Archive for February, 2011

Music Observations

At Day 8 post-activation of my Cochlear Implant, I tested music for the second time. The first time was on Day 3, and I’d previously been so happy that I was able to pick up the melody from certain songs.

I tested two different songs on Day 8, and both were some of the simplest of songs that I tested on Day 3.

Test 1 was Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.”
In the quiet of the evening, after the kids were in bed, I turned on the speakers of my computer to the song, and I literally broke down in tears. What I heard was no longer the static background of music with a clearer melody. I heard strings. I heard a piano. And I distinctly heard the pure voice of a very talented male vocal lead. I can’t describe the heartbreaking joy of hearing something I thought I might not be able to hear again. Let me say, it’s not perfection, and I still have so much work ahead of me, but it was something more beautiful than I thought might be accomplished by a technological device in my head. I wasn’t sure this implant was capable of this much, but I’m so very happy to say that I’m wrong.

That first test hit me so powerfully, partially because the song means so much to me. I knew the second test wouldn’t be so emotionally binding, but I wanted to go further.

Test 2 was by Howie Day, titled “Collide.”
When I first heard this song so many years ago, Howie Day sang it on Jay Leno’s show with nothing more than an acoustic guitar. I don’t know why, but the melody has just always stuck with me. And when I heard it during my test, I was just astounded at my hearing comprehension. When I heard it on Day 3, it was a whole lot like the Josh Groban song. I picked up the melody in the vocal, and I could make out the strum of the acoustic guitar. The second time around was a whole different thing. When I heard the guitar intro, I could clearly pick out the individual notes that make up the entire chord being played. Each strum became much more than just a mushed note, but a symphony of multiple notes.

I laughed and just held my head in my hands, hardly believing this gift I’ve been given.

I’m still not close to perfect. I’d say at this point that I’ve come back to something around fifty to sixty percent of my hearing. I have such a distance to go, so much more to learn, but I can’t explain how happy I am. I’d lost a joy inside myself that I hardly realized I’d lost, and I now find that each day is no longer a monotony of lost sounds, but an adventure of new ones.

And I’m so incredibly grateful. Thankful. And enjoying my life once more.

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Day 8: My gigglie girl

My son started his very first soccer season last week. This is him.

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My husband let my son pick out his soccer clothes on the night before the first practice (and this picture), and in case you can’t tell, the clothes are about two sizes too big.

So my daughter and I went on Day 8 to Kohl’s to find some soccer shorts for my son that would be more of his size. We went into Kohl’s while my son was in pre-k, and because it was just after nine o’clock in the morning, we were virtually the only customers in the store.

We walked in the door, took the first few steps onto the tile walkway, and I realize something. My three year old daughter, walks very, very loudly. I mean, I could seriously hear her steps echoing through the store! It was funny, and so so her.

Speaking of that girl I love.

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I’ve noticed that she not only walks very loudly, but she also giggles nonstop.

I was sitting at the computer sometime later in the day and I began to hear my girl giggle. I don’t know why I really hadn’t noticed it until Day 8. I’m sure I’ve actually heard it, but it’s odd how I just pass over so many things, and then at some point it just “clicks” with me that I’m hearing something in particular. And that’s how it was with her giggle. Once I noticed it, I notice it all the time.

And I just love it!

When I heard her start her giggling, I wondered what she was doing. Odd how a mother just knows these things, right? I began to call her.

What are you doing girlie?

{giggles}

Are you hiding from me?

{more giggles}

I’m gonna come find you….

{giggles again}

I walked around my room, and bathroom, calling every now and then, only to be answered with more giggles. I finally walked out my bedroom door toward the living room and found the cat sleeping on the top tier of the kitty tower and my little girl, covered with her blanket, “sleeping” on the second tier of the kitty tower.

I had to giggle right along with her.

Day 7: My Grandmother

Over the course of the last few days, I’ve developed headaches. Day 7 was no different and I forced myself to take my processor’s volume back to program #2. I took Tylenol to ward of the oncoming headache of the morning, and prepared myself and the kids for a visit to my mom’s house.

I turned the television on for the kids in the living room, so that I could get dressed in my bedroom without worrying if they were getting into something they shouldn’t. After walking into my bedroom, I could distinctly make out some of the words from the theme song to the show they were watching. Interesting!

