Monthly Archives: September 2008

The Sound of Happiness

I know that when I was younger, I could hear cats purring.  There were a few strays that I used to sneak into my bedroom at night (they would jump on the windowsill and I would open the window).  I always loved to hear them purr.

As I got older and adopted my own cats (no sneaking involved), it got to where I had to put my ear against their chest to hear them purring.  Within the year or so before I lost all of my hearing, even that wasn’t a guarantee…there were many times I could feel the vibrations but heard nothing.

It was a real triumph when I was able to put my head near Beanie and hear her purring a few weeks ago!  She’s one of those cats that purrs with gusto, and now I can easily hear her purring even if I’m just near her in the room.  Thanks to my cochlear implants, I no longer have to rest my ear against her chest.

Three of our cats were feral when we trapped them and had them spayed two years ago.  We brought them inside (they had been living under the deck) and made sure the two kittens, Allie and Gracie, got all their vaccinations.  Their mom, Maxie, got her shots plus the vet cleaned and sewed up an abscess when he was spaying her.  We wanted them to be safe so we gave them a place down in the workshop, never expecting them to become really friendly housecats.  They’ve surprised us though.  They all come around for petting and affection, we can brush and comb them, they’ll sit on the couch with us and come into bed with us.  The only thing they really freak out about it is being picked up.

Maxie, the mom, is really kind of a love bug and will come over to me if I walk into the room she’s in.  A couple of days ago I walked into the bedroom, where she was sleeping on the bed.  She opened her eyes, stretched, and walked across the bed toward me so I sat down to pet her for a while.  Although I’ve snuck in a kiss on the top of her head every now and then, it generally alarms her so there was no possibility of me laying my head on her back or chest to see if she was purring.   All I could do was sit quietly while she walked around me, brushing up against me as she walked past, then butting her head against my hand to get me to pet her some more.

As I sat with her, I realized there was a sound in the previously-quiet room.  Huh.  I tilted my head as she rubbed her face against my hand.  crunchcrunch … it was the sound of her grinding her teeth as she rubbed her face on my hand.  It’s this weird little habit she has, which I’ve always been able to see (it looks a little like she’s chewing food) but I’ve never been able to hear.

Maxie in the bedroom

Maxie in the bedroom

Now there’s more sound.  I rest my hand for a moment on her back…is she purring?  I’ve never been sure if Maxie purrs because I can’t feel it or hear it.  But now it’s unmistakable.  For the first time ever, I can hear rumbling as she winds her body around me.  I still can’t feel it as I pet her, but there’s no doubt that my little formal-feral is a happy girl.  😉 Read the rest of this entry

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Mapping Session Weirdness

So this was kind of a weird mapping session.

I had mapping #5 on Thursday, Sept. 18.  Krystine had a student with her this time (whose name I didn’t catch).  We started by sitting down and going over how things went in the past week.  I let her know that my left processor was still shutting off at random times, and giving me the solid red light.  It just turns off completely, until I remove the battery and slide it back on…then it works fine.  She seemed really surprised and said she had done everything she could think of, the week before, to keep that from happening.  So she called Advanced Bionics to get their opinion.

After she explained the situation, they recommended switching me to the Fidelity 120 sound processing strategy.  Originally she was going to give that to me on my last weekly mapping (which is tomorrow, Sept. 25).  I was pretty excited to be getting it a week early, since I’d heard such good things about it!

Originally she wasn’t going to check my volume thresholds, since I mentioned that I had kept the volume pretty much at the normal level all week long with no need for extra volume.  But since I was switched to a new processing strategy, she did a short volume threshold check in each ear.  Then she had me go live with the Fidelity 120.

It all sounded very quiet and very high pitched.  I was kind of disappointed because it really sounded very different from what I had gotten used to over the past few weeks.  I had her bring the volume up a lot.  She also had me listen to the background noise program and the program for driving in the car, which is a different type of sound compression.  Then she did something and said, “How does that sound?”

WHOA.  It was very loud again, and it seemed like I was hearing a lot more.  She asked if I preferred this and I told her yes.  It turns out she originally had me on Fidelity 120-S instead of Fidelity 120-P, which is what I prefer (the P, or paired firing of electrodes).  So we brought the sound down a bit and I listened to my other 2 programs and they were both good.

