I’ve been driving cars for ten years now. I got my learner’s license after passing the test the second time around, and my car license shortly after.
My parents really spoiled me; they almost instantly bought me my first car to celebrate getting my license. It was pure bliss having the freedom to go wherever I wanted to. My car was a small second-hand white little thing – a Daihatsu Charade. It had no air conditioner and no central locking. It was a very basic thing, easy to drive around town but not from town to town.
I always prided myself in never having had a car accident before. I had also never bumped or scratched a car either.
I read once that people who are deaf or have profound hearing loss are better drivers.
Because nothing will distract them, ever.
Makes sense, right?
From the ages of 19 till 23, I only had 40% hearing when I wore both my Widex hearing aids.
In 2013 I had my first cochlear implant, and two years later I did my other ear as well.
It eventually brought my hearing up to 80%, double what I had always heard my whole life.
So of course, the quality of my life doubled as well.
Before the operations, I could always see or ‘hear’ what was going on in front of me, but I couldn’t ‘hear’ what was going on around me. For the first time ever I could hear the birds tweeting outside to the dogs barking in the far distance (which is not always a good thing), to name a few.
I could also understand music so much better. Before the implants, music was mostly just noise. I was only able to hear 4 frequencies, but now I can hear up to 22 frequencies with my cochlear implants. Music is so much deeper and richer now. The world is much more colourful and interesting.
And so much more.
The one thing that really changed in my life was driving in the car. When there were conversations going on in the car, I couldn’t follow what was going on. The people sitting in the front would have their backs at me, and it was hard to lip-read and see the ones sitting next to me.
Car conversations were always a no-no for me.
Even when I would drive myself, I had to focus on the road and not turn around to read people’s lips. After getting the implants, I could follow conversations for the first time, even when I’m the one driving!
My parents also upgraded my car to a Daihatsu Terios about five years after we sold my Charade (more on that later).
So now I had air conditioning, central lock, and a wonderful sound system…
Which brings me to today.
Oh man, today.
I’ve always driven with such confidence, fully believing that I am a better driver than most. Mainly because of my ‘hearing loss’ and also because I have never had an accident before.
Boy, I was to be proven wrong for the first time ever.
There’s always a first time for everything.
Why do there need to be a first time for some things?!
This morning I had a meeting with two empowering women; they will arrange the next Start Up Grind with Google, set to take place in Bloemfontein later this month (I’ll be the guest speaker – more info on that coming soon).
After I left the meeting and the @59 Plenty coffee shop, I put on some music and blasted it full on.
Like I’ve always done since I’ve had my cochlear implants.
I arrived home safely and pressed the button for the electric door of the garage to open up so I could park my car.
I noticed that Busy Brooms – a maid service that cleans our house twice a month – had parked in the driveway next to our garage.
Johan – my 4-year-old nephew – came out of the house to greet me.
I rolled down my window and said hello to him.
Amidst all this distraction, the garage’s door rolled open and I could finally park my car inside.
Then I heard it.
My nephew heard it.
My mom heard it.
She came running out.
For a moment it didn’t register with me, this loud sound I had heard.
Then it hit me: I had scratched the side of my car against the side of the garage entryway!
Immediately, I stopped the car. I got out and surveyed the damage.
There it was: Clear as daylight, I had scratched the left side of my car.
The silver painting of my precious Terios was scratched off. Now, instead, there was white paint from the garage wall.
Such an unnecessary thing to have happened.
I guess it’s safe to make the following statement:
I’m no longer in the class of people with deafness or profound hearing loss.
Everything that would’ve happened to a person with hearing, happened to me this morning.
What an honour.