There are twenty-two electrodes in my cochlea and this morning each was individually adjusted. I have been reprogrammed but without having to go to a special camp.
I imagine my electrodes to be waving like tiny grasshopper antennae or like sea plants rooted on the ocean floor. I imagine them gently casting about for sounds to catch. This is a sweet image, more palatable to me than the reality of wires and hardware installed inside my skull – the electrodes, a receiver, and a magnet. It’s a handyman’s junk drawer in there.
The cochlea is a beautiful shell-shaped part of the ear where hearing happens – this is where vibrations are translated into nerve impulses that tell the brain that the clock is ticking. When the cochlea freezes up and no longer reliably catches or reads sounds, a cochlear implant – with its twenty-two electrodes – can take over. That’s what happened for me five years ago. So, I hear the clock ticking. Today, because of the audiologist’s adjustments, I even hear the hands moving.
I hear a dog barking three blocks away. I hear sirens down at the lakefront. I hear the dog’s tags jangling in the kitchen, loud like he’s emptying the silverware drawer. I hear my chin against my turtleneck when I turn my head and the guy down the street bringing his garbage cart in from the curb. Sounds aren’t deafening but they are very loud. So I wonder if the adjustments were too much. Should I go back and have her dial me down?
I decide no. I decide to wait. Let the antennae and the sea plants wave, find all the sounds I need to hear, bring me everything.