User Stories

The New Sounds of a Cochlear Implant: Claire Stancliffe

Claire Stancliffe says: In my last article I explained and described about my switch on. I thought I would use my next article to talk about the new sounds I have heard since I had the implant done and what sounds different to before.

On my way home after the switch-on I decided to put some music on to see what the difference was. It was a massive disappointment. I could not understand or recognise any of my favourite songs. However, I didn’t let this get to me; as after all it’s a long learning process and I knew things would get better.

After several weeks of using the implant sounds became more natural and I went back to listening to music. Straight away I recognised songs even though they did sound slightly different: I was hearing more of the music and instruments. I now enjoy music a lot more than I did before. In my car I always used to make playlists on my iPhone that were recent songs and played them in the same order so I knew the type of song to expect when it came on. After getting used to my implant, I can now just leave my entire playlist on shuffle and will know what song is playing whilst driving.

Before my implant was activated, my mum always used to have to be in the same room for me to hear and understand what she was saying. The implant has given me a bit more freedom. I can now be in a different room whilst my mum calls me or asks a question. The questions do have to be simple though for me to understand. I cannot have a conversation with someone who’s in the next room. That is still a struggle and probably always will be.

For example, one day when my mum was cooking I heard a beeping noise from the living room. I went to ask what that noise was and my mum explained it was the cooking timer. Before my implant I had to be directly next to it to even have a chance of hearing the beeping. Now it is so clear and loud from the room next door.

During the summer on my days off, and when the weather was nice, I would often relax in the garden. It’s always been peaceful and nice to just have a bit of down time. The summer after my activation this all changed. It’s no longer peaceful. I kept hearing this chirping kind of sound and it was starting to get really annoying. It was there all the time and I just couldn’t figure out what/who was making that noise.

My mum had explained to me it was the birds in the trees. Again this is so clear and loud, something I hadn’t really heard before. So now if I do go in the garden I tend to switch my implant off to relax and the chirping can be rather annoying. Maybe it’s something that I need to get used to so I can learn how to block that sound out?

I have noticed a few things with noises like this. On my way home from work one day there had been a car accident on the route home I take. My radio has been set up to automatically come on if there is traffic news in the area I am in. It came on as I was travelling down the highway. I didn’t hear everything that was said but did pick up the words car accident on the A45 near billing and that one lane is blocked. Thanks to this I was able to get off the A45 at the next junction and miss most of the traffic that was queuing.

And another new thing I noticed was when I stop at traffic lights, if I am not playing any music, there is a beeping. It took me a while to work it out but it was actually the traffic signals outside my car, beeping to indicate that pedestrians can cross the road safely. I can also hear beeping if I turn my car engine on and my seatbelt or a passenger hasn’t put theirs on. Same for if my car boot hasn’t been shut properly.

You may have noticed a lot of these sounds are beeping. I am profoundly deaf and the high frequency sounds are my main problem. So, previously before the implant, most of the high frequencies would have been impossible for me to hear. Now the implant has given me the opportunity to hear new sounds mainly in the higher frequencies; it has also helped with understanding people when they talk and especially use words that involve the letters f, s, sh.

I currently work as a senior sports coach in primary schools. I teach mainly multi-skills and football to children aged 4–11. Before the implant I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do this job as it was extremely difficult to understand and lip-read with the children. Now I find it so much easier and I rarely have a problem communicating with any children in my lessons.

I hope this has provided a little bit of an insight to the new sounds I have heard after my implant activation.

Thanks Claire!

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