(Editor's note: this is part two of a three-part chronicle of Åsa Backlund's Journey Into Silence. To read part one, point your Web browser to http://www.saywhatclub.com/newsletter/June04/anecedoteasa.html)
Journey into Silence (Part Two)
by Åsa Bäcklund
I thought that I would get over this, I thought that soon the pain would end and things would get back to normal, but they never did it seemed. I had to get a stronger hearing aid every three months, and it broke my heart having to check my hearing aid and every time instantly knowing that my hearing was getting worse.
The house was great, but I felt so guilty for not being happier about it, for not doing enough in the house and in the garden. I had guilt feelings because the communication between me and my daughter were not that good.
I had guilt feelings for everything.
I still had very bad tinnitus, although it seemed like I had become a bit used to it so it was a bit easier to handle that.
In the summer my sister and her family came up to our summer house and we spent a month together.
I felt so "outside" and so different from the person I had once been. Now I could no longer follow all the talking, I could no longer be the center of attention as I once was, and this was something I really hated.
I could not understand what people were talking about when we were 11 people around the dinner table. The kids would yell in each others' mouths and I would feel like I was living outside of their world, like there was some kind of invisible wall that separated us.
I started to retreat more and more into my own safe quarters. I read a lot of books.
I had a hard time adjusting to the screaming and yelling of the children.. a sound I had had no problems with before, but a sound that now became an awful sound through my hearing aid.
I had to take my aid off a lot or I stayed in my room reading.
I became the one that might be present physically, but not present mentally. A ghostly figure of what I once was.
Time passed, and so did my hearing.
I had several hearing aids until I got my final one. In April of 1998 the audiologist told me that the hearing aid she suggested was the strongest one on the market, and the strongest one she could suggest to me. I was happy to get it.. It gave me time. To see that audiogram was not uplifting ...
It was one of the saddest days in my life.
Yet I would not let anybody come with me to the audiologist. I didn't want my husband or family to see how sad I really was. They knew of course, because I just wanted to be alone, and to be left alone.
I almost drove the people who love me away.. because I could not handle what was happening to me.. because I could not face what was happening to me. I never once thought I would become totally deaf. I can't remember having that thought ever, not in a conscious way anyway. In some level I must have known or feared deafness though. I must have.
Time was pain to me.. all through the years of 1997 and 1998, I cannot really say that I remember being happy one single day. I went through the motions but I was deeply depressed.
This gave me more guilt feelings which of course made me feel even more depressed. I lost a lot of weight.. which in my case was good in many ways.. but I looked terrible.. I looked the way I felt.
I could no longer hear on the phone so I got a laptop with a program so that I could use it as a TTY. It was great to be able to communicate again.
But, I still isolated myself.
I thought that using the TTY was more for emergencies and I seldom used it. I seldom did anything really outside of my home.
I could lip-read my husband very well so the communication with him worked in some ways.. although it was not the same as it once was.
The communication with my daughter, however, was not good. I could lip-read her but not as easy as with my husband. She got tired of having to repeat things to me over and over again, especially things that were sad to her... if someone had been teasing her at school, for example. She began just mouthing words to me and I didn't know she was doing this until my husband told me.
I also didn't hear that she didn't pronounce some words the correct way. I didn't know that she had problems with some words until she finished first grade.
A beautiful day in the summer of 1998 I turned my hearing aid on and there was nothing.
After having changed at least 5 batteries I knew it was gone.
It was sad but almost a relief. I would no longer have to see that audiogram getting worse and worse.
I would no longer have to worry because it could not get worse than that. Now I was in total silence and it was a relief because when I became totally deaf the tinnitus also stopped. It stopped from one day to the other.
To have tinnitus was hell, pure hell for a long time, so I was very glad that the tinnitus was gone.. but sad that I no longer could hear anything, nothing, zilch, nada and so on...
Since it was in the middle of vacation time, I did not bother to contact my doctor when I became deaf. I waited about a month and I got to see her in the beginning of September in 1998.
At this meeting she told me that there was one option left for me. There was something called a Cochlear Implant and she thought I would be a good candidate for it. Since I had a laptop I began to search. I had found SWC already, and that gave me back my life in many ways. I had found an outlet, a place where I could meet others who had the same experiences, I could communicate easily through the internet.
And all of a sudden I realised that I had not become more depressed because I was deaf, but less depressed. This because I had met so many other people who knew what I was going through, and who supported me. I can not express really, how important SWC was to me at that time.
In my Internet search, I found lots of information about Cochlear implants and mailing lists that I became a member of.
I communicated with one woman who had got a Cochlear implant in the beginning of the 90s and when she told me she could hear on the phone I thought she was joking. I gathered all the information I could find. The most important ones were the stories from those who got an implant. It was a great feeling of hope that all these people gave me. Hope that I would once again be able to at least hear sounds around me so that I would not fear walking the streets anymore.
My doctor referred me to the Cochlear Implant Clinic in Stockholm. I went there in January of 1999 for the first appointment. In spring I went there for the second meeting. What they did was a new audiogram with the strongest aids possible. Then they tested my lip-reading skills.
They also did an MRI. They did a psychological evaluation to make sure that I did not have unrealistic hopes for the future. They also checked that my hearing nerve was ok.
When the doctor had made sure that there was no medical reason for me not to have surgery they told me that I was a candidate.
I had no residual hearing left so that was not an issue, my hearing nerve was fine, the only question that remained was the one of which ear was to be implanted.
The doctor suggested we use the ear that I had used a hearing aid on and which I had had hearing in the longest time. We decided in May of 1999 to implant my left ear.
(To be continued next issue.)