The Hearing Journey website, a place where CI recipients can talk, share their experiences and practice hearing in the "listening room," has a Thumbprints Placement Test that I have been giving myself every other month to mark my progress. A word is spoken and I have to choose which of the 4 words displayed is the word that is said.
Example. For one question, the choices are: pat, pass, right and rice. One of those words is spoken aloud and I have to determine what it is. The goal is to distinguish vowel sounds (a vs i), as well as front consonants (soft R vs hard P) and final consonants (hard T vs soft S). There are 50 words in all.
These are my scores:
Oct 19 = 58%
Dec 1 = 66%
Feb 17 = 74%
That's what I call progress! It's slow-going but there is a steady improvement in how I'm distinguishing those sounds. For a while, I could not distinguish between sss and shhh (sew vs show) but I seem to picking it up more these days. My latest mapping (this past Friday) brought up some of the higher frequencies, which is key to understanding pivotal speech sounds. There are still more adjustments to be made, but I think my brain is beginning to become aware of how to listen to speech. Front consonant, final consonant and vowels.
Vowels are the hardest and most complex. You may think there's only a, e, i, o, and u, but there's so much more than just the letters in the alphabet. Look at these 15 words, for example.
meet, mitt, met, mat, cup, cop, boo, book, bought, name, mine, go, use, house, boy
Each of these words sound different. Cup and book, for me, sound very very similar. Mitt and met sound similar as well. When spoken singularly, without the aid of lipreading or context, it's like flipping a coin. I could not tell one from the other. But context is everything. When spoken in a sentence, it makes all of the difference in the world ("I need to return the x to the library".... it sounded like it could be cup, but listening to the entire sentence, I'm going assume the word is book. This is where college education comes in, folks.)
A lot of my conversations are based on assumptions of what the talker is saying. If I can't read lips or get a sense of body language or understand the topic of conversation, I have a lot of blanks to fill in. If I can pick up most of the sentence, chances are I can make sense of the entire sentence.
Before captions came along, I used to watch a lot of movies and TV shows simply by filling in the blanks. You don't know how many times I would talk to someone about the movie and discuss details that never really existed. I would make up my own damn movie. This is why I always dreaded seeing mysteries; I would make up my own clues and then when it ended with the big reveal, I'd be completely lost. It happened with The Sixth Sense, which I saw in the theaters by myself on day it came out. No one knew anything about it. I did not realize that Bruce Willis was dead during the entire length of the film until a week after I saw it. I still loved the movie anyway because, dammit, I had my own ending and it was just as good as theirs.