A reason to be grateful — I can hear the birds again!!

 Great Blue Heron looks pensive at day’s end.

Last Saturday I visited my favourite Florida wetland rookery for more than one reason. Yes, it has been months since the last time I drove out to see which species were in residence and to enjoy the little Eden that Wakodahatchee is when  your days are consumed with work and deadlines and windowless office spaces disconnecting you from the crying birds or ocean breezes. But, I also wanted to see if I really could hear the birds again.

I have slowly lost most of my hearing probably since my late 40’s and no one really knows why. I always suspected my slow thyroid. The cochlear doc says maybe I have the gene for it. Apparently it is not entirely age related loss even if the demise of the hair cells in the cochlea is not uncommon with aging. But, over time hearing aids no longer made any significant difference. My trips to the rookery were always beautiful but even my footfalls were too quiet to hear. Actually, I felt rather stealthy but turns out not as much as I thought. When I first visited Wakodahatchee I was mesmerized by the cacophony of bird sounds and loved the chorus of hungry Great Blue Heron chicks crying out for a little fish. So cute. I missed those sounds and I missed the rustle of wind through the palms. And, of course, being able to have a conversation with friends and family. It really was all gone!! And, what was left wasn’t understandable. And at my office no more phone duty!! Well, ok, possibly a plus! CapTel was kind enough to provide me with two free caption phones, one for the office and one for the house which was a wonderful gift and enabled very smooth “conversations” all in all.

So my audiologist recommended I get evaluated for cochlear implant. My type of loss with the dead hair cells in the cochlea was just the right kind to be a great candidate. And, with my residual hearing in the low ranges for a hybrid type system with a shorter array in the cochlea to both preserve low end and stimulate the high end. I ended up choosing the University of Miami’s Health Program as they are  world renown for cochlear implant and people come world over to be there. Luckily near me and my Alma Mater to boot. I looked carefully at the top three brands, Cochlear Americas, Med-EL and Advanced Bionics. AB wasn’t approved yet for the hybrid system (I think maybe they are now though) so I focused on Cochlear and Med-EL. All three you can’t really go wrong but I chose Med-El as their stats I thought were just enough better on preservation of residual hearing. Dr Telischi I know works to preserve residual with every surgery regardless of brand, but from what I can tell, I think  he saved most of what I had left.

My surgery was at the end of September and I was “turned on” or activated a month later on Halloween!! I’d been cautioned not to expect to understand right away and that it might sound rather electronic like beeps at first and there would be a learning curve. But, whether I am lucky, or had just enough left, or my loss was later in life rather than childhood, or I hadn’t forgotten what things are supposed to sound like, for whatever wonderful reason, once all the frequencies were set the very first session, I could hear and understand all the conversation. It has only gotten better each day. Even music…not bad at all. Kind of modern anyway…they make music sound a bit electronic these days after all. Voices sound mostly normal.

And, so….Saturday…I heard the birds and everything. It was like Christmas and I kept looking around to see where sounds were coming from. I remembered what I had forgotten. Could hear the cormorants and the krack of the big herons and the racket the grackles make. And, I could talk to the other photographers around. Before I could carry on only so long and missed most of what was said and hated to make the other person work so hard at it so would just retreat.

The Great Blue Herons pictured here really just prove my day and remind me that I could hear them!!

Below you will also see just a couple of images I plucked from the Med-EL site to give the idea of what I have installed in my ear.

I am beyond grateful for this technology and feel someone just handed me my hearing back all wrapped up and tied with a bow. I would like to say that if anyone wants to know more of my particular experience who may be considering cochlear implantation, I am happy to share. Everyone is different and I talked to a lot of people before deciding.

Birds and medical devices below 🙂

Great Blue Heron preens in this early season nesting scene. Its breeding colors are already in evidence with reddish tints to its legs and the lore becoming blue.

In a somewhat awkward pose this Great Blue Heron still stands in its wing spread sunning posture, yet turns to begin preening its back feathers in a contortionist body position. Ahh, to be so flexible!



