Friday I’m in Love
…with my CI’s!
Starting back at the beginning…when Dave, Paige and I first got to the mapping room, my audiologist, Krystine, explained that she would set the volume thresholds on each CI individually. Then both of them would be turned on and we’d make sure the volume levels were compatible, stuff like that.
I was so excited as she opened the package and put my CI together! The processor and headpiece were each in their own individual box. The battery was in a plastic package; I guess it had enough power to last for a couple of hours but it wasn’t fully charged. We started with a SlimCel battery, which is smaller and doesn’t last as long, but is lighter on the ear than the Plus size. The T-Mic earhook was the last component, and that was also in a plastic bag.
She put the assembled processor on my ear, and it was very similar to a hearing aid except there was nothing inside my ear. The T-Mic curved around and down into my ear canal but I don’t feel it at all. I’ve really gotten used to having my ears open to the air the past couple of months…I don’t miss earmolds at all!
The processor on my ear was connected to her computer with a cable. Then she lifted my hair and started moving the headpiece around, trying to find the internal magnet it was supposed to connect to. There was nothing, I mean not even a slight connection. So she sat down and tried to remove the battery; the tool she was using wouldn’t work so she had to leave the room and look for another one. We waited about 10 or 15 minutes before she came back.
It was getting a little nerve-wracking, being so close and yet so far! While she was gone, Paige told me that her video camera didn’t have any power and there was no outlet to plug the cord in. Dave forgot the digital camera at home so there are no pictures or video of activation day. On the bright side, it was kind of a weird activation and probably wouldn’t have been fun to watch because it was so “start and stop” so I’m not even disappointed that we didn’t get video.
When Krystine came back in, she got the magnet out and then checked the marked drawers for a stronger magnet. Empty. She started checking other drawers, then desk drawers, everywhere…no magnets to be found. A lot of time had passed by now, nearly 35 or more minutes, and we still had not even started my mapping. Finally she gave up and said we would just have to hold it in place. She was able to do something with the computer that showed her when the headpiece was near the internal magnet. Then Dave came over, stood behind me and held the headpiece exactly in that position…what a fun job! His arm was pretty tired by the time we finished.
The next step was for me to listen to the tones and tell Krystine when the sound was “loud, but comfortable”. I was a little paranoid for this stage, because I didn’t want the sound to be completely overwhelming. So I’d say it was fine as it got just loud enough. Then Krystine would say, “It’s LOUD but comfortable?” and sometimes, “Let me try a little louder and see what you think.” I was kind of wondering if there’s a standard level most people like, and if I was way below that level of volume or something. A few times I would say “Well, yea, that’s okay, it’s not uncomfortable” and a couple of times it was definitely too loud, as in “making me wince” kind of loud!
We went through this for all the electrodes, and it was pretty time-consuming because if the headpiece moved at all, then I didn’t hear anything and we had to start over. There was also a lot of “try a little louder” situations, so it was kind of painstaking.
Then I left the left CI on my ear, but she disconnected it from the computer. She assembled the right CI and tried it with the original magnet, but again, there was absolutely no connection. So Dave fashioned a headband using the leather arm strap from my purse and wrapped it around my head (!) to hold the left CI in place while he held the right CI for the sound threshold section of the mapping.
The right side went pretty much the same way as the left. I should mention that I never had trouble hearing the tones – some of them had to be pretty loud before I noticed them, but I did hear them all and I never felt any vibrations in my head or had any facial twitching. I was really waiting for something like that to happen since my head vibrated so badly during the hearing aid portion of the CI assessment test back in May!
There was a lot of pausing as the CI headpieces slipped off or the headband dropped into my eyes (it was heavy). We took off the belt and Dave held both headpieces but his arms were shaking from fatigue at this point and they had to be so precisely positioned to work. We also tried using a shoelace from Paige’s shoe, tying it around my head. Nothing really worked for more than a second. Krystine told me that since she couldn’t find any stronger magnets, I would have to wear a headband for the next week to keep the CI’s in position. I laughed and said “Okay” but I was really disappointed. I didn’t think the headbands would really keep the CI headpieces from moving around, and I imagined it would be so frustrating constantly fixing them that I probably wouldn’t wear them.
