Archive for September, 2011

I heart music.

The last couple of days I’ve been putting some playlists together for a little project at church. We’ve just started a message series about marriage and we’ve been playing popular love-themed songs before and after church. This past week I put together the playlist of about six or seven songs, from various decades, and I am actually working now on putting together a completely different playlist for next week.

Can I just say, this is the most fun project ever in the history of projects?

Yesterday I heard Beyonce’s “Single Ladies Put A Ring On It” for the first time in my life, and I almost laughed all the way through it. Back in my teenage years, before going deaf, and before my new cochlear implant, you wouldn’t catch me listening to anything even remotely out of a certain type of music. I loved all things pop-music, but more along the line of Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, Backstreet Boys and *yawn* all those others.

But I am loving finding fun music like that song from Beyonce. Keep in mind, I’m pretty picky about what I listen to usually, but there’s just something about the beat to that song that makes me laugh, bounce my steps, and enjoy something completely out of what I’m used to. Maybe I’m loving that I can hear anything, and just appreciating hearing everything!

So today I’ve started on next week’s playlist. What am I bouncing around to right now?

None other that Rob Thomas and Santana in “Smooth.” My absolute favorite part is when the beat changes a bit and they sing, “Give me your heart, make it real, or else forget about it.”

Love love love this song!!

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The phone. The phone is ringing.

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The weirdest thing about my cochlear implant (CI) is that I keep hearing new things. Different things.

A lot of people assume, as I did myself, that once I got it turned on, I’d hear most everything at once. Sure I’d have to learn to differentiate voices, learn to know what certain sounds were that I’d not heard in a long time, or similar situations like that. But it’s so weird that just when I start to think I’ve hit the end of what I’ll be able to hear, I find something new.

I’ve been talking over the phone for a few weeks to various people, mostly my family, and I can never hear my phone ring unless it’s within arms reach. I can’t tell you how many times someone has left a voice mail and I’ll have to call them back. I’ve become adjusted to just carrying my phone in my pocket or I’d never hear it ring.

The other day I was sitting about fifty feet from my phone, and I actually heard it ring. It didn’t really surprise me, since my house was really quiet with both my kids being at school, so I passed off the incident and didn’t think about it.

Later that day I was at a grocery store and I heard my phone ring from my pocket. I pulled out my phone, saw that it wasn’t actually ringing, and looked up to find another woman digging through her purse looking for her phone. I felt like I got stuck in one of those moments on TV where everything pauses. Time kinda stood still a second while I realized that the woman was about twenty feet from me and I’d heard her phone ring. I did a little shake of my head and kept walking.

The day after all that I was sitting at my kitchen table and reading a book while my kids were in the living room watching cartoons. My living and kitchen are open too each other, so I could hear the kids and the TV very clearly while I read. I wasn’t reading for more than a few minutes before I clearly heard my phone ring from completely across the room, and also deep down in my purse.

After I finished the phone call, I finally acknowledged the fact that I really could hear my phone ring now. Things like this happen periodically. I’ll think I can’t hear something or other, a few weeks or a month goes by, and eventually I start hearing it. It’s so weird how my brain just gradually “clicks” on certain sounds, but once it does, boy does it!

Apparently six months post-activation is the month my brain clicked with my cell phone ring. I’ve heard it just fine almost every time this past week!

Seminars giving out gifts of gold? Or something similar anyway.

Today marks one solid year post-operation for my cochlear implant. Big shout out for that! Granted, I had to have a second surgery and didn’t get my implant actually activated until six months ago, but still. It’s so hard to believe that my first initial surgery was a whopping one year ago. Crazy how time flies!

Fun Fact:

Here’s the implant that’s in my head.
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On the far right, the rounded portion, is where the magnet is. In the center of that clear rounded portion is a silver magnet about the sizeof my dad’s fingertip. That magnet is the one under my skin on my head that connects to the magnet that’s on my processor.

Now here’s my processor.
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See the #2 magnet in the round portion on the end? Pretty cool headgear, huh?

Being that it’s been six months since activation, I’m already certain I want to go bilateral. Right now, I only have one cochlear implant, I only hear from one hear, and by going bilateral I mean that I want the second ear done.

