An Amazing Year of Sound

It’s been a year since my initial CI activation, the day I was first given my external processors and my brain was introduced to sound through my cochlear implants.

My Activation Day was August 20, 2008, and it was crazy-hectic because it also happened to be the day my daughter was registering for her freshman year of high school.  This year, she was scheduled to register for sophomore year on August 20 again.  Even though she was currently living at her dad’s for the summer, and had told us she wanted to make a permanent move to his house so she could go to school out there, I still hoped she’d change her mind.  So I told Dave to make the appointment for my one-year mapping on the 21st and to keep the 20th free, just in case.  I didn’t want to chance another repeat of trying to fit too many things into one day.

Paige came home the weekend of August 14, for her first visit all summer.  We celebrated her 15th birthday and went to the movies.  And she gave me a gift:  she asked to come back home.  Of course, we welcomed her with open arms, and finally the house feels normal again.  To say that I am thrilled is putting it mildly!

So we all left bright and early Friday morning for my one year mapping.  It had been six months since my last one in February.  A mapping, by the way, is done with an audiologist who is trained to program cochlear implants.  Each of my processors is hooked up to a computer and programmed based on my responses to the sound that I hear.  Each of my implants has 16 electrodes that can be manipulated with this software.

I told my audiologist, Jill, that things have actually been sounding too loud the past couple of months. I’ve noticed I’ll start the day with the volume around 10:00 and some days never make it louder; other days I might go up to the 11:00 mark but very rarely 12:00. If I go up to 12:00, everything sounds very loud and like it’s echoing.  (Usually the CIs are programmed with the volume wheel at 12:00, which is like “0”.)

Based on that, we started off by setting the sound levels again.  To do this, I listen as tones are sent to my ear through the CI and I let Jill know when the sound is loud but comfortable. On the left side, which is my better ear that has been deaf the shortest amount of time, I had her leave most of them the same; I think there was one or two that she turned down a bit.

On the right side, I actually needed more volume for the first 3 tones I listened to. This makes me wonder if maybe the issue was more that I needed more volume on the right…and I had been turning the left side down to make things sound more even. The right ear is the one that’s been deaf far longer, so it has more work to do than the left.

However, the last 2 or 3 tones on the right side were super high pitched and just made me dizzy. I could hear them, but they weren’t loud — they just really made my eyes feel like they were spinning around in my head. So she turned those down until they didn’t make me dizzy any more but I could still hear them.

Once I got all the volume to where it was comfortable and clear at the 12:00 volume mark, we were set. It was time for the hearing tests.

Long-time readers of my blog know that I get really stressed out at hearing tests. I hold my breath, trying to hear the tones. I just can’t seem to go into the testing booth and be relaxed.

So this time, I tried to psyche myself out a bit. I decided to approach it as if it were a trial or study I was participating in. I mean, I always thought it would be cool to be part of a clinical trial, and I imagine it would consist of a lot of these tests. For whatever reason, I associate a trial or study with positive feelings. And it actually worked!  I was able to feel like I was helping someone out by doing this testing, and just relax and listen.  When we got to my worse ear, the right ear, I tried to just focus on the fact that it was so cool to actually be able to hear with that ear (for the past 15 or more years, they would test me and I’d never even respond on that side).

I still have a problem with super high tones just activating the noise compression program on my CIs, which makes the sound damp down when they are played, so for some of those I couldn’t give a response. I assume my hearing test with the tones was pretty much the same as always because Jill didn’t really mention those results.

After the tones, we did sentences. I sat in the booth and listened as sound came from the speakers (no headphones) and repeated what I heard.  I listened in quiet with both ears, then each ear by itself. The CD player was broken (YAY) so Jill just read the sentences to me, covering her mouth so I couldn’t lip read.  I got 100% with both ears, went from 96% to 100% with my (better) left ear, and from 60-something % to 80-something % with my right ear. (I should have written the numbers down…one of these days I’ll remember to do that.)

Then she added static. Now this is where I really don’t do well. With the man speaking sentences on the CD, it’s like his voice is the same tone and volume as the static, and it just gets lost for me. Last time, they had to turn the static down to get much of a response from me. With the original static level, using both ears at once, my Sentence in Noise result was 19%.

This time, I had it easier because it was Jill’s voice and not the man on the CD. The static was at the original, louder level though. I was VERY nervous because the static was so loud. She started speaking and it was just like her voice cut through the static and I could hear her just fine. I got 100% on the Sentence in Noise test, with both ears!  (They don’t test me in noise with the individual ears.)

As we walked from the booth to the mapping room, Jill said, “Could you hear the static?!”  I had to laugh, because it was so loud to me — but my results were so drastically different that I think she thought her static button was broken.  (I did notice that at one point she stopped the test, turned the static off and then on again.)

