Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shh Up!

I'm posting far less than I was at the beginning, and that's because...well...there really isn't much to report. I have definitely peaked as far as volume is concerned. Most sounds are coming in loud and clear from an ear that never really heard all that well to begin with. That's all peachy, but some of these sounds are so different from the other ear. It makes localization very, very difficult (i.e. where was that coming from? Who said that?).

It's also disorienting to hear what is essentially two different takes of the same thing. I need to work on lowering or turning off the HA and leaning on the CI more, rather than having them both at equal levels. It's a constant daily assault in conflicting sounds. A duck may sound like a "quack" with my HA, but it'll sound like "quick" to my CI. Hearing both "quick" and "quack" at the same time at equal volume makes me want to strangle the damn thing. :-) Anyway, the reason I'm not turning off the HA in everyday situations is because voices are still very mushy to me. If I turned off my HA and functioned on my CI only, I cannot carry a conversation with someone unless I'm looking directly at them. So I kind of feel like I need to get the voices cleared up first. Once I can close my eyes and carry a conversation with someone with my CI alone, then I'll be much more comfortable at adapting to the environmental sounds and eventually getting my CI and HA working together.

Understanding voices is a huge hurdle. My speech therapist told me this week that my last mapping made my speech comprehension even worse than it was 2 weeks ago. See, during my last mapping, the audi lowered the high frequencies and raised the low frequencies for better balance of sound. I had complained that certain noises were too loud, drowning out more essential sounds, such as the TV or a person's voice. After he made this adjustment, I instantly noticed that sounds were coming in at a more equalized frequency. One sound didn't overpower another. I was confident that this was what I needed. Of course, little did I know that this messes up my ability to comprehend speech patterns. For instance, I can't detect the difference between shhh and ssss (like shed and said). This drop in high frequency is making me miss out on certain pronunciations and patterns. So not only do voices still sound mechanical and muffled to me, but some words just don't make sense whatsoever.

My next mapping on the 13th. I will be armed with knowledge about speech recognition for this visit, and have my audi adjust my settings so that I can find that elusive balance of speech recongition and comfortable sound levels.

So until then...there isn't much else to do but continue leaning on that CI as much as I comfortably can. Just, well, don't talk to me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Powering up

After a rather uneventful end to October and start of November, I had my one-month mapping session this week and received a much-needed kick in the pants. I had a lot of trouble dealing with volume in the past (the highs were too high, the lows too low), and couldn't quite find a happy middle. Well, all of the levels were re-adjusted yesterday and evened out. Then the overall volume level was kicked up a few notches, while the IDR was boosted to 70 db (as opposed to 60). The world of sound has increased dramatically, and I think it's an important step in my ongoing journey to better hearing.

In order for me to comprehend and understand sounds and speech, I need to hear it, don't I? Well, now I can hear it. Though they still sound mushy and computerized, I can definitely hear voices. Down the hall, in the TV, a few rows back on the bus, etc. I can also hear the hum of my computer at work, sneezes from coworkers down the hall (though sometimes I can't tell if it's a sneeze or a cough. In which case, I don't say "bless you" in fear that it was a cough. Is that rude? Discuss.), the keys jangling in my pocket, my wife tapping on the keyboard of the Mac 10 feet away from me as I watch TV, all that fun stuff. I'm picking up sounds I would never have heard in that ear on its own. That's power, that's how strong these CI's are. Much stronger than the hearing aid ever will be.

Now it's up my brain to pick up the slack. It's time to interpret these sounds, make sense of them, comprehend what the sounds are and what's being said. I'm feeling more comfortable lowering the volume of my hearing aid and letting my CI do some heavy lifting. I need to start leaning on that CI and not be so dependent on the hearing aid. That's a tough thing to do because I hate asking people to repeat things, I hate not knowing what certain sounds are around me.

It's almost like I'm doing those trust exercises where I fall backwards and hope someone catches me. Turning off the hearing aid is like closing my eyes. I'll be saying "What?" a lot, and I'll be doing a lot of double-takes and second-guessing (wait, was that a sneeze or cough? or neither? uh, what's that smell?), more than my daily quota. I need to trust the CI, and someday, sometime, the sounds coming to me will be as clear as daylight.

