River Walk – Before and After

Last November I went for a walk along a river path just a couple weeks before my cochlear implant surgery to take notes on what I heard. I wrote it all down in a journal entry. I could hear my own feet, or perhaps I only felt the footfalls as I walked along. Wasn’t sure. Bicycles were silent unless they were right next to me. I heard one duck quack five feet away. I saw a duck flapping its wings in the water and wondered if I might hear water sounds with my implant later. People passed by me in silence. I heard an airplane.  My audiologist warned me that when I got the implant I would initially be distracted by every day sounds like the sound of my own clothing as I walked.  I could not imagine clothes making sounds.

I have been waiting for a nice winter day to take a walk along the same path so I could tell you what I hear now with the implant.
Today was the day.

Since my cochlear implant was activated I have heard my clothing.  I am no longer distracted by it, but I remember thinking about this in November, and it registers that I can hear the rustle of my pant legs and coat as I begin my walk.

I enter the path at my usual spot and I am met almost immediately by a murder of  about twenty-five crows chattering in a tall naked alder tree.

A biker whizzes by.   I hear the hum of the bike’s wheels coming from behind. Back in November I wondered if that might be possible. I feel safer knowing I can hear bicycles.   I have had some near misses with bikers and skaters when I haven’t heard them approaching in the past.  I make a point to hug the right side of the path, but there are careless bikers.  Usually kids.  I hear many, many bicycles today. Not only can I hear them, but I hear the bicyclists talking if they are riding with friends. Bits of human conversation seem to be everywhere.

Two women from behind. . . “You could go almost ANYWHERE!”  . . . “Yeah– I know!

A mom with small child in a stroller “Mama?”. . . “What?”. . . “Can I get out?”. . . “No, not yet, I’ll let you know. . .

A man on a phone. “OK– OK I’ll have to call you back because I don’t know about that. . .Yeah OK right. . .OK, I’ll call you. . .

A baby in a stroller “Ba-ba-ba-ba-BA!

A woman on a phone, “I told him it hadn’t been approved!

Being able to hear snippets of other people’s conversations has been a weird thing for me. Kiki says you get used to it.  You learn to tune out.  It’s hard for me because I’m not used to hearing like this.  It seems like my brain wants to soak up every bit of speech it hears.

In the distance I hear what sounds like a back hoe scraping the earth somewhere, then an engine roar and metal squeaking. I don’t know where it’s coming from. I look all around, but can’t see it.

Moving along, I begin to realize there must be hundreds of birds everywhere in all directions– but where are they? They chirp and quack non-stop. A row of leafless poplars line one side of the path. I stop to watch for awhile. Sure enough. One brave starling makes a daring flight across to the next tree while I stand still as a tree myself. A constant rustling in the branches signals activity. Earlier I thought it was wind, but I now realize the trees are filled with starlings nesting for the winter. They must be restless on this warm winter day, like the humans around me. That explains the chirping I’ve been hearing for the past twenty minutes.

Except for one lone duck in the river, the rest of the them hide in a snarl of dead blackberry brambles along the riverbank. Last November, I saw only one duck in the river.  I did not realize others were on the side of the bank because I could not hear them. I step across the path onto a pile leaves that crunch beneath my feet. This sets off a cacophony of warning quacks and squawks.  I am too close for comfort.  I walk along shuffling my feet in the leaves listening, until I hear the sweet bubble of rushing water, my new favorite sound.

Further on, water seems to tinkle in a metal tunnel. It sounds like it’s under ground, but it can’t be. Yet, I feel almost certain in what I am hearing. Back in November I wondered if I would hear the river. I had forgotten how beautiful water sounded. I can see  the river through the brambles along the bank. I know the river isn‘t echoing in a tunnel. My implant sometimes has a tunnel sounding quality to it, so I wonder. I am nearly done with my walk when I see two steel drain pipes ten feet apart where the thicket has cleared. A sign post says Derby Creek.

WOW! WOW! I get it now. It’s an underground creek. Steel drainage pipes must be all along the riverbank.

Before and after. What a difference!

Here’s a cool video of a starling murmuration by Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith.  It is very, VERY cool!

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  1. #1 by Robyn on February 7, 2012 - 12:23 pm

    That was really neat – one of the best before and after descriptions of an implant I’ve read :)


  2. #2 by Kirsten Robbins on February 7, 2012 - 12:36 pm

    It is fun reading about your journey …

  3. #3 by nancy magliocchino on February 7, 2012 - 1:02 pm

    great amaze flim… you have lucky to see catch about birds.

  4. #4 by ireflections09 on February 7, 2012 - 6:42 pm

    I had to laugh, that “they chirp and quack non-stop”. Birdwatchers who do it for a serious past-time can give you an earful. ;)

    Thot your discovery of water sounding like tinkling in a metal tunnel proved true when you saw the drain pipes was an interesting observation, er, what is the equivalent of an interesting auditory experience? You’re now hearing sounds versus watching for what passes for sounds.


  5. #5 by Kim on February 7, 2012 - 10:36 pm

    Hi Ann,
    We’ve gone birding with the local Audubon society. Sometimes they stop dead in their tracks and listen for several minutes to birds. Then two or three “experts” in the group will discuss what they’re hearing. In the past I could never hear anything. More or less I just go along for the walk. This spring I hope to go out with them to see if I’ll be able to hear.

  6. #6 by Caitlin on June 1, 2012 - 9:20 am

    Hi! I found your blog while researching information about music and cochlear implants. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I completely lost my hearing a little over a year ago and am scheduled to have an implant in a couple weeks. I’ve always been a huge music lover and I am very nervous about not being able to really enjoy music again after I get my implant. I would love an update on how you are adjusting to life post-implant, and if your music appreciation has improved. Thanks again for sharing your story!

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