I was really, really looking forward to this. I can't even begin to describe my feelings as I walked into that building - the very place that created the devices that had brought me back to life. Even though I had visited three years ago (click to see video), it was all new again. I was a more experienced bilateral cochlear implant user, so I felt a greater confidence - with my own voice, and even how I interacted with others. The feeling of "coming home" was the same, though. There's no easy way to explain it - just this feeling of connection on an intensely emotional level.
I thought I'd begin my talk by describing the incredible sunrise over the AB building I had witnessed that morning. But I looked out at the group - a full house - and I just had to talk about this feeling of "coming home." I told them this emotion was so pervasive that I was beginning to suspect that they had built a GPS system into my HiRes 90K processors!
From there, I knew just what I was going to discuss - bilateral cochlear implants, the Neptune waterproof processor, my wish list, and suggestions. All of this would be framed from the human perspective, my perspective - what I like to call "on beyond the testing booth." I was also now the author of two books on cochlear implants - and copies of my second book, Listening Closely were going to be given to all staff members. So I wanted to tie in certain excerpts from that book as well.
My main point about being bilateral focused on "socialization" - relating to others. The dynamics are so complex, and if you've read my book and some of my blog entries, you'll know that this process is still evolving. The excerpt that captures this best, and is probably the most important sentence in the entire book, is:
"People treat you differently when they know you can hear them."
That applied to using the Neptune waterproof processor as well - that people will treat you differently in pools, waterparks and similar venues, if they know you can hear them. And this makes all the difference between watching people have fun or being part of the event itself.
During the question and answer portion of my talk, one person in the audience, a CI user who was participating in some testing, told the group that my impressions and experiences were exactly like his own - that I had nailed it. That's always good to hear, but I wasn't surprised because that's a common reaction to my books and talks.
I wanted to end my presentation with something meaningful, so I brought up the excerpt about "creating a masterpiece." I've used it many times to describe the cochlear implant process - and with bilateral cochlear implants, that metaphor continues to apply exquisitely. So I concluded my talk with this excerpt from Listening Closely:
"Thinking about these and other experiences over the past several months -- listening in noisy environments, turning to my name from a distance, the ease of conversations, turning to danger, not talking about my hearing, sitting wherever I please -- these behaviors are literally coloring my personality. It is not at all like having one ear, where progress seemed to be absolute, measurable, and calculated. In essence, the masterpiece I am creating this time is more like an impressionist painting - - a Renoir portrait, perhaps? The shades are subtle, they blend, you can't really see the image clearly unless you step back, and it takes a while to appreciate what you're looking at. The image that is emerging is someone who can hear even better than before - smiling, shining, confident - and hearing impaired continues to recede farther into the background."
But this time, I didn't stop there - I added a little bit more - a mental image that I didn't have when I originally wrote those words in the book. Now, I could include that incredible sunrise on the Advanced Bionics building as part of that masterpiece I'm creating in my mind. It was that uplifting and inspirational - -
and provided an apt, yet ironic, way to conclude a program entitled Connect to Patient.