Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Ventriloquist Effect

You know what’s weird?  Hearing sounds that are coming from another room.  I’m talking subtle sounds, not like a chair falling over in the kitchen or some other kind of really loud noise.  I could hear things like that with my hearing aids, when I still had some hearing.  No, I’m talking about situations like these:

It’s early morning and I’ve just woken up.  My routine now is to sit on the bed for a few minutes after I put my CIs on.  It’s always overwhelmingly loud, when I first hear sounds again.  It’s like this any time either of my CIs is off and then I put them back on (after a shower, after changing a battery, etc.) but morning is hardest because I’ve just gone all night with no hearing at all.  So I give myself a minute to adjust before I walk out into the kitchen with all the early morning sounds and voices.

I sit there, looking around the room, and realize I’m not hearing the usual silence.  (And let me just say, hearing SILENCE is heavenly.  The tinnitus is almost completely gone now…hallelujah!)  No…I’m hearing something like a bubbling sound.  I look around the room and there’s nothing I see that could be making noise.  What the heck?!  My first reaction is to panic and think there’s something wrong with my implants.  Is this kind of a staticky sound?  Maybe my T-Mics are acting up?  I tap the T-Mics and the sound stays the same.

I decide to go talk to Dave about it and get his opinion.  As I walk down the hall, the sound gets louder and louder.  Our bedroom is at the end of a long hall, which opens into the kitchen/dining room/living room area which is all open.  As soon as the kitchen comes into view I realize what I’m hearing, because I can see it.  It’s our coffee water, boiling on the stove!  I heard it all the way in the bedroom!

It never even occurred to me that I would be hearing this, first because I have just never heard a sound that subtle from so far away, and second because Dave doesn’t usually have the coffee going quite that early.  What a HUGE relief to realize it wasn’t a problem but rather a CI moment.  😉

We use a vacuum pot to make our coffee, by the way.  Originally we used one as a novelty, since it’s a little like a science experiment watching the water travel from the bottom pot to the top, where the coffee grounds are, and then watching the coffee travel back down to the bottom pot, leaving the grounds up top.  Then we realized how amazingly good the coffee tastes when it’s made that way!  You can control how long the grounds steep in the water and the water gets nice and hot, being heated on the stove.  So if you ever stop by our house for a cup of coffee, that’s what you’ll see.  🙂  We actually packed away our Bunn a few months ago, once we realized we hadn’t used an automatic coffee maker in about a year!

Anyway, back to my CI moment.  Once I realized I was hearing the water bubbling, then I realized I was hearing another loud sound that I couldn’t identify.  I noticed the sound going away every time I left the kitchen, so I knew it was an actual sound and not my CIs acting up.  (It was kind of a buzzing, humming sound that I wasn’t sure I was really hearing, at first.)  I had to have Dave help me with that one…it was the refrigerator running.  I haven’t heard that sound in…well…I can’t remember when!

Then this morning I was emptying the dishwasher and heard this low, rumbling sound in my head.  What on earth?!  I looked around, and just saw one of our cats sitting by the patio door.  It almost sounded like a low-throated growling, but she didn’t look pissed off so I didn’t think it could be her.  I glanced around the corner and our dog, Toby, was at the living room window, on high alert.  He jumped off the couch and ran into the kitchen, stopping at the patio door for me to let him out.  Yes, I heard him growling in the living room.  Not a loud growl either, but that real quiet growling he does before he’s going to bark.  This is another sound I never heard before, even with hearing aids, and now I was hearing it from another room!

It’s like hearing voices or something, and I have to fight the feeling that I’m going crazy.  😀  These sounds appear in my head and I think I’m losing my mind because I can’t see anything to attach the sounds to.  It’s such a big adjustment, realizing I’m hearing things that aren’t within my line of vision!

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Yesterday I heard something I’ve never heard before.  I actually never knew there was a sound associated with this activity at all.  It’s not like a mosquito or fly buzzing…both things that I know make noise but I’ve never actually heard.  This is something I just always assumed was silent.

It was…bubbles popping.  Every now and then Dave will pull out the bottle of bubbles and blow bubbles for the cats.  Some of them just like to watch the bubbles floating down, some like to pounce on them, some are actually afraid.  I was sitting on the bed, putting my CI’s on and watching the room fill with bubbles.  I realized I was hearing a soft snapping sound.  I looked around, trying to place it, and happened to be looking right at a bubble as it popped in mid-air.  Snap!  I watched a few more to be sure I was connecting the sound and the activity correctly…and yes, I was really hearing the bubbles popping!  I always thought it was just a soundless thing.  Even with hearing aids I never knew bubbles made noise when they popped.

