What I’m Hearing

Only two weeks after my cochlear implant surgery, the swelling had subsided enough that I could be “activated.” Last Thursday I spent a couple of hours with my audiologist getting the device turned on. There’s a tiny string of electrodes coiled inside my cochlea. It’s powered by a small, battery-powered device that I wear propped behind my ear, and that is connected to my head with a magnet. It looks like a hearing aid. An external microphone picks up sounds and sends signals through the magnet, to the electrodes which zap my auditory nerve. The nerve sends a message to the brain. Sound! But, it’s nothing like the sound that comes naturally through the eardrum. The brain has to learn what these signals mean. It’s different for everyone.

I’ve worked with my audiologist, Nancy, for the last year. She’s an attractive woman, my age, with a clear and steady voice. I could immediately understand what she was saying! However, with the CI turned on, she sounded like Minnie Mouse. This was to be expected, but still disconcerting! With time, voices become more natural. By the next day, Steve was sounding like Miss Piggy, which was, if you can believe it, an improvement. It can take months for voices to become normal. I went through this with my left ear, and am now hearing full, rich sound through that CI. Each ear is different, and success on one side doesn’t guarantee success on the other. However, I’m confident that in a short time, weeks, maybe, I’ll no longer be hearing cartoon characters. My work is to listen, listen, listen. I’m watching captioned movies, I’m listening to the radio – it’s astounding that I can hear the radio at all, let alone understand the voices. And I must say, that I find it rather amusing that the sonorous and serious talking heads on NPR sound like Kermit the Frog talking to Alvin and the Chipmunks.

The CI is bringing in a lot of input that my brain has yet to make sense of. There’s a constant background noise of what sounds like a whiny bathroom fan. But, yesterday, walking across the yard, I heard a cluck. A definite, low-pitched cluck. I’m not sure who was talking.

When I turned around and looked, their beaks were closed.

On the other hand, the goats have decided to be very helpful with my auditory rehab.

Thanks, Caper.


  1. I’m so happy for you that the implant was successful.

    Thanks for sharing your story, I’m facinated by it.

    It also makes me appreciate more the gift of hearing.

  2. That Caper is such a good helper. I second Ken’s comment. I love my NPR and BBC and would be lost without them! Sending wishes for continued success.

  3. Congratulations Terry, I’m so happy for you !! It’s truly amazing what can be done for the human body… I was unable to walk for several years, now I have new knees. I was was up and walking short distances that afternoon. AMAZING!!

  4. Wishing you a continued wonderful recovery! You have so many great sounds to hear!

  5. This is such good news! Do you have to turn the older implant off to test the new one?

    It will be so wonderful to hear all your hens chattering to you this summer.



    • I spend about an hour in the morning and two at night listening only to the new implant. The rest of the time I listen with the two together. The hope is that my brain will meld the two sides into one, 3-dimensional surround sound.

  6. So glad to hear your wonderful news. In this political year I have to think it might be amusing to hear voices as cartoon characters. But a couple of weeks is more than enough of that! Best wishes for your animal-assisted recovery. And thanks for educating the rest of us on the process.

  7. I loved reading your story! I had no idea that you couldn’t hear normally after an implant. So interesting to read. Keeping you in my prayers that the new implant becomes as good as the old one! Take care! :)

  8. Terry, I’m so excited for you. This information is just fascinating. I also have the question about using the older implant while you’re getting used to the new one. I assume you have to develop/program some kind of balance between the two? Re: NPR—some of those people do, in fact, sound like cartoon characters normally, so don’t be misled!

  9. Glad to hear things are going so well! It’s amazing that they can do this for you.

  10. Yay! This is great news. I’m so happy for you. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us. I’m waiting for the day you report you’re hearing in “3-dimensional surround sound.”

    BTW, love your photos today. Caper is adorable as always, of course, and that chicken mug shot is priceless. :)

  11. So happy for you Terry! So glad “everyone” is helping you heal and improve your hearing!!! We are all behind you and wishing good thoughts.

    take care,


  12. Hurray! Love getting updates on your newest implant. Holding good and healing thoughts for you right now!

  13. Terry I am so happy for you, I hope you continue to gain improvement each and every day. I will no longer take my hearing for granted. I hope all the critters at Little Pond Farm are doing well, spring is in the air. Greetings from Dog Trot Farm, Julie.

  14. Lol no Darth Vader hens this time ? Well hens would sound funny on helium too.

  15. So happy everything is going well. This summer should be full of beautiful sounds for you to hear.

  16. It’s good to know that you are hearing sounds and understand what is being said. It is a vast improvement from the pre-surgery state. It won’t be long before you’ll hear all the animals talking to you and will be able to discern who is who.

    That silly Caper, he is always talking. I’m not surprised he had something to say.

  17. It’s so good to hear it’s going well. Looking forward to hearing of your progress. It will be great to be able to hear your chicken’s.

  18. I was wondering how having the old implant affected the new one. Can you still hear well out of the left implant, or is it being confused, with the cartoon sounds from the right?

    • Yes, my the cochlear implant in the left ear is working the same as always (brilliantly) and is teaching the right what the sounds are. No confusion, although I do wish the buzzing sound from the right goes away soon. It should.

  19. Terry, I am so very happy to learn of your news! thank you for sharing this experience with us. Wishes for continued healing.

    ps. Happy birthday to Candy…..I do love her antics.

  20. What exciting news. It must be wonderful. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to struggle to hear your family and livestock – even if they are like cartoon characters for now.

    Thought you might like to hear news from my household! My Australian Shepherd puppy, Harris, is settling in well and is quite a character – he thinks chickens are for herding! My 2 old chickens are a bit disconcerted but my 3 new ones which arrived on Mother’s Day (courtesy of my sweet daughter and the 70 mile round trip I made to fetch them!) seem to be totally used to mad puppies and have hardly batted an eye lid. My blue Poland and Fenton Blue have been joined by a Chamois Frizzle (just the funniest little thing that looks like a cross between an owl, big bird and a little old lady!), a Buff Orpington and a Cream Legbar. It is early days yet but they seem to be settling in.

    Thanks for all the news and information you share with us and keep up the good recovery

  21. I can’t even imagine what you have been going through. I am only hoping that you will hear the sound of your beloved animals as a symphony…and that the buzzing goes away!! I hope that each day gets better and better for you!