I’m not sure how I would have done if I’d had to listen to the man on the CD instead of Jill’s voice, so it might not be a fair comparison.  I have a feeling my results wouldn’t have been 100%, but I do think they would have been far better than 19%!

I had her program my backup processors with the new levels, and Dave asked if I should be switching between my regular processors and the backups.  Jill said it would be a good idea to switch them out periodically so if I end up having a problem with the backup processors, I can get them replaced while they’re still under warranty.  I like that plan, so I’m going to switch out my processors each month, just to give them all more of an equal workout.

I don’t need to go back now for another year, unless I have problems in the meantime.  It’s been a couple of days since my mapping and I’m really happy with the way things sound and the volume levels, which I’ve been able to wear at the 12:00 mark all day long.

My cochlear implants make each day a little miracle, and I will never take them for granted. It’s been an amazing year of sound!


About wendiwendy

I'm a real-life bionic woman.

Posted on August 23, 2009, in Cochlear Implants & Hearing Loss, Medical Visits and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Wendy, once again you deliver a golden nugget in your blog that hearing healthcare professionals should pay heed to:

    Long-time readers of my blog know that I get really stressed out at hearing tests. I hold my breath, trying to hear the tones. I just can’t seem to go into the testing booth and be relaxed.

    When I built my anechoic chamber in my office, it came out by accident that it was 12 feet long & almost 5 feet wide. There was actually an opening into the wall just over 3 feet off the flooe, where a 15″ x 24″ window was; but I made the double-pane glass removable, as we found both the patients and their family member sitting next to me were much more comfortable that way. (And, the outer office was sound treated as well, so the one time someone was really claustrophobic, I just brought her out & sat her down at the counter next to me to test her).

    Originally I had an overstuffed Queen Anne chair in the chamber; but then I replaced it with an overstuffed recliner, further reducing any patient anxiety. (OK, so I also used to kick back in there after work & crank up the stereo to insane levels; but that’s a story for another day.)

    [As a footnote, the only times I ended putting in the window glass assembly (10 seconds) was for loudspeaker testing; and for recording voice-overs & radio commercials, as we did other things in our engineering lab besides just design, build, and dispense hearing aids.]

    The moral of this anecdote is that experiences in the sound room like Wendi had need not happen with some planning, and some care to details of patient comfort.


  2. I can’t believe it’s been a year already! You sure have come a long way! It’s great to hear how much youre understanding and the way you’ve improved!


  3. Hi Wendi,
    You’ve been tagged for an Honest Scrap award on my blog.
    Have fun,


  4. Wendi, you wrote something that needs to be fleshed out, especially for other hearing healthcare professionals reading your excellent blog:

    Long-time readers of my blog know that I get really stressed out at hearing tests. I hold my breath, trying to hear the tones. I just can’t seem to go into the testing booth and be relaxed.

    Can you tell us readers what why you can’t seem to relax in the testing booth? Does it relate to claustrophobia when they close the door?

    Does this relate to something traumatic that occurred previously?

    Does this relate to feeling closed in while taking a shower?

    Deafness stinks: Everyone reading this blog knows it, too.

    The least we professionals can do is not add insult to injury, by providing a comfortable testing environment.~


  5. Hi Dan!

    My discomfort with hearing tests is purely psychological — it has nothing to do with physical discomfort or claustrophobia. It’s just part of my personality, that feeling of “failing” a test which stresses me out.

    Because I want to see a good result on the hearing test, I get really tense — I tend to hold my breath, for fear of missing a soft sound because the sound of my breathing is too loud. I’m also never quite sure if I’m hearing those very soft sounds or imagining them, so I’m not sure if I should press the button or not. So I’ll hesitate, wait and then hear the sound a second time before I press the button. Then I’m not sure if I’m screwing up my test results by doing that, which makes me anxious.

    Chalk it up to an anxious, perfectionist personality, LOL!! That’s why I’m trying different ways to think of/approach testing, so I go at it with a less anxious and more positive approach.

    Thanks for asking — I’m always happy to clarify things here. 🙂


  6. Sorry Wendi. Been out of the blogosphere too long. Getting caught up here. I LOVED this post, girl. You describe things in layman’s terms for those who don’t know what goes on in a CI mapping. Great job. We tend to talk about things we know and forget that others don’t.

    I want to pass my test and I concentrate too hard to hear. Like you, i want the best result possible. My one-year mapping (two months postponed due to the audie’s maternity leave) is coming up at the end of the month. Stay tuned for that. I’ll have to remember to describe things in plain English. LOL.

    My daughter had her registrations for high school on Aug. 20th both years, too. I remember that cuz it was her birthday. 🙂


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