You know, one of the reasons my posts slowed down here was because things just became … normal. I woke up every day, put on my CI processors, heard my world in a way that felt normal to me, and that was about it. Once you get past the early days where every new sound is a revelation and it’s just so freaking cool to HEAR again, there’s not much to say. And, um, you kind of start to take things for granted.
This past Saturday I expected to be like any other day. I put on my right processor … beep, I can hear, good to go. (Actually, with the new processors I can switch them up and it doesn’t matter which ear they go on – another really helpful improvement.) Put on the left, start applying my moisturizer, finish my moisturizer and hey, I can’t hear. WTF?! I took off the processor, pulled the battery off and put it back on, and watched the LED lights to see what happened. Usually I’ll see four flashes to indicate a full battery, and then a quick green light. This time I saw nothing for a long time, and then a solid red light that didn’t go away. Fuck.
I still wasn’t too nervous; I figured maybe somehow my battery didn’t recharge overnight. So I tried all the others, with the same result.
It’s funny how entitled I feel now – how dare I not be able to hear?! This is ridiculous and awful! And then I remember that it was my reality (only worse, because I couldn’t hear AT ALL) for so many months when I first went deaf.
Dave was still sleeping so I began quietly opening dresser drawers, trying to remember where I put my old Harmony processors, batteries and battery charger. I never expected to be using my backup processor so quickly but at least I had it. Since my left ear is much stronger, I put the new Naida CI on that ear and put the Harmony on my right. (Which meant I had to figure out which processor went on that ear; with the Harmony, if you put the wrong processor on the wrong ear, it will not work at all.)
I came downstairs to use the computer and see if other people had experienced a similar issue and if it was, indeed, a fault in the processor. It wasn’t too bad, really – I could tell that I was hearing differently on the right side but it wasn’t really jarring. But the house was silent, and once Dave woke up and came downstairs, it really hit home how differently I hear with the Naida Q90 versus the Harmony.
My right ear is weird – I have electrodes turned off on that ear, and high pitched sounds make me really dizzy. With the Harmony I was always turning the volume down or covering the microphone if there were sudden loud noises. It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I realized I hadn’t had to do that once with the Naida.
Dave pulled out dishes to feed the cats, filled the metal vacuum pot and put it on the stove to heat for coffee, coughed and cleared his throat … and I immediately had to pull the Harmony CI off my ear, look at the volume wheel and turn it down. All of those high-pitched sounds were unbearably sharp to me, almost painfully so.
As I went about my morning, I remembered that my headpiece cable for the Harmony was frayed, which meant sound was cutting out every time I turned my head or smiled. So I’d smile, suddenly hear nothing, after a second there’d be a loud WHOOSH of sound (because remember, the Harmony doesn’t activate ClearVoice right away), and finally the sound would moderate to a comfortable level … then I’d turn my head and the whole thing would repeat. It was maddening.
I thought hey, maybe I can wear the new headpiece with my old Harmony! I went upstairs to check, but the connections aren’t compatible. Then I remembered I’d received some old equipment from a fellow who had upgraded quite a while back, and there’d been a headpiece cable included. I never even opened it because my headpiece and cable for the Harmony is a one-piece unit. But I figured I’d check and YES, this cable worked with my Harmony! So I do have one functional unit using that cable and the new magnet headpiece that I wear with my Naida.
My email to Advanced Bionics was in vain because it was the weekend, but I did hear back on Monday afternoon. I have to admit I’ve noticed a difference in the Customer Service response compared to my early days of wearing a CI. The customer service reps often seem confused and not as knowledgeable as they used to be. The person who helped me asked for some information, which I provided, and then said she entered a processor replacement request, gave me an RMA number and referenced my old audiologist in Illinois, even though I’d just given her my new Michigan audiologist information. That really gave me pause. I corrected her, but come on, really?! This is pretty important stuff here!
I’m supposed to have a new processor in two business days but I’ve heard nothing since – no tracking information, etc. I don’t know if my processor will arrive already programmed or if I have to take it in to have the programming put on. (I know I could ask but eh, I figure I’ll know soon enough once it gets here.) In the meantime, I’m realizing how much I’d already gotten used to my new hearing. I can’t really use the ComPilot – it only works in one ear (the Naida) and everything sounds really uneven, so I prefer just to do without for now. I’m back to wearing headphones and using an MP3 player at the gym.
And I know, boo hoo, poor me — “You want some cheese with your whine?” I am still a deaf person who can hear! Totally not complaining. But I can’t help but compare and realize how much I really did take my bionic hearing for granted, especially with the improvements since I upgraded. I guess it made more of a difference than I realized!
On any given day, you can usually find me or Dave frozen in position like startled rabbits; head tilted, eyes to the ceiling. “Where is that sound coming from?” we murmur, as something beeps, clicks or bangs in the distance.
We start wandering around, turning back and forth as the beeping or dripping continues. Sometimes we can’t even tell what we’re hearing: “What the hell is that sound? Is the water running?”
If we’re lucky, Paige is home and she can clear up the mystery with a few words: “It’s coming from downstairs.” “The faucet is dripping.” “It’s Dave’s hearing aid whistling.” (This last happened when he was asleep and had set his hearing aid on the coffee table, but forgot to open the battery compartment door to shut it off…hence the whistling.)
Being able to localize sound is one of those things we take for granted. You hear someone call out to you and you turn in their direction. You hear a car engine and know to look in that direction to see how far away it is. Something beeps and you walk towards it to change the battery or get your food out of the microwave.
Dave and I have the double challenge of first trying to figure out what it is we’re hearing (for some reason, running water is really hard to ‘understand’) and then figure out where the heck the sound is coming from. It’s incredibly frustrating!
I used to wear bi-CROS hearing aids, which meant that I wore a receiver on my deaf right ear, and it transmitted the sounds wirelessly over to my left ear, which had a moderate-to-severe loss. It gave me the impression of hearing from both sides, but was absolutely no help when it came to localizing a sound. Everything just sounded like it was in front of me or off in the vague distance.
Dave can’t stand the way bi-CROS aids sound, so he doesn’t wear anything on his deaf left ear and just wears a hearing aid in his right ear. Of course, everything sounds like it’s coming from his right side.
I’ve noticed, now that I’ve had my cochlear implants for over 2 years, that I’m getting better at figuring out where a sound is coming from. More and more, I’m the one who answers when Dave asks where a noise is coming from. I can tell if it’s inside or outside (this is more of an issue when the windows are open), upstairs or downstairs, to my right or left.
Sometimes I close my eyes and listen for a while; it just happens. I can just tell which ear is receiving the sound I’m hearing. It’s something I’ve never experienced before and it’s not a big dramatic thing – it just kind of happens and my brain makes the connection. I don’t know how long it took before I realized I knew which direction sounds were coming from, but it’s definitely something that is quietly improving as time goes on…behind the scenes, so to speak.
Right now I can hear my cat meowing and I can tell she’s to my left. Dave just cleared his throat and my right ear heard it. I hear a kind of ambient noise and my guess is that it’s the refrigerator…I hear it more in my left ear, and the fridge is behind me and to the left. It is so cool to hear this way!!
The first few months after I was activated, everything just sounded like it was “in my head”. I was so busy learning what everything sounded like that figuring out where the sound was coming from was just too much information. It’s amazing to me how much my brain is still learning and how much it’s adapting, even a couple of years later.
It’s still not perfect; that incident with Dave’s hearing aid happened last week, and I actually didn’t hear the high-pitched whistle at all…Paige heard it. But I know it will just get better with time, and that’s fine with me!