I attended a seminar last night that was sponsored by Cochlear Americas, the brand of implant and processor that I have.
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The seminar was specifically about bilateral CI’s and it was exactly what I needed to hear. If you can imagine all the sound around you coming to just one ear, it’s kinda crazy. If you’re anything like me, you’ve stepped out of a store before, forgotten where you parked, and hit the button on your key ring to get your car to honk at you. The thing about me is that no matter where the sound of the horn is coming from, I’ll only hear it in my left ear, making it almost impossible to figure out where my car is at. But hey, at least I can hear it and know it’s out there. Somewhere.

Directional hearing like that is so important to me, especially having two small kiddos. But I know it will improve my overall hearing too. It would be like going from watching TV at home to sitting in a movie theater with surround sound. Serious difference.

So I attended the seminar, learned lots of new stuff. One thing I know is that my insurance is only going to pay 80% of my second impant. I’ll let you do the math to figure out that paying 20% of a $130,000 gig is pretty steep. It might really take a miracle. No big deal though, because I know that the first one actually happening was a serious miracle. Who says I can’t manage two?

I’ll close up here by showing you a silent video of what I got at the seminar. I love gifts. And being the geek I am sometimes, I think this is about the greatest gift I’ve ever been given at a seminar. Cochlear Americas? You guys rock.

Nothing says holidays like a cheese log

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Holidays are the former bane of my existence as a deaf girl. So were drive-thru lanes. And phones. And conversation with human beings as a whole.

But now that I have a cochlear implant?

The other morning I thought about the upcoming holidays. Hard to believe we’re rapidly approaching the season again, isn’t it? And with that thought, I almost had an emotional breakdown because I realized something that I haven’t really thought about much in a long time.

This will be another first for me.

As I’ve hit my six month’s post activation of my cochlear implant, there really aren’t so many wow I heard that moments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not complaining. I love hearing, and I love that it’s not so emotionally overwhelming anymore. It was rough those first few months when every time I heard something new, I’d practically bawl my eyes out because I was so happy I’d heard that something again. With all the tears, I had to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated! But in all seriousness, while I did love those moments of hearing things again for the first time, I’ve also enjoyed slowing down to just enjoying every day, hearing the same things, in a routine of sorts.

But oh, the holidays.

Who doesn’t love the holidays?

Even last year, as much as I wanted to hate the holidays, I do love them. I love spending time with family, enjoying their company, and hearing kids squeal in delight when they’ve opened an unexpected gift. And I love music. Classic Christmas songs, revised pop versions, rock versions, and every other kind.

This will be the first set of holidays that I can enjoy in a very long time as a hearing person. I’m crying just thinking about it!

And I’m excited. I’m excited about hearing this season for the first time again after so very long. I’m under no impression to think that this won’t be the best year yet.

Even therapy won’t fix this.

This week my husband flew to South Carolina for a conference and was gone overnight. And one thing that I always hated about being completely deaf was that if my husband is out of town, I’d never hear an emergency. I used to not be able to hear fire alarms, my dog barking, an intruder breaking in, my kiddos screaming from nightmares, nothing. Now that I have my cochlear implant activated however, it’s pretty obvious that I don’t have that problem anymore, so long as I’m sleeping with my processor on.

But there’s another problem.

This is the first time my husband was out of town overnight since activating my implant and processor. After putting the kids in bed the other night, I put a fresh rechargeable battery in my processor to be sure it lasted through the night, and I went to bed. I usually take off my processor at night to give my head a rest, especially where the two magnets connect from my implant and processor. It gets sore in that spot on my head if I have long days, but even though I knew I might wake up with a sore spot, I didn’t mind if it meant I’d hear anything that might be an emergency during the night.

I think I went to bed at about eleven o’clock. My dog lay down next to the bed, and I felt nice and safe knowing I could hear.

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About an hour after I lay down and had fallen asleep, I woke up with a jerk to click-click-click-click-click… I looked at the clock, saw it was close to midnight, and wondered at the sound.