She turned both CI’s on and I went “live”. I still can’t really find words to describe what the first sound was like…kind of like a loud, high-pitched buzzing. I realized that every time Krystine said something, I heard that buzzing. It didn’t sound like speech at all – there was no beeping or cartoon/helium voices. Then I said something and oh my GOSH. It was so loud, that buzzing in my head! I couldn’t even tell what I said or if it came out properly. I was trying to decide if I thought it was too loud or not, but in the midst of all this (me trying to explain to Krystine what I was hearing), the headpieces kept slipping out of place. So I would say, “Oh…I don’t hear anything now” and she’d check the computer, move the headpiece, and we’d start again.
I listened for a little bit while she talked and did things like rubbing her hands together in front of my face and then in front of each ear. I needed to tell her if the volume seemed pretty much the same in each ear, or if one seemed much louder or softer. It was hard to tell until she rubbed her hands together by each ear (and wow, I heard it — amazing!) and then I realized they were both pretty much the same volume.
At this point, Krystine asked me to stand up (I thought maybe she wanted me to walk around, or do a balance test or something!) and she opened the desk drawer that my chair had been blocking. She pulled out some packages, flipped through them and grinned. “Magnets!”
Oh, sweet relief. She was finally able to put a stronger magnet in each headpiece! At first even then they didn’t want to stick, but we moved my hair enough that they finally made contact. I had been worrying that it might hurt or feel weird when the magnet connected, but I couldn’t feel it at all.
Right around this time my mom came in – she was running late and got there probably around 2:15 or so. Since it had been so hit and miss up til then, she really didn’t miss anything! She was very excited, asking “Can you hear??” and I know she was hoping I’d say that I could hear just like before. I had to tell her that I could hear sounds but it wasn’t like regular hearing and everything sounded strange. I still couldn’t find words to describe what everything sounded like. After a little while, I did start to detect a cartoon/helium type sound to voices but that didn’t last very long, maybe 5 or 10 minutes. Then voices started to form out of the buzzing. Dave’s was very, very deep compared to everyone else’s. My mom and Paige were hard for me to hear, but they both speak softer than most people.
At one point Krystine was out of the room and we were just sitting there, not talking. (I was trying to avoid talking as much as possible, because my voice sounded so distorted.) I realized that the rhythmic sound I was hearing was the clock ticking. I glanced up, watched the second hand move and matched it to what I was hearing. It formed into a real clock ticking sound and that was probably the first “normal” sound that I caught, since voices still sounded so totally bizarre.
That was about all we did for actual mapping. Then Krystine pulled over one of the boxes, to show me all the things I was getting with my CI’s. I had two huge boxes from Advanced Bionics sitting on the table, and she went through all the accessories, earhooks, attachments and literature with me. I have extra processors for each ear but they won’t be programmed until future mapping appointments. She told me that the program I have in each CI is called Hi-Res S (for sequential, meaning the electrodes fire in sequence, one at a time, instead of in pairs). I believe this is a softer program than Hi-Res P (paired).
Each CI processor has a volume control, and there are 3 programs stored within. The program I was using on mapping day was the middle position. If I moved the switch down, it was a softer volume and if I moved it up, it was louder. The volume control was in the 12:00 position for the sound volume I had said was comfortable. I asked if I should use the volume or the program switches if I wanted to change volume. Krystine told me to first switch to a louder or softer program; if that wasn’t enough, then go to the volume control.
I really didn’t have any questions at that point, so she told me that my homework was to read things out loud to get used to the sound of my voice. (Easiest homework I’ve ever had!) She also gave me a diary and pen set from Advanced Bionics, in case I wanted to write about my experiences, what I was hearing, etc.
We walked out at 2:50 pm so the appointment was just under 2 hours, instead of the 3 hours I was originally told.
I’m going to end this post with pictures of all the goodies I got and of me wearing my CI’s. I still have so much to say about how I’m hearing now, a couple days after activation, but I want to leave this just about activation day so I’ll stop. For the record, I chose 3 color groups for my color caps (removable covers for my processors and headpieces): I got Techno colors, Metallic colors and Sophista colors. Each set has 4 different colors. They gave me a set of processor covers for each the Slim batteries and the Plus batteries, so in all I ended up with 9 packages of Color Caps and Covers! I love them!! What I’m doing right now is wearing a Techno color on my right side, since that ear has to work sooo much harder (it’s been totally deaf for over 15 years, and mostly deaf for 42 years). It deserves the crazy colors! The other ear gets one of the solid colors that coordinates with the Techno color. I know, I know. But I don’t wear much jewelry so this is my way of being “girly”! 😀