This week has been the first week with no mapping since my CI’s were activated on August 20th.  My last weekly visit was on Sept. 25.  I thought I would just be getting my one month post-activation hearing tests, basically.  Instead, Krystine set all the thresholds for the lowest sounds I could hear (previously I had been giving her the loudest sound levels that were comfortable).  That really took a while because I had to be sure I was really hearing the sound and not just imagining it…it was very, very faint.

The Fidelity 120 program is a keeper – I’ve had no problems with my left processor turning completely off like it was doing before.  I can still tell that the CI’s are dampening the high-pitched sounds but she must have adjusted something when I mentioned it to her, because it doesn’t do it nearly as much as it used to.

One thing I noticed is that if I try to critique sound when I have just one CI on, it’s always the same comments no matter what changes she makes:  the left CI usually sounds a little echo-y and kind of low pitched (voices sound more like Darth Vader).  The right CI sounds more high pitched and sharp, with voices having a touch of the chipmunk or helium sound.  Once I have both CI’s on at the same time, everything equalizes and sounds normal.  I really can’t say enough good things about being bilateral!  It is just a completely different sound with two CI’s on versus one or the other.

After all the tweaking of the software and once we had all the volume levels set, I went in for another hearing test.  This time I was able to hear some of the high pitched sounds but the CI’s did dampen down for some of them.  I could tell right away what was happening so I just let them know which pitches were activating the sound compression on my CI’s.  Krystine didn’t mention how I did for the tone portion of the test so I assume my results were consistent with the past two tests.

Next they did the sentences, where there’s a man’s voice coming through the speakers and you repeat the sentences he’s saying.  This was the test I got 44% on the week before.  This time I got 97% correct!  So it was either the newest mapping or the fact that I was used to the Fidelity 120 program after using it for a week…or maybe a little of both.  Either way, we were happy with the results!  They also tested me with noise added, which was much more difficult.  I only got 55% correct for that part.  But on a positive note, that’s better than I did with my hearing aids (before I lost all of my hearing) so even that test showed some improvement!

Now I’m on my own until November 6, when I have my 3 month post-activation mapping.  So far things have been just fine.  I still find myself turning the volume down at the start of the day…I can’t just put the CI’s on at the normal volume level or it’s too overwhelming.  Usually by dinnertime I’m up to the normal level and I rarely go past that setting unless we’re watching TV.  Sometimes I’ll turn the volume up a little bit then.

I did get my new program for the Direct Connect.  I have a regular program in the P1 setting which is 100% T-Mic (Fidelity 120-P).  The P2 program is for loud settings, to compress background noise, so I use it in the car, at the mall, in restaurants, etc.  And now my P3 setting is for the Direct Connect.  This is 50% regular mic and 50% T-Mic, so that when I use the Direct Connect to listen to my MP3 player, I can still hear some environmental sounds.  So if Paige or Dave talks to me, I can hear them.  I really, really like this setting – it’s the best of both worlds!

Listening to music with the Direct Connect is pretty cool.  At first the volume was just way too much…I actually had the MP3 player on volume level 1.  If I turned it up, everything just sounded like noise.  But I experimented and found that if I increased the volume in small increments, it just took a minute or so for the noise to turn back into music and to sound good again.  I was able to get up to volume level 7 this way.  (I actually don’t know how loud the MP3 player goes – I can’t find the manual right now.)

The telephone is still incomprehensible.  But television sounds a lot better.  That buzzy edge to the sound is gone, and even some of the music is starting to sound good.

So now I guess I need to get with modern technology.  I threw some Depeche Mode onto the MP3 player really quickly, but I don’t know anything about this little device.  I figured I would start with music I already know, but my kids are eager for me to hear the bands they like too.  Eric was teasing me – when I told him that on louder volumes, the music just sounds like noise, he told me he would send me some music….then he laughed and said, “I could send you noise bands, like Merzbow!”  (Their music is supposed to just sound like noise, I guess!)  We agreed that yes, that would be mean, so I made him promise not to do that.  Instead he sent me some songs by the Decemberists, which he swears I will like.

And always, I just keep coming back to how mind-blowing this is.  I’m talking about discovering new bands…and technically I’m deaf.  I’m deaf and I can hear my cat purring as she sits next to me.  Unbelievable!!

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