of bad, but there was a time when I could hear the rain pattering on the window and the roof. I miss that sound, it used to lull me to sleep.

    I’m so happy to hear about your progress with the CI, Terry. I think it’s like having the best of both worlds, because now you get a little more clarity, but you can still shut it off — something our hearing peers can’t easily do!

  2. That was so beautifully written and touching. There are so many sounds around us that sometimes we block them out. We take them for granted. Sad, isnt it? The everyday sounds on the farm make me happy :) The sound of a proud hen after she lays a nice egg. The Rooster waking up the farm (and annoying some peole…) . Congratualtion on your new sense of hearing-I know you’ll enjoy it to the fullest :)

  3. I so pleased for you that your implants have reopened up a world of sound.

    In my studio today I have a 5 day old chick, she’s making that happy continuous chirrup sound which tells me that right now she’s content :-)


  4. AAAAA! (well, I guess I don’t have to shout…) aaaaa! I LOVE this post. I love that you’re having so much fun with your hearing. And I love the goat berries.

  5. I don’t want to pry, so ignore this question if it’s too nosy, but I am interested in the decision making process for an adult with non-little-kid (what is that called? Must be a technical term) hearing loss. What decides if one gets one cochlear implant or two? Would two give stereo hearing? Does having two have more risks or side effects? Or does the stereo aspect simply not work well enough to make it worth while? Or something else I haven’t though of?

    Are you looking forward to the High Holidays? You will be able to hear the music better, I hope?

    • When my hearing aids stopped being helpful, and I couldn’t have a conversation with family at the dinner table, the decision to have a CI was a clear. I still have enough hearing in my right ear, that at night, with no device, I can still hear an alarm, so I hesitate to get that ear done (there’s a strong chance that the surgery destroys any residual hearing.) However, I will surely get a second CI in the next couple of years. Currently, I’m effectively deaf in one ear, so miss sounds to my right side. With 2 CIs I should be able to have the ability to locate sounds, and my hearing will be much improved, even beyond the miracle that it is now. Music tends to be the last thing that improves. I was never a musical person, and it was never a part of my life, so that’s not a big concern (although I do love the Kol Nidre music – the cello is an instrument that even people with hearing loss can appreciate.)

  6. Both of my parents are totally deaf. The one thing my dad said, that sticks with me, is he wished he could hear the grandchildren laughing. My parents were not good candidates for the cochlear implants. Any more eggs from the Gems?

  7. Wow. It’s been almost a year since your implants went in. How great to read that you can hear such subtle sounds. I mean… That’s just fantastic! I’m smiling from ear to ear.

  8. Can you hear a cat purr yet? I thought it was amazing that your brain would let you hear one of Babbs’s chicks tapping inside the egg but not Midge’s outboard motor purring!

    • I haven’t been near to a purring cat. Must go back and visit with Midge. I’m sure he’d like my quiet, calm lap what with all the kitten chaos at your house.

  9. This is wonderful! I have a friend that is hard of hearing and, although she hasn’t gotten a cochlear implant, she had a similar experience when she got her hearing aid. Hearing things you never knew you were missing certainly gives you a fresh outlook on life doesn’t it? :) keep posting, I love to read along!

    • I’m so pleased that your friend was able to get new hearing aids. The technology keeps improving and for people out there who say “hearing aids don’t work” if you haven’t tried the latest generation, run to a good audiologist!

  10. Just incredible, Terry. Look what technology has done. I am so happy for you.

  11. i am so happy for you terry.i have some sad news my rooster (his name is sunshine)some how got out of the coop and he is gone i havent seen any feathers around so maybe he is okay. but with hawks and two dogs and all the other animals aroud i hope he is okay:(

  12. I am so pleased for you. I have got good hearing but became terribly short sighted in my teens and now have become long sighted since passing 50. I have always been so grateful for glasses and contact lenses. I remember thinking it amazing to see twigs on trees and birds and peoples faces. Without this technology, I would not be able to drive amongst many other things. This makes me feel very thankful. It is always good to hear of other people feeling improvements too. I love your positive outlook on life.