I was happier now because things sounded more like what I was used to, just with more “detail” and less of a fuzzy, buzzy edge to certain sounds.  Things sounded more crisp and sharp.  We set the thresholds in the right ear and went through the same process until everything was set.  I listened with both CI’s on to make sure things weren’t too loud.  For my 3 programs I have a regular listening program on P1, one for restaurants, stores and parties (to cut out background noise) on P2, and one to cut out road noise in the car for P3.

At this visit she also programmed my backup processors, so they both have Fidelity 120-P on them now as well.  I brought my Direct Connect earhooks and she showed me how to use them with the cables.  Luckily Dave already had a connector that can accept two inputs for my MP3 player.  I plug this adapter into the headphone jack of my MP3 player, and it has a place for each CI to plug in.  I’ll have to get some pictures and post about how I use it to listen with my MP3 player.

Right now if I use the Direct Connect, all I hear are the sounds coming from whatever I’m connected to (basically just the MP3 player…I can’t think of anything else I would use it for since we don’t have a laptop or portable CD player).  I asked Krystine about that and she said it’s easy to give me a program where I can also hear environmental sounds too.  I wasn’t sure if I would want that but after trying it at home, I definitely would like it.  It takes some time to get everything switched out and connected, and if I want to be able to hear someone talking to me, I have to switch everything back (change earhooks, etc.) which is kind of a pain.

Anyway, after we went through the attachments and how they work, and I confirmed that I can only use them for battery-operated devices (nothing that gets power from being plugged into the wall, for instance) she decided to give me another hearing test.  UGH.

Krystine and the student accompanied me to the sound booth and I was given the button to press when I heard a sound.  Okey dokey.  This is where it gets weird.

First I’m tested with both CI’s on.  I made a conscious effort to stay calm and not hold my breath.  I thought I was doing pretty good, but I still really hate when the sounds get so soft that I’m not sure if I’m really hearing them or not.  It’s more like, I can tell the absence of sound when the tone finishes.

Then it sounded like the tone was just one long, sustained sound.  Huh.  I would keep pressing and pressing the button.  The student was doing the test and I thought maybe she was doing it differently.

The door opened and Krystine asked me, “Is your left CI working?”  What?! She comes in and checks, and it’s fine.  That’s weird.  Why would she ask that? (Looking back now, I think it’s because I wasn’t responding for the high pitched tones and that CI was the one that was able to hear them when I was last tested.  My right CI didn’t respond to the high tones.)

They a did a few more high pitched tones and Krystine opened the door again.  She told me, “Be sure to only press the button if you are really hearing the sound.”  Okay.  Now I’m embarrassed, thinking that it must look like they think I’m making things up and pretending to hear sounds I don’t.  😳

We kept going.  She opened the door and said the same thing one or two more times, about making sure I really hear the tone before I respond.

Then Krystine is gone and it’s just the student.  She tests me wearing each CI individually.

Then I put them both on.  Krystine comes in and tells me I’m testing better with the CI’s individually than I am with both of them in!  This is crazy.  I know, without a doubt, that I hear better with both of them on.  What is going on?!

So she leaves the door open and stands in the doorway.  The sounds, by the way, are playing through a speaker and I’m not wearing headphones – I’m just sitting in the room.  She says, “Can you hear that?”  I shake my head because I hear nothing.  Then I realize she’s talking but I don’t really hear her…then I hear her voice come back into focus.  Oh my God.  The CI’s are compressing the high pitched sounds!

So I tell her what’s going on.  They test it with a few more tones and each time, that’s what is happening.  The CI’s are compressing out the high pitched sounds.  I can tell when they happen by the sound coming back up to normal levels after the tone finishes.

So they give up on the tone test and she tells me she’s going to play a few sentences for me to repeat.  Originally she wasn’t going to do this test, because she wanted to give me time to get used to the Fidelity 120 program.  But she decided to just do a few sentences, just to see what happens.

This is the part of the original test that I never responded to, a man saying sentences.  I repeat what I hear, even if it’s just one or two words.  Then the volume is a little louder, and that’s much easier.

By now we’re about 20 minutes past the one hour mark, so my appointment has gone much longer than usual.  Dave actually fell asleep in the CI room, waiting for me to come back!  😆  He knew something must have gone wrong, he just couldn’t figure out what it might be.

Krystine took a minute to compare the results to my previous tests, and then came back.  My tone test was about the same as the last one.  The first sentence test was at normal speech level, around 45 db, and I got 44%.  I consider that to be pretty darn good, since I got 0% at my original test.  😆  When they raised the volume just a little, to 50 db, I got 92% correct.  She was happy with that, and so was I!