I listened….

crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch… The dog had moved from my bedside, left the carpet of my room, and I knew his nails had clicked their way across our wood and tile floors to the kitchen, where he was now munching on his dog food. So I went back to sleep.

An hour later… click-click-click-click-click… I turned over and went back to sleep.

An hour later… click-click-click-click-click…

“Vador lay down and be still!” I finally commanded him.

An hour later it was air-conditioner kicking in. The toilet flushing from one of the kids. And one thing after another…

Obviously I made coffee first thing the following morning. Really strong coffee. And obviously I’m only going to sleep in my processor on the nights that it’s absolutely necessary.

Sweet Therapy

Sometimes I talk about doing hearing therapy with my cochlear implant, activated six months ago, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever explained what exactly that therapy is.

When I think about therapy, I either think about laying down on a overstuffed burgundy lounge chaise in a psychologist’s office or -and I realize these are two extremes- I think of the movie My Fair Lady. Ever seen that one? Classic of classic movies. Professor Higgins bets another chap that he can transform a lowly flower girl into a lady of high society. A big part of the movie focuses on the object of the bet, Eliza Doolittle, and her vocal therapy.

In the movie, Eliza is forced to say the same phrase over and over and over until she can say it in proper English. Eventually she does, of course, and there’s a whole entire song from the movie dedicated to that success.

My therapy, obviously being a hearing therapy, is actually done in a similar way. The counselor who oversees my cochlear implant support group recommends that I listen to about forty-five minutes of audio something per day. It can be audio books, tapes, podcasts, music, or just anything that I can hear but not see. It’s important that I can’t see who’s speaking for the sole purpose that I will be forced to listen and not lip-read.

In the first few months post-activation of my CI, I was pretty lenient with myself, wanting to just start somewhere with listening comprehension, so I started with episodes of a favorite TV show.  Before activation I couldn’t watch TV without reading subtitles, so I figured if I could pick up anything at all without captions, I’d be making progress! After my activation, my husband and I started would sit in bed at night and watch several episodes of a season of “The Office” on Netflix. At a few weeks post-activation, I would keep the subtitles on in case I missed something they were saying (which was very often at that point), but it was much more difficult that way. I’d want to watch the subtitles instead of listening, but if I did that, what they said was often further along than what was displayed to read. It was confusing! And it wasn’t until I completely nixed the whole subtitle ordeal that I really began to make listening progress.

By watching about thirty to sixty minutes of TV per day, I was able to help myself jump from 0% TV comprehension to about 80% in less than these six months. But keep in mind, every time I’d watched TV thus far, it was using an audio cable that goes from my CI, directly to the laptop, much like using headphones to block out other sound.

This month I’ve started doing other things:

I’ve been listening to a few songs at a time, a couple times a week, using my iPhone. This will help my music comprehension.

I’ve been watching a TV show from my living room- without my audio cable – three times a week. This will begin to help listening with sounds bouncing around.

I’ve also been doing a yoga workout in my living room several times a week, positioning myself so I can’t see the TV at all. This means I’m not only getting my physical, but I’m also placing myself in an environment where my kids are probably talking off and on, the TV sound is bouncing around the room, and it’s a completely imperfect way to hear what’s being said. It’s good for me because it’s helping me focus on the instructions being given by the TV, while forcing myself to learn to block out unwanted noise.

Phone calls! I’ve been forcing myself to answer my phone and talk on it at least, bare minimum, twice a week. Phone calls are hard. Most often, it’s not because I can’t hear whats said, but because if I hear even small noises from my kids during the phone calls, I have a really hard time concentrating on what’s being said. It’s just something I have to practice over and over until my brain learns to focus on what I want it to focus on.

Much like Eliza Doolittle had to repeat “The rain in Spain stays manly in the plain,” over and over again, I have to make a conscious effort to do listening therapy over and over. It helps. I know I’m in a much better place today than I was six months ago, but it’s important that I keep pushing myself to do more, create harder versions of therapy, and get my brain to use this implant to the best of its ability.

When I’ve listened to a half-dozen favorite songs or a half-hour of a hilarious TV show and have heard it? Therapy doesn’t seem so much like therapy. Who knew it would be so fun?

