Last night we went to a party. A friend of ours graduated from nursing school.

For the first time in more than 20 years, I felt completely comfortable at a party. I could hear conversations. I could choose what conversation to participate in based on the topic, rather than on what I could manage to strain and catch snippets of – or not, at the case often was. I could actually hear everything that was said, rather than trying to interpolate from context. It was a truly amazing experience.

I have a large number of learned behaviors stemming from being deaf on one side – everything from positioning myself so that my cone of hearing encompasses the conversation I want to hear, to fading into the background when it’s just too frustrating to try to pick out what’s being said.

For the last week, I have very intentionally sat in places where people are on my left. Turns out my cyborg ear is actually significantly better than my “good” ear, with this new device, and I have even had to turn it off in order to focus on what’s happening on my right side. Bizarre.

I keep wondering what this new hearing is going to do to my habits – how quickly I can overcome 25 years of conditioning, or if it can be overcome. I’ve hated social situations for years – not so much because I’m not a social creature, but because of how embarrassing it is to be unable to hear, to have to ask for things to be repeated again and again, to feel like I’m missing at least half of the conversation.

I wonder how much of it is habit now, and how much of it is just a reaction to the situation as it happens. Last night, I was able to carry on conversations, but I was acutely aware the whole time of how amazing it was to be able to hear. I wonder if when the novelty wears off, I’ll be able to just participate normally, and not revert to my habits.

Time will tell.