So tomorrow is my final weekly mapping session.  I’ve been noticing that the Fidelity 120 program does seem to be compressing sound more than the regular HiRes 90K-P program, but I still like the way it sounds much better.  I’m going to see if she can either turn off the compression or, if there’s a sensitivity setting, not have it be so sensitive.  I do like knowing it will compress really loud sounds, but it tends to do it even for speech at times.  I’m not sure how they will be able to accurately test my hearing if they don’t turn the sound compression completely off.  I’m glad, though, that we figured out what was going on and why I wasn’t giving a response for those high pitched sounds.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have a better test result!

On a final, positive, note…the Fidelity 120 did solve the processor problem.  It hasn’t turned off once since this mapping session!  🙂

Fourth Mapping

On Thursday I had my fourth mapping, three weeks after activation day on August 20.  It was hard to believe it was already time for another mapping…the week passed so quickly, and I was still not even at the normal level of volume.  I never used the louder program at all.

I wasn’t really looking forward to this mapping, after the stress of the previous week with the audiogram and all the testing with sentences.  I was kind of keyed up and just looking forward to getting it overwith.

When we went into the Mapping Room, I told Krystine that I hadn’t even gotten to the normal level of volume throughout the week and maybe I was a little overzealous at my last appointment when she set the volume levels.  I also explained that the left processor was still turning off at random times and showing the solid red light.  We asked about the power saver mode (thinking that turning it off might help with the processor problem) but it turns out she turned that off last week.  My batteries, by the way, still have about half the life that most people get from them.  Good thing I have a lot of batteries to switch between!  🙂

We started with threshold settings again, with me hooked up to the computer and telling her when the tones were too loud.  As with last week, this went very quickly…I just heard a few tones and she was done.

It’s funny, I have a tendency to just listen and not really say anything.  She always hands me a little chart that has the volume levels listed on it (soft, medium, loud, loud but comfortable, too loud).  I forget that she doesn’t hear what I hear, and if I don’t tell her how it sounds at each point, she has no idea.  I guess I assume that she knows she started the sounds at a soft level so I was just listening and not saying anything.  Now I try to make a conscious effort to say, “Okay, that’s very soft…that’s medium…” and so on.  Some of the high pitched sounds are hard to really determine…they never sound LOUD but if the volume goes up enough, they make me want to cringe.  So I use the cringe-factor more than the volume for those tones!

It’s always weird now when I get hooked up to the computer, because I have to remove my other CI as well.  I always hesitate at first, because once I do that I’m back to relying solely on lip reading.  For much of the time when I’m connected to the computer, I don’t hear anything at all.  Periodically she’ll have me go “live” as she’s setting programs on the computer but most of the time there’s no sound.  I mentioned that to Dave after we left, because I think he thought I was hearing sound the whole time I was hooked up as she programmed the CI.

She did say something about calling Advanced Bionics for help with something – I think it might have been trying to find a way to troubleshoot that red light/processor shutting down problem.  She called them and was on the phone for a bit, then said, “Oh, I remember now” and hung up.  I’m not sure if she actually did speak to someone or if she was on hold.

She had me listen to a few different programs but I don’t know what they were.  When we first got there, I told her that I preferred the HiRes 90K-P to the 90K-S program because I could hear more sounds with 90K-P.  I’m not sure if she was having me listen to different HiRes 90K programs or if maybe she tried the Fidelity 120 programming.  Most of the programs I tried that day sounded much quieter and much more high-pitched.

After that, we switched the right ear and did more of the same.  More time was taken up during this visit as I listened to the various programs and let Krystine know how things sounded.  With one of the programs, the high-pitched sounding one, I could barely hear Dave’s voice at all.  It was weird…his voice just kind of disappeared.  It’s really cool, though, hearing through these different software programs.  It’s mind-boggling!

We talked for a while about how I was doing with the CI, things I was hearing and how I felt about the whole experience.  (Very happy!)  Krystine told me that my programs now were: a regular program at P1, a program for noisy situations like restaurants and parties at P2, and a background noise program for situations like driving and road noise at P3.  All of the programs are HiRes 90K-P.  (I had to ask which processing strategy I was using – that’s not information she just voluntarily offers.)