After heading to my mom’s house, I got to do something that I’ve not been able to do for many years now.

My grandmother (my mom’s mom) just turned eighty years old a few weeks ago, and it was one of those reminders for me that time flies at such a rapid pace. It’s moments like those that you remember to enjoy the moments around you, because before long, they’ll fade with the wind.

I couldn’t hear much of anything at my grandmother’s party, but on Day 7, I can’t describe how much I enjoyed just sitting and chatting with her. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to do that and only God can know how much longer I will have with her.

I love her dearly.

If there’s anything I remember about my grandmother, it’s the way she used to cook. I’m talking biscuits made from flour, not from a mix or out of a can, and made-from-scratch gravy that will have your mouth watering before your first bite. I remember standing next to her in the kitchen, early in the morning after spending the night with her, just watching in fascination as she worked her magic in the kitchen.

She can’t really cook like that anymore, and it’s bittersweet that most of my memories of her are from so long ago. There’s so much difference in talking with a grandparent as an adult than as a child. I think we value those relationships much more when we know how fragile they really can be. We learn to take nothing for granted, and I that’s exactly what I did on Day 7. I stored this memory of adult conversation with my much loved “Mema”, and I look forward for the days ahead of us.

And I’m believing there will be quite a few.

Day 6: My Little Helper

Day 6, after my Cochlear activation, began with a load of laundry.

I have laundry from a husband who changes clothes more than I do, a four year old boy who gets dirtier than our dog, a three year old girl who still uses her shirt as a napkin, and then there is also me. Needless to say, we have a lot of laundry, and I put in the first of a great many loads.

After taking my son to school around the corner, I fixed my daughter some cereal. I started hearing what I thought was the air-conditioner. I went to check it, since it was so cool that day and I had the windows open, but the air-conditioner wasn’t even on. I walked into the bathroom, checking to see if the vent-fan was on, but it wasn’t. What is that noise, I finally mumbled as I walked back to the kitchen. My daughter quickly scrambled out of her chair and ran to the pantry to place both hands on the washing machine.

“It’s this, Mommy!” She told me in her too-loud voice, as she tumbled into giggles.

I laughed, and gave her a hug, because she was right. The washer was filling with water for its rinse cycle, and I was mistaking the sound of water for what I thought was the a/c.

Later on, I’d hear what I thought was music, only to have my daughter tell me that it was my son’s train phone ringing. It doesn’t really ring, but make all sorts of train moving/honking horn sounds. Let me tell you, it was much easier to just ask my little girl than following these sounds all over the house trying to figure out what they were! Even three year olds can teach you things!

It’s weird, but even the static-type sound of spraying one of the kid’s clothes with Shout, or the abrasive sound of the toothbrush scrubbing a stain simply just amazes me. There were so many noisy sounds that I never realized I was missing.

Toward the end of the day, the kids were outside playing while I was in my bedroom on the computer. My bedrooms is the room next to the living room (which both face the backyard), and while my bedroom windows were not open to the backyard, my living room windows were. While sitting at my computer, I could hear the distinct sound of one of my kids crying, and I was able to get up and go see what had happened. I can’t begin to tell you how much this means to me as a mother. I’ve spent the last six years not being able to hear either of my children cry from infancy, and to now be able to hear them when they cry just stuck with me emotionally. I feel like they are safer now. And I just love that.

Day 5 – More reasons I don’t like Walmart

First note, I can’t hear the tinnitus anymore. It wasn’t a high pitched ringing, like it used to be before my surgeries, but it was more a low pitched whirring-type noise. I always hear it without the processor on, and I had trouble on Day #2, when I started hearing it with the processor on. But today, I realized that I don’t hear it at all anymore. I tried really hard to listen for it, and it’s just simply not there. Weird, that. Certainly a good thing.

On Day 5, I took my kids to Walmart. I know, I know. Why on God’s green earth would I attempt to take a three and four year old to that place by myself? Even I am not perfect, nor do I always think before doing.