So do me a favor. If you fart, and I say "Bless you," just say "Thank you," and walk away. I'll figure it out in a few minutes anyway.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Blast off!

Just learned a little something today about hearing loss. Those with CIs are not prone to (further) damage due to loudness! You know how advocates are saying that constant exposure to loud sounds - whether from blasting music, elevated street noise, and the like - is a very serious cause of hearing loss. Well, this excessive noise causes damage to the hair cells in your cochlea, which down the road may prevent sound from transmitting to your brain.

We bionic folks are immune to this because our hair cells aren't used to transmit sounds to our brain. We have electrodes! Fancy schmancy!

So it's nice to know we can blast away and not have to worry about destroying our ears in the process. Does this make us superhuman? Well, not quite. We are not immune to headaches.

So somebody please, for the love of all things holy, turn that $&@%#ing thing down?!!!

Laying down the tracks

Now this is where things get tricky.

You know it's time for a new mapping when you are kind of stuck in hearing limboland. This is neither a good thing nor bad, but it is frustrating when you are an impatient person. Though I do consider myself patient, I should note that I am also greedy.

I want more, dammit! But whenever, no rush. :-)

Here's the issue. I'm at a point where I can pick up a lot of sounds at a comfortable level, mostly environmental. You know, the door closing, keyboard clacking, car turn signal, brakes squealing on the bus. But some sounds are too soft to register or make out. Voices are the hardest, while music and tv are wildly mixed. If I turn up my volume so I can hear the voices better, the other sounds get too loud. I'm stuck in a position where I'm ready to hear more, but my current volume control is too sensitive. Too loud when I turn it up, too soft when I turn it down. The middle ground is just not working.

Think of a music editor in the sound room, laying down several tracks of a song one at a time. Each track consists of a single instrument or vocal. I got drums down right off the bat. After the next mapping and some time lapse, I was able to pick up the piano, maybe trumpet or sax, and some higher-pitched vocals. Then, after more time and mapping, I was able to hear the guitar strings and more of the softer vocals. I'm still missing some key instruments and vocals to pick up the full song. It doesn't sound complete. After the next mapping and additional time lapse, I'll be able to lay down more tracks.

I was supposed to go today for my one month mapping (one month! Yeesh!), but it was pushed back to next Wednesday. Meanwhile, I have auditiory rehab on Monday (and at my current settings, I don't imagine it will be fun!), and am working on nursing myself to better health. Since my surgery 2 months ago, I've been hit with a series of colds and stomach bouts, struggling to keep my energy up and just feeling good again. Gotta build up that immunity! Time to get back to the gym and start eating better.

First order of business....birthday cake, and lots of it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


"Hello. My name is Dave and I am ... bionic."

The group shouts in unison. "Hi Dave!"

Ok, maybe that's not what really happened at "rehab," but dammit, it should have! I wanted the donuts and bad coffee and anonymous strangers congratulating me on my 3 weeks of new hearing. Unfortunately, if I want *that* kind of a rehab session, I'll have to start drinking or taking illegal substances.  Oh well...there's always next year.

So, I met with a speech therapist today for an initial auditory rehab meeting. She just basically assessed my speech hearing, more or less. She didn't care about music or sounds or noises -- she wanted to know how well I can comprehend speech with my new CI. And I knew from the get-go that speech was going to be a really big challenge.  Voices sound terrible to me -- an annoying garbled, underwater sound comes out of everyone's mouths when they speak. Volume is increasing, but clarity is still questionable. But I can pick up syllables, beats and pitches, and that's why the therapist thinks I'm on the right track. The clarity of voices will come naturally over time.

She said I scored about 50% on some unofficial assessment tests she gave me. Not bad at all after 3 weeks of activation. She was impressed, but noted that more work needs to be done. My brain is doing what it's supposed to do, it is still adjusting to the new sounds coming in. But I have to keep at it!

I will meet with her 4 times in the next two months for some rehabbing and further assessments. I'm doing my own rehabbing as well, from the AB's Listening Room exercises.

No wonder I've been skipping the gym lately. Though I'm hardly lifting a finger here, these auditory work outs are exhausting enough!