This coming Thursday, my 5th mapping, I need to bring my backup processors and they will get programmed as well.  I’m also bringing the Direct Connect and cables so she can show me how to hook directly to battery-operated devices like an MP3 player.  I’m going to ask about the phone, if I should hook directly to that with anything or just use my T-Mic and put the headset to my ear.

Apparently the 6th mapping is when they give me all the tests I had for my CI evaluation – kind of a before and after thing.  Of course, I’m not looking forward to that but I know it needs to be done!  Krystine said if my next appointment goes quick enough, we might be able to get everything done (meaning the testing) at that appointment and I won’t need to come back for the 6th mapping.

A couple weeks ago she had mentioned that I would get Fidelity 120 at my last appointment, but she didn’t bring it up at this visit so I’m not sure if I’ll be getting Fidelity 120 this coming Thursday or not.  For all I know, one of those programs she had me listen to was Fidelity 120!

After these one week appointments are finished, then I go for a mapping 3 months after my initial activation (that would be somewhere around Thanksgiving), then 6 months, and then one year after my initial mapping.  After that I go on a yearly basis.

Then that was it!  No sentences to listen to and repeat, no audiograms.  Whew!!  We left and I was just starving since this was an early morning appointment (8:30 am).  We decided to stop for breakfast since we hadn’t eaten before we left the house at 7:30.

This was my first visit to a restaurant since my activation, and I got a chance to try out P2.  It worked much better than I expected it to!  I could hear the background noise – all the talking was kind of a low babbling, where I could tell it was voices but not actually hear what people were saying.  When Dave or the waitress spoke, I could hear their voices clearly.  Dave was also using a new noise suppression program on his hearing aid and it was working well for him, so for the first time we actually went to a restaurant and could hear each other!

I used P3 in the car and again, it worked so well – the road noise just faded away but I could hear Dave speaking clearly.  Both P2 and P3 don’t sound as full and clear as my regular program, because of the noise compression, but I am still in awe of how programs like this work.  It’s so weird how I can hear the voices of people I want to hear, but all the other sounds fade to the background.  Dave and I almost always order food and go pick it up, then bring it home to eat.  It’s pretty rare for us to actually eat in a restaurant because it’s always been too difficult to hear.  Maybe now we can actually go out to eat from time to time and enjoy ourselves instead of suffering through the meal!

It’s Sunday now as I write this, and again the volume is just fine.  I still have to turn it down for the first part of the day and usually by dinnertime I’m up around the normal volume level.  It seems like my volume levels are kind of stabilized now because I haven’t been feeling like I need to keep turning up the sound to hear everything.  In fact, the sound is sometimes still overwhelming at the normal level, especially in the morning.  When I first put my CI’s on it is still really, really loud for 5 or 10 minutes.  I try to stay in quiet areas of the house and not talk out loud until I get used to sound again each day!

By the way, our magnetic induction stove hasn’t proved to be a problem and doesn’t affect my CI’s at all.  I can hear a very low pulsing sound but that’s about it.  I used to hear that sound with my hearing aids too so I’m used to it.  I still think we’re going to get a new stovetop soon because I’m tired of only having two usable burners and it’s too expensive to repair this cooktop (we did it once and the burners only worked again for a couple of weeks).

It’s cool, humid and rainy here…perfect cooking weather!  Dave is watching football and freaking out (and I can hear every swear word…LOL).  Life is good!  😀

Hearing Again

“Isn’t it wonderful to hear again?” they ask.  “What is it like?  Is it amazing?”

It’s so difficult to describe.  For me, there was no jaw-dropping moment, no instance when I felt like shouting “Eureka!” or heard perfect, crystal clear, normal sounds.  It was all so gradual and so ever-changing that now, 3 weeks after activation, it just seems normal.  I don’t spend every minute thinking “Oh my gosh, I can hear!”

It feels like it’s been longer, to be honest.  I had to count twice when I was checking the amount of time since my activation day.  Three weeks, really?  That’s it?!

The initial moment when I first heard sound was so annoying (with the magnet falling off my head) and so bizarre, with the robotic and buzzing sounds I was hearing, that it was almost anti-climactic.  What’s been really fun and cool is realizing how the sounds are changing once my brain realizes what I’m hearing.  But the way things sound right now is very familiar to me, and it feels just like it did when I had hearing aids.  So it’s almost just like old times, and I can even forget that there was a period of time when I couldn’t hear anything at all…until I take my CI’s off and there I am again.

