For the past few weeks, the weirdest thing was happening with my hearing. Everything was starting to sound loud…painfully loud. When my CIs get programmed, the volume is at the 12:00 position…that is 0, essentially. I turn it to the left to decrease volume, to the right to increase it. I realized I was pretty much having to leave my CI volume at the 9 or 10:00 position if I wanted sound to be tolerable.
At times I would swear my right side CI wasn’t working. It just seemed so quiet. I would tap on the T-Mic and yes, sound was coming through…so I figured it must be because my right side is the one that’s been deaf the longest. Maybe it was rehabbing at a different rate, or in a different way, than my left. I just figured it was always going to be the weaker ear, hearing less than the left ear does.
Still though, it was puzzling and annoying to have sounds suddenly be so piercing and almost unbearable. I couldn’t figure out why, 9 months after activation, I suddenly would want LESS sound rather than more. Usually you get used to a mapping, things start to sound a little soft or fuzzy, and you know it’s time to go in for a new mapping to get things reprogrammed. I felt like I was sliding backwards if I couldn’t even tolerate the 0 setting for sound.
This was all happening at the end of April/beginning of May. On May 5, I was working on candles down in the workshop and Dave was upstairs, so it was very quiet…no conversation. I realized that although there was no sound/noise in my environment, I was hearing a faint kind of hiss or static-type noise from my right CI. I’d been noticing this periodically, never sure if it was an equipment-related noise or an actual sound in my environment. I also noticed that some mornings when I put my right CI on, the magnet would connect, sound would come in, then there would be a loud hiss that would slowly die away. It only happened right after I connected my magnet in the morning. The sound I was now hearing in the workshop was like that loud initial hiss, but at a lower, constant volume.
To test it, I walked upstairs and went into the bedroom, shut the door and listened. It was another quiet environment and I wanted to see if maybe it was an environmental thing I had been hearing down in the workshop. Again, I was hearing the soft hissing static sound in my right ear. I decided to do some troubleshooting to see if it was the CI.
My plan was to change the battery, try a different T-Mic, and try a different headpiece. The CI uses rechargeable batteries, which slide on and off the actual processor and blend seamless with it so it looks like all one piece (like the body of a behind-the-ear hearing aid). I have 8 batteries that I rotate through – two Slim batteries (with less power, smaller size) and two Plus batteries which are larger, a bit heavier and last longer. I tried a few of my other batteries and it didn’t change the sound.
The headpiece is the round magnet that I wear on my head – it attracts to the internal magnet and is held in place that way. The magnet connects to the processor part on my ear via a cable that snaps into the processor. I figured it was possible there was a problem with the headpiece, but I thought I would try the T-Mic next.
The T-Mic is a part that attaches to the processor of the CI and curves around my ear, down into my ear canal. It serves as an earhook to hold the CI on my ear, and has a microphone at the end of it which picks up the sound in the bowl of my ear, much like the way my ear would pick up actual sound if I could hear. As a side note, the T-Mic is not a T-coil even though it sounds like it would be. My hearing aids had a T-coil switch that I would use for the phone or other devices that utilize that kind of technology. My CI is capable of being T-coil compatible but it would have to be programmed into one of the slots on my processor. I chose not to do that since I use the T-coil so rarely.
So anyway, I took the T-Mic off and put one of my backup T-Mics on. (One nice thing is that I received backups from Advanced Bionics for each CI, so in essence I have 4 processors, 4 T-Mics, 4 Direct Connects, etc.) When I did this, I was utterly astounded. Sound poured into my brain…loud, rich sound. I pulled the CI off to check the volume level, thinking I had accidentally pushed the volume wheel when I was putting on the different batteries and other T-Mic. Nope, still the same. I took off my left CI and tried that T-Mic on the right side. Same sound, same level of volume. I put the original T-Mic back on and the sound dropped back to whisper level. All this time, my T-Mic had been barely working!
No wonder my volume seemed so messed up…my left sound was way out of sync with the right. In order to get the volume to sound even, I was turning the left side down. I realized I rarely ever turned down the volume on my right CI, it was almost always just the left. As I mentioned before, I just figured that the right side was the weaker one and naturally wouldn’t hear as well. I was wrong!
I came dancing out of the bedroom, telling Dave, “Talk to me! Say something!” I could hear SO MUCH more. Even though the volume was much, much louder than what I’d been used to recently, it wasn’t bothersome at all now that it was even on both sides. I was able to turn my volume back to the 0 level on both CIs.
I went back down to the workshop, to see if I could still hear the hiss. Now instead of the total silence I had been hearing, I heard the click – click – click of the clock on the wall as it ticked away. No hissing or static. I went back to the bedroom to listen…no hissing. Not only did I solve the hissing problem, I resolved a problem I didn’t even know I had!
This is such a learning process…I guess I was just used to hearing the way I did and didn’t even think it might be an equipment problem. Now I know better, and I’ll be aware of checking and testing my various CI components from time to time.
After I finally got over my excitement at all the wonderful sounds I was hearing again, I sat down and emailed customer service at Advanced Bionics. Within 5 minutes I had an answer from them. My T-Mic is still under warranty so they overnighted a replacement T-Mic to me, along with a postage-paid envelope to return the defective one. On top of that, they sent me a pediatric (Small) size in replacement, because the full size T-Mic is so long it nearly hits the bottom of my ear. When I asked if it was possible to get a small T-Mic as a replacement, they didn’t even blink an eye.
The small T-Mics not only fit my ear better, they relieve some of the aching so my ears are less sore (this is more of a problem with the Plus battery).
I am thrilled to have both ears working at full (comfortable) capacity again! :)