It’s been nine days now since my cochlear implant surgery and I have to say things haven’t been quite as I expected. As I mentioned in my blog about that day, Cochlear implant surgery: kindness, efficiency and a bit of a fright, there were some key things to check off a list of possible unwanted effects of surgery: facial nerve damage, taste disturbance, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus. No to all of that – phew! `As I walked out of the hospital a few hours later, I was aware I was slightly unsteady, but this was barely worth noting so soon after the operation. The rest of the evening disappeared in a blur of relief at being home and drinking as much tea as I could (which is a lot). 

But how about the next week? I’ve had some surprises. And are we doing the right things to aid my recovery? I consulted an Edwardian domestic manual to find out…


Quiet time? Not really!

I feel a bit of a fraud! I was preparing for a really quiet time until my implant is switched on. But I’m using my aid in the non-implanted, better, ear. So it’s really not too bad, at least in my current circumstance of just listening to people at home. I use subtitles with tv anyway and don’t mind whether or not I can hear it.

I did experience a bit of tinnitus, which I don’t normally have. The surgeon had explained that most people who get this in the post-op period find it stops when the implant is switched on, so that was reassuring. As it was, it was intermittent and lasted only the first day or so.

Recovering from an operation is not like being on holiday!

In my defence, this was my first ever operation. Maybe the suggested two weeks sick leave period should have been a clue. But I was focusing on the pile of books awaiting my convalescence; that knitting project, and generally the nice time I was going to have. I hadn’t reckoned on feeling quite so rubbish for the best part of a week. The brain fog was the worst, which was possibly linked to the next surprise…

Being off balance

Maybe that foggy feeling had everything to do with the anaesthetic and nothing to do with being unsteady, but between them they made me feel Not Myself. For a few days I was aware of not walking in a straight line and putting my hands out to walls and furniture to steady myself. 

Normally I am more of a mountain goat when it comes to balance. I think back to one of the first times I went anywhere with a colleague-with-romantic-potential (I know, I know…so risky!). A woodland walk, with a fallen tree trunk to walk across (no idea why!). He gallantly offered his hand to help steady me, but I did my mountain goat thing instead and bounded across (unromantic show-off or just independent…?!). As he followed me across, I was surprised to see how hard it was for him to walk on it. Reader, I married him. Years later, Tim developed ear-related balance problems, and my brief post-op experience has given me a bit more understanding of what moving about is like for him.

Head injury

Why am I surprised that my head is sore? Ridiculous really. There’s a fine line between positivity and idiocy. Tim pointed out that I am recovering from a head injury, albeit a planned and meticulously executed one. Having watched a short clip of part of a cochlear implant operation, which I was too scared to do beforehand, I have a bit more understanding of why half my head is still bruised and tender. It’s definitely improving, albeit slowly. I can now lie on that side and I have tentatively run my fingers over the new contours of my head where the internal magnet and receiver/stimulator are sitting under my skin. Being able to wash my hair, advised against and anyway unthinkable for a week, has made me feel like a new woman. Thankfully the wound was closed with dissolvable sutures, so there’s nothing to be removed.

Convalescence – according to the Edwardians, and me

I have a great fondness for the domestic manuals written to guide previous generations in running their households, and couldn’t resist turning to one of these, to check if we’re getting the business of convalescence right in my household. The Woman’s Book – Containing Everything A Woman Ought To Know (London, 1911) has plenty to say on the subject, including the following:

Convalescence is often the most trying time for both patient and nurse.

Definitely not a holiday then. Not that holidays were much of a thing for the average Edwardian anyway. Nor paid sick leave, come to think of it.

Do not think that when the worst is over there is no further danger… The invalid’s low condition makes him an easy victim to disease germs, which, like mean cowardly people, are always waiting to attack the weak.

Sly bit of moralising there. But we’ve got the germs thing down. Next?

It may be necessary to take great pains to tempt his appetite.

I have taken this as permission to eat the things I most fancy, essentially all the fruit I can lay hands on (thank you kind friends for gifts of rhubarb, plums and chocolate – well some of the chocs had fruit in them, sort of). Also the antibiotics which I was sent home with had a dreadful taste, so each time I swallowed one I made sure I gave thanks for these marvellous medicines and followed it with a ginger nut chaser.

On first getting up he should not be dressed, as he will be very weak and inclined to faint, but put on a warm dressing gown and a pair of socks and wrap him well round in a blanket.

Well that’s just a continuation of the pandemic ‘new normal’ working-from-home dress code, right? 

He should always be in a well-ventilated room…

Ah yes, well we’ve finally come back round to this, 110 years on.

Try to keep your patient cheerful and free from worry…

This translates here to limit time spent on social media, avoid doomscrolling, and make sure there is always a cat to hand.

… this is not always easy, as he frequently may be inclined to become irritable and very exacting.

Rubbish! Stop that at once and get me some more fruit! 

He should only be allowed to resume his ordinary duties gradually.

Yes, but it’s bin day, so…

A change of air, to the sea or country, is needed.

Oh I long for the sea, but that must wait. I am, however, enjoying the restorative benefits of walking each day, lucky to have fields a few minutes’ walk away where I can pick blackberries from the hedgerows and watch the red kites. 

What next?

The final surprise is that I’ve had my appointments schedule for the next year, in-person tuning appointments and auditory training sessions by video link, and it looks different from what I was expecting – fewer sessions, and longer until the implant is switched on. My ‘switch on day’ is to be Monday 4th October, a month after surgery – which it seems is a very usual period of time, so perhaps I misheard what I was told verbally. Anyway, now I know and can make plans, including for that recommended ‘change of air’. Have implant, will travel! Next week will see me return to work. But, meanwhile, I have a bit longer with my feet up in my cosy socks, and I might even finish the knitting.