Maybe if I hadn’t had any hearing before, I would still be in more constant awe of what I’m hearing.  And it’s not that I’m not in awe, really, because I’m always aware of the fact that it’s a miracle that I can sit here and feel like nothing has changed, I can hear just like before.  Because I’m still deaf.  But now I can hear too!

Today Dave and I took a walk with Toby.  I heard a loud, buzzing sound.  “What’s that?” I asked.  This can be a challenge for Dave because sometimes he doesn’t recognize the source of the sound either, or sometimes I’m actually hearing something he can’t.  So we looked around.  “A plane?” he posited.  “Maybe”, I nodded, as we continued walking.  Then we saw it – to our right, someone mowing their lawn.  Once I saw the lawn mower the sound started to change for me.  Maybe because I was getting closer so the sound was clearer, or maybe because I knew what I was hearing.  But I heard the sputtering of the motor and heard the nuances of the sound instead of just a buzzing roar.

Today I was reading and got sleepy, so I set the book down and closed my eyes.  I could hear something, kind of like scraping or a scratching sound.  I kept my eyes closed and tried to think of what it could be.  I decided it had to be Dave cleaning the litter box on the landing, the scoop scraping along the bottom of the box.  I opened my eyes and I was totally wrong – Dave was cutting up strawberries, then using a masher to kind of smash them up into a puree.  I closed my eyes again, and this time I heard another sound.  It was clear and unmistakable – our guinea pigs wheeking!  (If you’ve never been around guinea pigs, they make a whistling, wheeking sound — almost like birds chirping – when they want attention or food.)  They probably heard Dave opening the refrigerator (and they know we keep the carrots in the fridge).  I don’t even know when was the last time I heard the pigs wheeking, to be honest.  It’s a high pitched sound and I think I was starting to lose those sounds even when I could still hear with my hearing aids.

I actually hear better with the CI’s than I did with the hearing aids.  I can’t say whether sound is more natural through CI’s since I don’t remember natural sound…I was probably less than 18 months old the last time I heard that.  But I can definitely say that I prefer sound through the CI’s than sound through a hearing aid.  I never had digital hearing aids, so I never had experience with sound compression.  But I love the way the CI’s handle sound.  For example, I took a shower and had the exhaust fan on in the bathroom.  I didn’t have my CI’s on at that time, of course, but later on after I put them in, I walked into the bathroom to put my makeup on.  The fan was still going and it was the loudest sound, by far.  Then I turned the water on – and that noise jumped to the foreground.  I heard the water best, with the exhaust fan faintly in the background.  Dave walked into the bathroom, opened a canister and got a Q-tip.  The sound of the lid settling back onto the canister was more clear than either the water or the exhaust fan.  It was kind of amazing!  With hearing aids everything was the same level unless you turned down the volume, in which case then everything was harder to hear.

High pitched sounds are much easier for me to hear, and when I do hear them they don’t hurt my ears they way they did when I wore hearing aids.

The only things that still aren’t the way I remember them are music (which I can hear, but does still have a “buzzy” edge to it), the television (again, it’s got a buzz surrounding all the sound), and the telephone.

Still though, it’s kind of funny how it just all feels normal now.  Only three weeks in!  I still have so much ahead of me but what I’ve had so far has been, well, a miracle.  A kind of everyday brilliance that I should never take for granted.

Another Day, Another Mapping

My third mapping was on Thursday (Sept. 4).  I’m halfway through my weekly mappings now – they go through Sept. 25 and then I’m not sure how often I’ll be going.

It’s really different now, waiting in a waiting room.  I usually don’t bother to read a magazine because Krystine comes to get me just a few minutes after we get there.  But I’m much more relaxed now, not as “on alert” as I am without the CI’s.  It’s still habit to keep the doorway in view, even out of the corner of my eye, but I think I would be able to hear her saying “Wendi?” even if my back were to the door.  Amazing!

This mapping once again started with me listening to tones and increasing volume, if I needed it.  It seemed like I only listened to 4 or 5 tones and she was done.  I did mention that my left processor has been randomly shutting down.  If I slide the battery off and slide it back on again, then it’s fine.  But I do get the solid red light that is a warning that there’s a problem.  I’ve read that this happened to other people on the power saver mode so I might mention that to Krystine this coming week.  Even after I mentioned it on Thursday, it still happens now and then.  It didn’t start happening until after my second mapping (in the office) when I was finished listening to the tones and she gave me the CI back.  So I think something happened at that time.  I’m not sure if she put the power saver mode on before or after the processor started shutting off randomly.  In any case, the power saver mode hasn’t changed my battery life at all so I really don’t mind if she takes it off…especially if that solves the problem with the processor randomly shutting off!