From deaf to Aerosmith. It’s been a sweet ride.

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Entering my 6th month of post activation of my cochlear implant, I decided to do some testing on how far I’ve come since those first few days of being able to hear.

It seems like ages ago that I made a list of all the songs I wanted to listen to again when I got my cochlear implant turned on. Can you believe that I completely forgot about that list? In the midst of hearing my kiddos, and enjoying my revamped marriage with my husband, I’ve forgotten about so many of those to-do things. Obviously they didn’t rank as high as I thought they would when I could hear, but now that things have slowed down a bit at home, I thought it would be fun to go back and visit the music list.

Feel free to browse through my observations. Remember, I haven’t heard these songs in a really long time, so you’ll have to excuse the very high amount of enthusiasm following. I’m like a kid at Christmas sometimes with this implant of mine.

“Collide”, Howie Day – I’ve listened to this one several times already post-activation. Every time it just gets better. It’s one that I don’t use much for therapy, but just for listening. I remember all the words to it, being one of the last songs I was able to understand, so I listen to this one for actual music enjoyment.

“Came to My Rescue”, Hillsong United – I love this song. And I realize I’m probably going to say that to every song on this list, but it’s true about this one! It’s a big jumble of a zillion instruments and vocalists, not exactly easy listening. It’s good for me though, because every time I listen, I pick out something new. I hear something else in the mix and it becomes clearer and clearer. Ah, sweet therapy!

“Bohemian Rhapsody”, Queen – Such a crazy weird song, with it’s classical and rock tones all meshed into one song.  It’s hard to pick up everything they say, but I can pick up about 15%. I’m tempted to read the lyrics to remember what they’re saying, but I’m forcing myself not to! I want music therapy, and the best way to do that is to re-listen and force myself to remember the words by hearing them.

“I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”, Aerosmith – Umm… listened to this for the first time today in years and years. When the first chorus hits, it’s hard to decipher all the instruments, because there’s so many, but wow. Gotta love Aerosmith. Definitely missed hearing them!

“Iris”, GooGoo Dolls – Oh oh oh, I heart this song!! Been a while, for sure. I think I’m about to cry after enjoying all this music this morning!

ALERT! I’m not always the most forward thinker, and just thought about turning my cochlear implant setting to the Music setting. Duh! At first it didn’t help that much, everything was still muddled when all the instruments are in full swing, so I turned up the sensitivity. Amazing! It made a big difference. So much, it makes me want to go back through all the other songs, but I’ll work back through them another day. Time to continue!
“When She Loved Me”, Sarah McLachlan – What can I say? I really do like Disney movies. Especially the cheesy songs. And really, you gotta have respect for Sarah Mclachlan’s superb vocal abilities.

“Let’s Talk About Love”, Celine Dion – I know there are other, more popular songs by Dion, but I’ve always been a fan of this one. It’s still good too.

“Worlds Apart”, Jars of Clay – I haven’t heard this song in probably a decade. Seriously. And I’m so incredibly impressed that I can get 100% if the lyrics on this one. Do I remember those lyrics? Only since I’m hearing them!

“One Headlight”, The Wallflowers – Another one of those weird-artsy songs that you just love or completely hate. I’m reminiscing my teenage years of actually hearing this song. And so thankful. So thankful.

“It Is You”, Newsboys – This song is unique. I’m not sure that I ever heard this song by the Newsboys. I heard it in church a lot, and I know the song from that, but I don’t think I ever heard it in this original form. It took me starting the song twice before I caught on to the lead guy’s voice. But once I did, I was able to follow. I’m really surprised how much I’m picking up with this song, being the one song I’ve only maybe heard before. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the lyrics to it, but I do remember them now! 100% baby! (Can I say I love this song too?!)

The rest of the songs will have to wait. I can’t spend all my time listening to music today, but how happy I am! I see definite progress since the last time I sat down and listened to lots of songs, and I know that if I can discipline myself to regularly listen, it will only get better.

Two thumbs up for this phenomenal cochlear implant! <written while humming Aerosmith>