Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 1: Activation!

Let's just get the obvious joke out of the way first.

I was turned on yesterday, and I was so happy to have my wife there with me. Ba-dum-bang!

Ok, moving forward.

So yes, I received my Advanced Bionics processor (aka the CI), had it programmed and activated for use. When the audiologist first turned it on, I really didn't hear anything. I just felt it. There was a pulsating, throbbing feeling in my head - not like a headache, but like the feeling of being at a rock concert without actually hearing the music. I was feeling the sound, but not quite hearing it.

After a few tweaks, I was beginning to pick up beeps and whistles. Every time there was a high pitch, there would be a slight whistle. I knew the device was working - I was hearing all sorts of beeps and whistles when sounds were made. Every beep reflected the pitch and frequency of the sound being made. My audiologist did not adjust any further -- he wanted me to get used to the different levels of sound before increasing the frequency level. So I cannot hear words or music or even distinguish what sounds I'm hearing with the CI just yet.

This is all completely normal. Some people skip the beep and whistle phase and start hearing human voices, words, and clear sounds right away. Of course, I'm not some people. This is me, and this is where I'm at. I have a long journey ahead of me, but who's to tell how long it will take? Think of it as a recovery period -- some people take days to recover from an illness, some take weeks or months. This is my baseline and I will need to work my way upwards. My brain will need to get used to picking up all of these sounds. I will need to focus on what I'm hearing, to understand why things sound in certain ways, as incomprehensible as most of it may be. For instance, if I had my CI on by itself (without using my hearing aid in the other ear), walking in Times Square will sound no different to me than sitting in my office with the fan on. All I'd hear is a constant hum or buzz, a steady stream of noise.

Same thing in a conversation. I can't tell the difference from one word to another, but I can pick up the fact that some words have higher pitches than others. That is the key. The CI is so sophisticated that it picks up even the slightest pitch. My hearing aid never did that.

My bus ride home last night was a great experiment. I turned off the hearing aid and used my CI only. It was a steady hum for a while until I was hearing beeps and whistles. I can tell someone was talking because I would get beeps when a voice would reach a higher pitch. It sounded like the voice was right next to me, but when I turned my hearing aid on, I was able to determine that two people were carrying a conversation in the row behind me. I was impressed that I was able to pick up those sounds, despite not picking up any of the dialogue. Not to worry, words come later.

Also, I was hearing a strange tick-tick-tick sound. Not a beep, not a whistle, but three successive ticks. Then again, 3 more ticks. It sounded so familiar to me. I turned on my hearing aid, and there it was. The sound was coming from the bus driver. He uses a hole puncher to punch three holes on the bus tickets. Tick-tick-tick. He does this every night, so I am familiar with that sound. Last night, I was sitting three rows behind the driver. I would have heard it with my hearing aid, but to hear it with my CI was pleasing to me. I knew it was doing what it was supposed to. It had a crisp, clear sound to it, and that really impressed me.  It sounds exactly like it was supposed to -- tick-tick-tick -- and this tells me that all other sounds will soon sound normal as well.

The crinkling of the magazine pages, the clacking of the keyboard -- all of these sounds are crisp and clear and distinct. Not a bad start. I had the CI for 24 hours, and I am making progress. I'm going back to the audiologist tomorrow to make additional adjustments and we'll see where it takes me. I cannot even predict what kind of "new" sounds I'll be picking up. Part of the fun lies in not knowing what's ahead!


Anonymous said...

Don't forget to add that the audiologist said that you were doing GREAT with it all. You're so modest, of course you don't add that. He said that you were doing really well compared to other patients! It's a process, but it's an exciting process!

Dave said...

Me, modest? Where do you get that from? :-)