Wrestling with the decisions and emotional turmoil that comes with infertility apparently isn’t enough stress for this year. I had yet another doctor’s visit, this time the annual hearing check-up with my ENT. My latest MRI has no hint of an acoustic neuroma, and I’m praising God for that bit of good news; it was a real fear, given the recurring vertigo, which could be a symptom of either a tumor or vestibular migraines. Migraines will be much easier to treat and control, although treatment options depend on fertility decisions, since many migraine medications have a high pregnancy risk factor.
But then my wonderful ENT revived his plea for me to start the process of getting a cochlear implant – in my left ear.
You’d think I would eager to accept any treatment that would offer any hope of better hearing. Surely better hearing could only help with the feelings of invisibility and isolation! The entire issue, however, is decidedly more complicated than that. My hearing history is almost totally unique; I have congenital deafness in my left ear but had awesome hearing in my right ear until I was 23. Part of my ENT’s interest in doing implant is academic: he’s curious how my brain, which is “optimized” to interpret sound because I could hear well into adulthood, would cope with an implant; he’s also curious how a conginitally deaf ear would respond to an implant. Of course hes also concerned with maximizing my hearing in case anything else happens to my hearing in my right ear. (Any more hearing loss would render a hearing aid completely ineffective.)
The decision itself is not that easy. First, of course, is the consideration of fertility: if we want to get pregnant now, obviously I can’t immediately have surgery that drills into my skull. If I get the implant first, how long will that delay fertility and pregnancy?
Second, do I want another water-sensitive, delicate, external processor for sound? Do I want to wear something attached to my skull with a magnet? It’s a purely cosmetic concern, but it’s still something to consider. What do I want my hearing life to be like?
Third, and hardest to explain to anyone, is that I am TERRIFIED of the very thought of hearing on my left side. Psychologically, how would I even begin to cope with that? My left side is my blind side; I concentrate all my attention on hearing what’s happening on my good side. How on earth would I be able to process information from BOTH sides? How would I deal with suddenly have people walking, sitting, talking, even just standing, on my deaf side? It’s such a bizarre concept: it’s like if someone offered to give me a third eye. What would I do with it? Do I really need it? Wouldn’t it provide too much sensory information to process? How much added stress would it bring to my life? How on earth would I deal with TWO ears? How would affect my identity, my sense of myself?
It is another Big Decision to face, another decision that affects the whole chain of decision-making, a decision that will influence the course of our lives for years to come. And I don’t where to start in resolving the question.