This image from Med-El shows both the internal and external portions of the cochlear implant. The part on the right is installed under the skin behind the ear with that slender tail portion with the electrodes curled within the cochlea. My particular array is the Flex 28 which doesn’t go all the way to the apex of the cochlea to try and save the low end hair cells and residual hearing. The normal CI array is 31mm or so. The outside processor hangs on the top of the ear with the circular part magnetically attached to the under-skin magnet. The chip is in that square shaped area under the skin. If I undo the circular outer piece then hearing goes away just like that. The beige piece in the image I do not have. It is an alternative processor which is placed on the magnet with no cord or cable. I was sure I’d knock it off. 🙂


A good view of what is inside.



This shows the pitches and tones in the cochlea in an arrangement known as tonotopicity. So my array electrodes are adjusted or mapped to optimize getting all those frequencies. When I get the add on portion for the low end, I should really have a complete range. It feels complete already. I am now enjoying the clack of the keyboard keys as I type. So cool!!

A Very Happy Thanksgiving to All!

I have many reasons to be thankful this year, but the gift of hearing makes me positively euphoric!!


~ by Judy on November 20, 2017.

29 Responses to “A reason to be grateful — I can hear the birds again!!”

  1. Dear Judy, What wonderful news.  Yours is another way of being “born again.”  Savor every sound you have been hungry fr for so long.  I know your Thanksgiving will be an extra thankful one this year.  Please give my fond hello to any an all who may remember me. Mine will be a special Thanksgiving, too, this year, as I will be the first I will have been able to spend with my family since 1970.  I am resettled back in Pennsylvania in the home town area where I grew up.  It is quite cold today because the cold has been reinforced by a strong wind yesterday and today.  I stopped in at a Mexican restaurant and had supper a couple of hours ago.  The enchiladas warmed my innards. The blue heron photos are fine, and in a minute I will forward them to my soul-sister, RoseMary, who lives in Seattle.  She has become a real fan of yours. I wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving. Maggie 

    • Yes, I did feel exactly that..as if born again….hearing as if for the first time. Though I remembered many things, I also forgot many things too which came to my attention. LOL!!

      I am so happy to hear how happy you are to be back home where you grew up….since 1970 on Thanksgiving with family is indeed a long time!! Wonderful!! Tell RoseMary that I love having a fan!! I have only visited Seattle on two or three occasions and think it is a beautiful part of the world too.

      I will most assuredly pass along your greetings as you are surely a remembered special person. Oh, you know I posted that poem by Hopkins, God’s Grandeur, you pointed out to me one time, on my refrigerator. I really love that….guess I especially like the,…flame out, like shining from shook foil….some how the language reminds me of my grandfather.

      Happy Thanksgiving!!

  2. What a wonderful outcome you have to be thankful for this year! I live very close to Wakodahatchee and am so delighted to that your recent trip was so positive. Your photos of the Great Blue Herons are fabulous! Continued good wishes as you enjoy all the newly re-discovered sounds in the world around you.

    • Oh thank you, it indeed was. However, I did wonder what anyone actually looking at me might think as I responded to identify each sound and its directionality. Perhaps that I had just dropped in from another planet!! Did you happen to see my earlier post Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Spring which I wrote because I was so enthralled after my first visit or two. I did a lot of research I was so curious on how it came to be. Being another Wakodahatchian, you might like it, though a bit wordy. 🙂

      Maybe we can bump into each other out there sometime this season!!??

      • It would be great to catch up with you in person at Wako one day! I looked back at your springtime posts, and must get back to look at and read each one more carefully– they’re wonderful! I was away from WordPress for several months – guess I just missed them, and missed that you were a Wakodahatchee fan 😉

      • Oh that is great actually. It feels like Facebook sometimes in that if you post something and blink, its 200 messages down the road already and forgotten. LOL!! In fact on Saturday there was man there I remember asking questions early on about a Great Blue Heron with an injured neck. Being so new I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. He’d been going there 10 years and that was years ago now. So I was able to go up to him and say something for the first time in forever.

      • What a wonderful feeling that must be for you!! I’ve known other adults who have gotten cochlear implants, and they were very positive about their experiences.

      • That is true. I never did find anyone who wasn’t happy with what they chose.