We did the tones and volume for both ears.  When she has me go live with both ears, it’s always way, way too loud.  I have to have her turn it down quite a bit.  This time I had her leave it a little louder than I normally would have, because I’ve noticed I get used to the volume pretty quickly.

Apparently I’ve been using HiRes-P (with the electrodes firing in pairs) all this time.  I could swear she told me I was using HiRes-S (electrodes firing sequentially) after my activation was done!  In any case, she put a HiRes-S program in the bottom (P1) slot, my usual HiRes-P in the middle slot (at the current volume) and a HiRes-P program with a bit louder volume in the top slot (P3).  I’m assuming I’m still using 100% T-Mic because she didn’t mention otherwise.  She told me to switch back and forth over the next week between the HiRes-S and HiRes-P to see what I thought.

She did have me test to make sure the programs were all in the proper position because last week, my programs were reversed!  It was supposed to be quietest on P1, regular volume on P2 and loudest on P3.  After a day or two I realized things sounded quieter when I went up to what was supposed to be the louder program.  No wonder things sounded so amazingly loud when I first put my CI’s on…I would put them down to P1 first thing in the morning, and that turned out to be my loudest setting!  I asked Krystine about it and she checked and yes, they were reversed (for which she profusely apologized).  I was just glad that I could sense the differences and not just take it for granted – it was kind of gratifying to find out I was right.  😆

Once we finished getting the volume for both CI’s set and I was comfortable (although whew, it was loud!) we went to the booth for me to get my first hearing test since I lost all of my hearing in April.  I wish I’d gotten a copy of this test!

I was really, really nervous and stressed when I went into the booth.  She had me sit without headphones in the booth, with both CI’s on, and press a button when I heard something.  She said it wouldn’t really sound like a tone, more like a noise.  Most of them did actually sound like tones though.  What I tended to do was click when I heard the first tone (which was pretty loud) and then I would hear a second very faint tone almost immediately after the first loud one.  I never clicked when I heard that – it sounds like an echo to me, almost.  I would wait until I heard it again, so I could be sure I was really hearing it.

I started holding my breath because everything was so, so loud with this new mapping and I felt like the sound of my breathing was keeping me from hearing the softer sounds.  Then I would have to gasp and take a big breath, hoping that there no tones being played while I was doing that heavy breathing.  😀  It was crazy!

After a bit she had me take off my left CI and just wear the right.  I was trying to regulate my breathing and stop holding my breath, because it was making me more nervous and distracting me.  The process of taking my CI off and getting settled helped me to just start breathing normally and try not to freak out so much.

After my right ear was tested, I put the left CI back in and took off the right so she could test my left ear.

The test was all done in tones, with no sentences … at least, I never heard any sentences!  😉

Once we were done, we went back to the mapping room.  Krystine got my old hearing test and marked my current results so we could compare.  Obviously I expected a huge improvement from my last result, which was pretty much just a line along the 110/120 db mark for both ears.  I was surprised to see that this audiogram also showed my last test wearing my bi-CROS hearing aids – I don’t even know when I had that test, to be honest.  I didn’t remember ever doing a test with my hearing aids on!  It had to have been back in 1993 when I lost my hearing in my right ear, I guess.

If I’m remembering correctly, the line for my left ear (with the hearing aid on) was around the 60 db mark.  My right ear hasn’t been helped with a hearing aid since before 1993 so I don’t think it was even on this paper.  But…with my CI’s on, I test around the 40 db range with each ear!  Krystine said that basically when I have my CI’s on, I have what would be classified as a “mild” hearing loss.  I went from profound, totally deaf, to “mild”.  Amazing!!

I was surprised to find out, though, that even with the CI my right ear still dropped off to around the 90 db range in the high tones (I can’t remember where exactly, maybe between 2000-4000 hertz).  Krystine said it’s possible my hearing nerve was damaged in those higher ranges, or maybe it will even come back in time.  This surprised me so much because my right ear is the one that seems to hear in treble…I feel like I get high pitched sounds so much better with that ear.  I guess maybe it’s just that I notice them more with the right ear, since I haven’t heard them with that ear pretty much ever in my life.  Who knows?!

