Friday, March 02, 2007

There is Hope

This photo of my beautiful mother was taken at The Peabody Hotel in Baltimore this morning. My mother is recovering from having a cochlear implant, which was inserted at Johns Hopkins Hospital on Thursday morning.

I got a bit emotional when I saw her smiling face. There is some slight bruising by her eye that I wasn't expecting but other than that, she looks terrific!

I think the thing that made my throat tighten was that I'm not there to witness this with her. I was certainly around when her hearing went away. I had mentioned this to her in an e-mail or instant message or comment on her blog earlier in the week. When she goes in to have the implant turned on, there will be sound. I'm so excited about this!

When I was a little girl, my mother could hear. She used to have records. I remember her owning not only Jackie Gleason albums (?), she also had some Joan Baez and Herb Alpert. As the years rolled on and I grew up, I became aware that Mom was hard of hearing. It never got any better. There wasn't a miracle hearing aid that would cure her. Some hearing aids worked for a while. Old fashioned, the hearing aids would whistle fiercely with feedback when we hugged her. Sometimes they'd whistle on their own and she had to be told. "Ma, you're hearing aid is whistling." If you walked into the kitchen in the evening, it could very well be that her hearing aids would be on the kitchen table, humming away with feedback on their own because she forgot to turn them off after she took them out. We'd just turn them off for her ourselves so that the batteries wouldn't wear down.

We got a volume control for the telephone handset. When picking up the phone after Mom had used it, one always had to turn the dial to a smaller number. Her hearing loss was progressive. By the time I was a teenager, her hearing loss was significant and couldn't be ignored. We got used to making sure that Mom could see our face when we were talking to her and to speak clearly, no muttering and no exaggeration. It was frustrating for everybody. I was sometimes not so good at dealing with my own frustration. I would accuse her of not being as deaf as she was acting when in fact she was deafer than she let on. I also took advantage of the fact that once her hearing aids were out, she wouldn't hear a thing until morning and took my time about coming home at night. Teenagers can be so rotten and self-absorbed. Sorry about that Mom.

It was so hard for her. She and my father had split up and she was trying to raise the four of us while trying to deal with progressive hearing loss. I remember that in 1981 when I was a senior in high school, she could still use the phone if she was talking to somebody she knew. We had little ways of plowing through a conversation so that Mom could understand most of the important stuff. Towards the end, her phone use was very limited. She would be able to ask questions and hear our yes or no answers. By 1982 she wasn't using the phone at all.

We have been using TTD machines for years. I've got one here at the house but it is on my bedroom shelves. I can still run and get it if I hear the tell tale squeal of a TTD machine on the other end of the phone. There is also a deaf relay service in Washington, but I don't know how I could use that on an overseas call. The computer has really taken over in the past 10 years or so. We've got e-mail and instant messages. It really has improved communication between us dramatically!

Now Mom has gone for a cochlear implant. She has documented her journey up to this date on her own blog. She has the right kind of deafness and was clever enough to live near the US expert in the field and got him to perform her surgery. All we can do now is wait. Wait for her to heal up and for the first week in April to hurry up and get here. April is when her implant gets turned on and tuned in.

I think there is a way for her to hear MP3 files after she has been through her tuning in process which takes at least three sessions. I'm having George make some recordings for her. He plays the guitar and piano. Even though he's not a professional, I'm sure his grandmother would be pleased to hear it.

I would dearly love to be there to witness the grand tuning in, sadly I can't. She has said that I'm the first person she is going to call when it's tuned in and I can't wait!


Tink said...

That's excellent news! I used to work as an aid at the local deaf and blind school. Some of the teenagers there had been born hearing and had lost their hearing gradually. The implants helped immensely.

Tink said...

Oops. Forgot to mention. They worked so well, they were able to pull out of the specialty school and into a regular one.

Xtreme English said...


You're so left out all the horrible stuff. It's fun to read about the hearing aids whistling. the thing about being deaf is that i wound up having to focus on my own perceptions all the time, and i didn't really consider how others experienced this.

That's wonderful to hear! And congratulations for your work with these kids...

claude said...

My mother was hard of hearing too. And just like you, I gave her a hard time when I was a teenager.
No matter what mothers do, teenagers get angry ;) Also, I think it's frightening for them to see their world change as they are changing so much.
Anyway, isn't the Internet wonderful? Only ten years ago, you wouldn't have had a photo of your Mom so soon and you would have had to wait for news as she wouldn't have been able to talk to you on the phone.
I'm wishing her a very prompt recovery. :)h

Jeanette said...

Hi Peggy
I wish your Mum a very speedy recovery,and how wonderfull she will be able to hear again.

Jay said...

That's going to be the greatest phone call EVER!!

Joy Des Jardins said...

Oh Peggy, I'm VERY happy for your mother...and YOU. What an incredible joy for her to be able to hear again. I know you're feeling badly about not being able to be there for that wonderful moment, but I think the first time you talk to your mom on the phone....will be so special and will be almost like being there with her. What a truly beautiful thing to happen in your mom's life right now. It's very exciting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peggy...I tried to write something from home, but it did not come through. I wanted you to know that your mom was great yesterday. Really brave and sweet.

I'll write more later from home.



Ex-Shammickite said...

Good for your mum, I wish her the very best. I can't imagine how it would feel to suddenly have the gift of hearing back again after being without it for so long... she must be so excited!

Betty said...

I know you're anxious to get that phone call. My grandmother was very hard of hearing - we haid to speak very loudly for her to hear anything. Then, her doctor discovered that she had a hole in her eardrum. He did surgery, and she could finally hear, in one ear, at least. That was a great day. Congratulations to your mother on her surgery.

Alan G said...

Obviously you are filled with mixed emotions with your mom so far away and the anticipation of the implant results. Wishing only the best for your mom and you and anxious to hear about the success of the procedure.

Peggy said...

Ma - What other horrible stuff?? Sometimes a good memory is overrated. I'm glad you're feeling better!

Tink, Claude, Jeanette, Jay, Joy, Cathy, Ex, Betty and Alan

Thanks so much for your kind words. I know that my mother will be reading them.

susan said...

How exciting for all of you! I'll be thinking good healing thoughts to your mom...what a great phone call that's going to be!

Xtreme English said...

i hafta say that we did not spend a lot of money on records over the course of our life in those days. the tunes you remember hearing, especially the jackie gleasons (!) were your dad's--from one of his sales jobs before we were married. we did buy the Tijuana Brass and Joan Baez records, and the "Peter Paul & Mommy" album was a gift. And there was that famous kids' record y'alls played and played...the track I remember the most, and which plays in my mind now, was "Davey Crocket":

"Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee,
Greenest (cleanest?) state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so he knew every tree.
Killed him a ba'ar when he was only three!
Davey, Davey Crocket,
King of the Wild Frontier"....lovely song

Peggy said...

Sing Along with Rusty!!!! I actually have a copy that Henry found for me a few years ago!

Who could forget Mule You Lazy Mule?

tom said...

Dear Peggy,

Maybe she'll hear my congratulations and greetings, from halfway across the country. It's hard to imagine living without music all those years- and then getting it back!