  3. Congratulations Judy on regaining your hearing. Yours is really a great story about these cochlear implants, and the sound of birds is indeed the best reward for having them in your ears.

    • That is true…with birds you want to put them on….with husbands….uhhh maybe unplug for awhile!! Don’t tell him I said that!! 🙂

  4. 😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀😀Very Cool!


  5. Thanks for sharing this wonderful news, Judy. I’m so happy to know the surgery was a success…this is so great! Wishing you and yours a lovely Thanksgiving. As always, your photos are stunning!

  6. I read your account with a big smile on my face and in utter delight. I’m so pleased for you. As for these photos . . . . well, you don’t need me to say it, but I shall anyway. Fantastic.

  7. Is “ditto Crispina’s comment” an acceptable comment? 🙂

  8. I’m very glad about your news Judy, I had some hearing loss when I was a child so I’m always grateful for my hearing.

    • I am sorry you had to deal with it in childhood!! But, I think in general we do take our senses for granted, until there is a loss. I figure I am closing in on bionic between my Interocular lenses replaced the cataract ones, and the Cochlear implant. Probably sight and hearing are most commonly dimmed with aging. What a gift to give that back.

  9. I don’t know where to start — there are so many fantastic aspects to this post. Even though I knew that you were happy with the results of the surgery, and happy with your new hearing, all of the details are just wonderful to read about: not only the technical details of the device, but also the obvious excitement over your ability to hear conversations, the birds, and so on.

    I understand some of that excitement because of my own experience with my cataract surgery and the new lenses I got. Being able to reverse the aging process rocks!

    And your photos here are just glorious. I’d love to be able to take a photo like that some day — if I put as much work into my photography as you have, I’d have a better shot at it! 🙂

    I hope your Thanksgiving day is going swimmingly. It’s so nice to think of you being able to participate fully in the fun — aren’t you glad you were so brave? xoxox

    • Oh, what a wonderful note you have left me!! Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful as well!! As for me, I did hear most everything. Little trouble with people further away, but all my face to face conversations were A-OK!! Would not have had any of that last year or last month!! It was great, I felt more connected to everyone than I have in a long time. And, also having shared the cataract surgery experience with you, I agree that reversing aging rocks!! Just think, probably the two key senses which dim with age….eyesight and hearing…can be restored to such a large degree…at least in the more commonly reasons for the decline. Truly a wonderful aspect of modern medicine!!

      I appreciate the comments on the heron images too. I have felt a bit guilty the last two seasons having ignored the Great Blue Herons for the Woodstorks which started nesting in the same areas. This time the Great Blue Herons in all their majesty were the order of the day!!

      Your images are beautiful and you do have such an eye for composition. You have the art, the enthusiasm, and ultimately I am gonna tell you what lens to buy!!!

  10. Hi Judy – While I was offline for three months for technical reasons, you were doing the most important thing for yourself. It was thrilling to find this post of yours, where you wrote “And, so….Saturday…I heard the birds and everything. It was like Christmas and I kept looking around to see where sounds were coming from. I remembered what I had forgotten. Could hear the cormorants and the krack of the big herons and the racket the grackles make. And, I could talk to the other photographers around.” That brought tears of joy for you. Just imagine hearing the chicks once again in the spring! I am very happy for you. Best, Babsje

    • OH, thanks for the lovely note!! So many things can change when someone is away from wherever they are for a time. I remember being away from the rookery for a time and when I returned the wood storks had taken over. Dramatically!! Whoa!!

      I surely wish you a Merry Christmas and lots of new herons to see. I look forward to more frequent outings to watch the birds this year too.

      Best to you,

  11. I love your Blue Heron pics and that you are now able to hear the baby chics and birds again!

  12. Hi,
    I am thinking about getting cochlear implants this year and I’m hoping to save some of my hearing as my low pitch hearing isn’t to bad tho its getting worse. I haven’t heard birds or things like that since I was 4 (14 years ago). This is such an amazing post and I loved the photos they are beautiful!!

    • HI I apologize that I didn’t acknowledge your comment already. I know from visiting your site that you are healing from your surgery and are anxious for activation in a few weeks. I really look forward to hearing how it goes. It will be good!! 🙂

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