So the three of us walk into Walmart and all of the sudden, I can’t hear much of anything. I kept looking around, trying to figure out why I suddenly could barely make out what my kids are saying, and it was hard to explain. All of the zillion noises just jumbled together so that I couldn’t really make out a single thing. The sounds seemed to mold together to create a blanket of white noise. I suppose it’s similar to a loud air conditioner that makes conversation difficult to hear or understand.

One thing about my processor, is that all of the programs set on my remote are for volume. Eventually I will get a program that will be directional, where I can cut out all the noise behind me and focus on the sounds in front of me, like my kiddos talking in a great big noisy place. But until then, I have to muddle through the best I can.

So Walmart was a mess. I ended up turning my volume up to program #4 to hear the kids, but the second we left the place, I had a headache so bad from the noise that I pulled the volume back down to program #3. My headache persisted later on, and when the kids went down for naps, I decided to lay down as well. I set the alarm on my phone to wake me up shortly, set both for vibrate and tone. How weird is it that I didn’t feel the vibration of the phone in my pocket but I woke up hearing the loud tone from the alarm? Pretty awesome!

My headache still remained, so I finally caved and took a few Tylenol. I know my headaches are stemmed from various reasons. One, my volume was set really high in Walmart to understand the kids and it probably was just too much for me. Second, even though I understand noises so much more, I’m in a constant state of concentration. I’m either concentrating on what my kids are saying, or my brain is downloading and mentally compartmentalizing all the new sounds I hear from day to day. Memorization at it’s finest. Unfortunately it’s just still so overwhelming that I my brain needs a break every now and then. I could take off my processor for a while if I need to, but I’m just afraid I’ll miss out on something.

In the evening, after the kids were in bed, I did my video workout that I started a week prior. My workouts are a series of videos, and this particular video had both push-ups and chin-ups. After I did the first set of push-ups, I suddenly heard the whirring of the tinnitus again. I’m being very careful working out, making certain that I don’t overtax any neck muscles, so I only did a few push-ups. I stopped when I heard the tinnitus, and within a few seconds, it completely stopped. I tried to listen for it, thinking I just blocked it out mentally, but it really was not there anymore. So I did my first set of chin-ups. The tinnitus started as soon as I did a few chin-ups and I stopped. This time I counted, and the tinnitus lasted for twenty seconds total. At about ten seconds, it started fading out, and by twenty seconds, it was completely gone. So now I’m assuming that the tinnitus may just be from overstimulation or from working my neck muscles a little too much.

Inevitably, I’m going to be more careful. I’m now skipping the major upper-body workouts and will give myself a few more weeks before trying to pick those up again. After five months of very restricted activity from the two surgeries, I’m just so ready to get back into these workouts, but I’m obviously going to have to pace myself and begin very very slowly and carefully.

Day 4: Must fix my attention span

I begin by apologizing for the delay in posts. Apparently I don’t know how to post things at a specified time, like I thought I did. Writing I can do. Figuring out WordPress is a completely different matter. So be prepared for multiple posts today as a catch up. Because I won’t be timing them to publish at a certain time.

Day 4 was Sunday. Sunday for my family means attending church. But here’s the thing. I haven’t heard a sermon from start to finish, and understood it, in a great many years. I’d really love to say that on Sunday I was just completely ministered to and learned something so deep and full of inspiration that it will change my life forever. Unfortunately that would be a complete lie. Not that today’s sermon wasn’t inspiring, it’s just that I had a very very very hard time paying attention. And no, it wasn’t because I couldn’t understand the minister.

The big problem is that every Sunday for the past several years, I have sat in church services and read the notes from the service about five times during the service. After nearly memorizing them, I’d eventually look up at the minister and pretend I’m paying attention, all the while making to-do lists in my head or trying to remember where I placed a certain item.

See, church services are a lot like those pre-mentioned dinner dates for me. I used to pretend to understand, but really, I’d only get a couple words (at most) out of the whole service even if I was paying rapt attention to the speaker. It isn’t apathy that made me fail to pay attention, it was the fact that paying attention or not paying attention, I couldn’t understand a word that was said. But now that I can? Well, I seemed to forget during Sunday’s service that if I had been paying attention, I would have understood what was being said.