  13. Terry, I just loved this post. I am almost completely deaf in my right ear, which I was either born with or was due to very high fevers when I was very very young. I’ve never known my life any different than the way I hear now. I’ve had people say they can fix it, but I find the world too noisy of a place already and don’t want to fix it.

    My father, however, has slowly been losing his hearing and is now very very hard of hearing. He’s on his 2nd set of hearing aids and does not find them helpful. He says it picks up so many extra noises that it’s hard for him to focus on what he’s trying to focus on. Is this something that might work for him? It’s gotten so bad that I feel like he’s just giving up on being a part of conversations, answering the phone, trying…

    • What people don’t understand about hearing loss is that it is not simply that the world gets quieter. You lose what is called “dynamic range” – you can hear some sounds, but have lost the ability to hear others. So, hearing aids only amplify the sounds that remain. Make those too loud and it all sounds garbled. Don’t amplify and you can’t hear anything. Also, people with normal hearing can filter out background noise. For example, if you walk into a room with a noisy refrigerator, you quickly tune that out and can hear conversation. With a hearing loss your brain can no longer do that. So, the hearing aids amplify that distracting noise and it’s even harder to hear conversation! The new models of hearing aids have amazing technology which deals with some of these issues and if your father hasn’t tried them, he should. He should also be evaluated for a CI. Even people in their 80s benefit from these devices.

      • When they are working correctly (and given that these are high tech gadgets, with tiny buttons, in the hands of those of an age who don’t often understand high tech gadgets….). But one of my relatives has hearing aids that she thinks aren’t that helpful, but EVERYONE can tell when she has them turned on! They have “noise cancelling” capability, like the headphones for use on airplanes….they get better every year, and they are startng to be more programmable, to do it automatically,

        But, I want them to have a blue tooth controller, with a BIG screen, with text, to switch modes, not a little toggle button!

  14. I am so happy that you are enjoying the sounds of your lovely farm. You must appreciate all those noises more than others who have never been hearing impaired.

    • My day is filled with small and large miracles. It’s also still filled with stress! I rely on technology that can fail and it doesn’t work in all situations, but compared to what my life was like before, I am filled with gratitude!

  15. Reminds me when I was in third grade and FINALLY got glasses… signs could be read and leaves could be seen. Fascinating!

  16. Hi Terry ~ I’m new to your site, and just loving it. I’m trapped in suburbia, and have a hankerin’ for hens. Hopefully someday! :)

    Anyhow, I just wanted to tell you how this post touched me. A heartfelt and wise lesson for all of us, and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing.

  17. I too have had hearing problems. I had my eardrums fall out when I was 5 and wore hearing aids until I was 12 when I was able to have a surgery which the drs were able to use bone from my skull to make me new eardrums. It was a new idea at the time and they didn’t know if or when I would have to have it done again. I am now 34 and still have the original “new” eardrums. I have been greatly blessed by this. However I don’t really hear from behind like I use to and sometimes crowded rooms are trickier than they use to be. I know I should get it checked but frankly I don’t want to. Stubborn I know. I love how you are still making progress and are willing to share with us your experiences with this and all the other areas of your life that you do. It makes my (and so many others!) day! Thanks

    • Marissa, I’ve been to horrible audiologists, but I’ve also been to really and truly helpful professionals who have all sorts of gizmos and resources to change your life. Hearing loss is exhausting an limiting -even for someone like you who is open about it and knows what you have! Do go and see what is out there. Also, join HLAA, the Hearing Loss Association of America. They have a information that even the audiologists don’t think to share with clients.

    • I assume you mean the little bones in you ears, rather than the membrane between the bones and the canal? My mom had “stuck stapes”, which is that the little anvil shaped bone stopped vibrating, and she eventually had surgery to replace it. It worked for about 10-20 years.