Krystine did mention that if I ever had to just wear one CI, for whatever reason, she recommended wearing my left CI because it does hear all the ranges, from low to high.

After reviewing the audiogram, she told me we were going to try some more sentences.  Oh man, I really hate doing this!  It is so stressful, and I don’t know why because she’s very laid back about it.  It’s not like I get slapped on the hand if I get a sentence wrong!  We went through about 3 pages of sentences, and I got maybe 3 or 4 wrong.  Then she read 3 or 4 paragraphs and asked me to paraphrase what she said – not repeat word for word, but just give her the general idea of what the topic was.  I got all of those right…and then we were done.  Thank goodness!  🙂

She seemed really happy with my progress, and I’m personally thrilled.  It is so strange to be able to actually understand what someone is saying without reading their lips!

On the way home I tried out the HiRes-S program because everything was just so, so loud on the HiRes-P setting.  HiRes-S was extremely quiet though – I had mentioned that to Krystine when I tested it in the office but it’s set at the same volume the HiRes-P program is.  She did say that if I preferred HiRes-S, she could increase the volume for me.  I’ve switched programs in different settings – in the car, at home, watching TV and shopping in a store.  It’s different…it sounds more high pitched but much, much quieter.  I definitely don’t hear as much with that program as I do with HiRes-P.  I have to increase the volume with the volume knob to be able to hear much at all with it, and so far I definitely prefer HiRes-P to HiRes-S.

I did start getting some pain on the left side of my head that evening – in the area where the magnet attaches.  It was a weird pain, that felt like needles stabbing me if I rubbed my hand in that area.  It didn’t hurt otherwise though.  I wasn’t sure if it was from the haircut growing out (I got another buzz cut right in the magnet area last week) or if it was because I’m using that stronger magnet and maybe the swelling has gone down now so it doesn’t need to be so strong.  I rubbed my head where the magnets attach on both sides and there’s a huge …well, lump sounds a little dramatic, but there’s definitely a bump that I can easily feel.  I’m not sure if this means the swelling has gone down now and I can feel the implants better, or what.  I did switch to one of my backup headpieces yesterday, since that has the original magnet inside.  It did attach to my head but it kept falling off.  Finally I just gave up and put the original headpiece (with the stronger magnet) back on.  I’ve been putting it on top of my hair to give my scalp a break, instead of pushing my hair out of the way and attaching it right to my skin.  Today (Sunday) it feels better so that’s a relief!

I’ve been periodically trying the phone but it’s still nearly impossible for me to hear, even with the amplifier all the way turned up.  I can catch a few words but that’s it.  I told Dave I think the reason I have so much trouble with the phone is because I’m hearing with just one ear instead of both.  As I mentioned in my last post, my performance with both CI’s is just tremendous, but it’s far less impressive if I’m just using one ear.  I tried the phone on my right ear (which was truly strange, since I haven’t put the phone to that ear…ever, really – I think I’ve always used my left) and that wasn’t any better.

Next I tried listening to a CD with headphones on.  I’ve been mainly hearing music through the TV and it sounds very buzzy and weird.  If it’s just one instrument I can hear it well and it sounds very pleasant.  If it’s more than one instrument plus a vocal, it pretty much sounds terrible.

I put a Depeche Mode CD in my computer and listened with headphones.  Although it’s not perfect and not exactly as I remember it, it was really much better than I expected it to sound.  I had to keep myself from crying, to be honest – this is music I’ve been listening to since the mid 1980s and for a while there I never thought I would hear it again!  I realized I was hearing certain instruments in certain ears.  I’ve never heard anything in stereo so I’m not sure this is how it’s supposed to be.  I asked Paige and she said she never noticed that before.  But I could distinctly hear certain sounds in my right ear and other sounds in my left.  I heard tones and notes that I’ve never, ever heard before in these songs!

Finally, while the volume was nearly taking my breath away even as recently as yesterday afternoon, now it’s settled down to a normal level.  I’m almost able to put the volume knobs back at 12:00 (they’re around 11:00 right now).  It’s so weird how my brain adjusts even though at first it seems like I’ll never be able to tolerate the volume!  My own voice is usually what’s unbearably loud.  Dave was listening to the TV through headphones today and made a comment that I wouldn’t be able to hear the TV, since the headphones were connected.  I said, “Oh no, I hear it.”  He checked and checked, and then realized I was hearing the sound as it came from the headphones (which were on the coffee table).  He couldn’t believe I could hear that!  I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but I definitely knew it was the TV.