So what I’ve learned on Day 4 is that in order to sit in any type of service, seminar, or what-have-you, I’m going to seriously have to work on getting my mind to focus on a speaker for more than five minutes at a time without wondering to my [not so] exciting domestic life.

The other thing I learned on Day 4 is that my front door is very squeaky and needs to be oiled.

Day 3, part 2: TV and Music

Day 3 seemed to have a lot that I wanted to detail about, so I split it into two parts, so that I had time to blog about it all. Part 1 was done previously, and now I’m finally getting around to Part 2.

At the very end of Day 3, when the house was quiet and kids were in bed, I decided to sit down and watch some television. I’ve always had the captions/subtitles on, and didn’t change that when watching it this time around. Now the show I was watching just happened to be a past episode of the show called The Office. I’ve seen quite a few episodes of this show, and I’ve always thought they were pretty funny.

But here’s the thing.

If you’ve ever watched The Office, you’d know that a very large portion of the humor for the show is projected from the tone of voice from each of it’s cast of characters. It also has a lot of office pranks, and even slapstick type humor, but I never realized how much I was missing from the show until I sat down on Day 3 and could hear all the tone reflections in the voices. It was hilarious! Steve Carell was the highlight, obviously, and I can’t even describe how much I laughed!

When watching this episode, I actually watched it online. In my processor, I have an output where I can plug in a cable directly from the processor to the speakers on my computer. It’s pretty much the same as headphones, only I’m just plugging it in to my processor instead of placing earphones over my ears. Pretty cool stuff. But because I did that, I found the quality of the sound was much clearer than if I’d been talking to someone across the room, or obviously watching a television from across the room. It was clear enough that I was able to pick up about 80-90% of what some of the characters on the show were saying. The problem was that those characters were the low-voiced characters, whereas I had a much harder time understanding the higher pitched and fast-talkers of the show.

In addition, I found that if I just listened, and looked away so I didn’t fall into lipreading, I had to concentrate to understand what they said, and it didn’t always “click” (if that makes sense). It’s like finally understanding what the words are, but I just don’t process what they said because I’m concentrating on the next word.

If I lipread/listen at the same time, I process a whole lot more. So for now, I’m considering the lipreading thing as being an ok thing for me. Eventually I know I’m going to have to force myself to listen without lipreading, but I’ll have to wait until my brain can accommodate the listening without so much concentration.

It was still really weird with the subtitles. I could understand so many of the characters that when one of the high pitched people, or one of the fast-talkers made a comment, I’d have to search through the subtitles to find that particular comment. I was understanding so much from the other people that I wasn’t even reading all the subtitles. Work in progress for sure.

And now music. Lovely music.

The first song I listened to, or tried to listen to, was a song titled “Came to My Rescue” by Hillsong United. It’s an amazing song, but it unfortunately sounded a lot like static feedback. Or exactly like static feedback. I tried picking up several of the band’s other songs, but I finally figured out that part of the problem was that their songs were performed in front of a live crowd and also contained not just one, but a whole group of vocalists.

I left their YouTube site in favor of Maroon 5. Haha, no, that didn’t work out. Those dudes have accents.

Next was Celine Dion. Note that I’m not going for new songs, but songs I’ve heard a million times over so that I can try and filter the melody that I know is there. I barely got any of the melody out of Hillsong United songs, but I was able to pick up the melody in Celine Dion’s “All Coming Back to Me Now.” It was still very static sounding. Even though I hear all her high pitches, it’s still hard for me to feel comfortable with them because I’ve just been so long without them. It was too weird-sounding.

So I changed artists again and again. Finally I ended up with Josh Groban, simply because his voice is very low and his songs are usually very simple and clean. No electric guitars, extensive high pitches, or anything fancy. And success! It wasn’t gorgeous sounding, but it was much closer to music than any of my previous attempts. I picked up every bit of the melody, most of the words, and it was nice. Again, not a beautiful blend of instruments and lyrics, but it was progress in that it was enjoyable. Ha!

The music, just like television, will just take time to get accustomed to. All of the instruments tend to sound the same and if there are too many, it begins to give off the static sound. In time, as I listen more and more, I’ll be able to pick out the different instruments and vocalists. It all boils down to patience. It will come. I just have to wait on it, and practice as much as possible.