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Coming to My Senses

One Woman's Cochlear Implant Journey

Claire H. Blatchford

Publication Year: 2014

Deafened at the age of six, Claire Blatchford was educated orally with speech lessons, speechreading, and hearing aids. Though successful both professionally and domestically, at the age of 67 Blatchford decided to undergo a cochlear implantation. In this memoir, she describes in prose and verse living with a cochlear implant for the past three years. At first, Blatchford feared losing the last of her hearing through the surgical process. Her audiologist explained that her hearing was worsening and that soon she would move from profound deafness into a state called “cosmic deafness.” Blatchford decided upon the surgery in hope of meeting her hearing family on their turf, and of again hearing the wind, rain, rivers, and crickets. After being implanted, however, she realized that amplification and comprehension were two different things: at first all she heard was a soup of sound, a condition known as being brain deaf. Blatchford soon learned, however, that regaining her hearing was a journey of discovery. Gradually, the sound soup gave way to the ability to hear some sentences without speechreading. The sound of her own voice surprised her, and she could hear her grandchildren speak. The thrill of new things heard on one car trip to a friend’s house moved her to “try my first yodel as I pass by your house.” When asked by others if they should receive an implant, she cautions that it is an individual decision that each deaf person must make. For her, it was the right decision.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xi

Ten days after turning six, I became profoundly deaf in both ears overnight from the mumps. Imagine your hearing being switched off with one quick flick of fate. There was no hearing aid powerful enough for my use in the early 1950s, but...

The Inner Debate

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pp. 1-8

Moment of Decision

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pp. 9-16

Surgery and a Few Days After

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pp. 17-22

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Activation and Shortly After

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pp. 23-31

Had I gotten my cochlear implant twenty years ago, I likely would have had to wait a month before it was turned on, or “activated,” as they call it. Much more time was given then to the healing of the head wound. My wait in January...

First Mapping

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pp. 32-40

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Baby Steps: Early Discoveriesand Observations

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pp. 41-54

In the beginning the most striking, startling, part of using the implant came during the first few seconds, when the inner and outer magnets snapped together connecting my brain with the outer world of sound. Though I’m much less...

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From Baby Steps to Toddler Steps:Explorations in Listening

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pp. 55-63

The next notable aspect of using the implant became clear to me not suddenly, as when the magnets clicked together, but over time. It had to do with my ability—or my inability—to pay attention. What I have to say may sound...

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My Own Voice

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pp. 64-76

And then I heard my own voice! Before describing this meeting, I want to give you some background and share with you the third lesson deafness taught me when I was a child...

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More about Bluffing

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pp. 77-85

Three years after my meltdown at age twelve described in the last chapter, a new headmistress was hired at my school. Miss McBee was a tall, thin spinster with short straight brown hair, piercing black eyes, dark-rimmed glasses...

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pp. 86-103

As I said in my introduction, it was children—deaf children—who showed me how the cochlear implant can change the deaf experience. It took me awhile, though, to recognize the magnitude of this change the cochlear implant...

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pp. 104-109

When I first thought about the things I hoped to hear well, or better, with the cochlear implant, “everyday conversation” was at the top of my list. Then “children.” Then came “birds.” So now I’ll tell you about the joy and the...

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pp. 110-119

I had expected to like bird voices and was surprised to discover they could irritate me. Meanwhile, family, friends, and total strangers expected, and still expect, me to be thrilled to hear music and are surprised when I tell them I don’t hear...

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More to Ponder

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pp. 120-131

My experiences with birds and with music got me thinking about quite a few other things, and other sounds as well, as you will see in the poems to come. I’ve always found the philosophical question “If a tree falls in...

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Bigger Steps Yet

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pp. 132-136

As I trust I have made clear by now, from age six on, learning how to understand what people were saying was hard work. I had to pick up face reading and speechreading quickly, figure out the best circumstances for doing that, from...

To Sum Things Up

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pp. 137-144


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pp. 145-146


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pp. 147-154

Further Reading

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pp. 155-156

E-ISBN-13: 9781563686160
E-ISBN-10: 1563686163
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563686153
Print-ISBN-10: 1563686155

Page Count: 136
Illustrations: photographs
Publication Year: 2014