AMAZING.  I love my CI’s.  Have I said that lately?!

Being Bilateral

It dawned on me in the past few days what a huge, tremendous difference it is to truly be bilateral.  The change in the way things sound is absolutely enormous.  It is the difference between just hearing sounds or noises when someone talks, and actually understanding what they are saying.  Sound completely changes.

It’s not a subtle change…it’s like being nearsighted with no glasses on, and then suddenly being fitted with a perfect prescription that brings every small detail into focus.

I’ve never really heard from both ears.  Ever since my hearing loss was detected, when I was preschool age, my left ear has had better hearing but both ears have had some degree of hearing loss.  Once I turned 28, I had no usable hearing at all in my right ear.

I got some semblance of bilateral hearing from my bi-CROS hearing aids, which I started wearing in 1993.  Although I absolutely loved these aids, they weren’t very popular and I’m not sure how often (if at all) they are dispensed these days.  I wore a ‘transmitter’ hearing aid in my totally deaf right ear, and it sent sounds from my right side via radio frequency over to the receiver hearing aid in my left ear where I heard them.  There were no wires between the hearing aids.  So although my right ear didn’t hear sounds, I was still able to catch the sounds from my right side and hear them in my left ear.  I really noticed a huge difference if I turned the transmitting HA off and only listened with my left ear.  It was kind of like the difference between black and white and color.

Because I already had an idea of how different things sounded when I only heard with one ear, it was just instinct for me to ask about getting cochlear implants in both ears when I lost the rest of my hearing.  It seemed logical to me.  It would be like losing your vision and being able to get eyesight back…why do just one eye?  It wasn’t until I brought it up to the doctor that I found out it really wasn’t the norm to implant both ears at once.  When I asked why, I was told mostly for insurance and financial reasons – most insurance companies just don’t approve both ears at once.

We decided to go ahead and request bilateral surgery, and I figured they wouldn’t approve it…but it couldn’t hurt to try.  If they had denied me for bilateral implants but had approved one ear, I would’ve just done one ear and then tried for the second one later.

It was only after the insurance company approved bilateral implants right from the start that I got kind of nervous.  I hadn’t really thought much about what the surgery would be like, the extra recovery time and the fact that I wouldn’t be able to sleep on either side until I was healed.

I’m glad I didn’t get much time to dwell on it and talk myself out of bilateral surgery.  The recovery period was nowhere near as long or painful as I thought it might be and now I’m really glad I just had one surgery for both ears.  The most prolonged recovery aspect was, indeed, sleeping…but sleeping on my back on the couch for 3 weeks was well worth it!

I had Dave do some tests with me a few days ago.  I stood with my back to him while he said words and sentences behind me.  First we tried with my left ear only.  This is the ear that hears things in a really low-pitched, bass way.  Everything sounds very echo-y and buzzy…nothing is sharp or clear, and sounds are softer with this ear by itself.  Voices sound robotic.  I think I understood maybe one word that Dave said.

Then we tried my right ear only.  This ear hears things in a high-pitched way.  Sounds are a little sharper and louder, but voices sound more “heliumized” with this ear by itself.  The high pitched sound makes speech easier to understand though, and I was about to get a little less than half of what he said using this ear only.  Oddly enough, this is the ear that has had NO sound coming through at all for 15 years, and has been my worst ear for 42 years.

Once I put both CI’s on, it was a completely different experience.  I got all but one word that Dave said.  Sounds in general sound much closer to the way I remember them.  Voices sound more like real voices.  I still have kind of a buzzing sound around the edge of certain sounds (for example, running water sounds like an electric razor to me right now).  Still though, the difference when I am using both ears is absolutely tremendous.

If I was working with just one ear right now, I would be reporting drastically different results.  My speech comprehension would be almost nil, depending on which ear I was using.  I really hadn’t realized what a difference it made to be using both ears, until we did that little test at home.  (At the mapping sessions, I’ve always been tested with both CI’s on…so far, anyway.)

If anyone is on the fence about going bilateral, wondering if it really makes that much of a difference and if it’s worth it to go through the surgery again…YES!  It makes a huge, huge difference.  It is utterly amazing.

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