Archive for July, 2017

Processors and Improvements

3 days ago I was not only implanted with my second implant, but I also received a newer processor for my new ear, and it came with a backup processor that I’m also using to upgrade my old ear’s processor. I’ll keep my old processor, just in case. My left ear, my old ear, is 6 years post-op, and although I qualify to upgrade it’s processor on it’s own, without using my right’s ear’s backup processor, I’ll wait another year (or two) for Bluetooth.

Below: On the left is my old Nucleus5 Cochlear America’s processor.
On the right is one of my new Kanso processors.

CI

One thing I found the very first day was that I LOVE not having an over-the-ear device anymore. It’s been wonderful. I honestly forget that I have it on now, and my over-ear portion doesn’t slip off my head or skew at funny angles when I have sunglasses or prescription glasses on. It’s a win!

At the audiologist the other day, she recommended I take my left processor off for a few hours ever day to boost progress on my right ear. I’ve been doing that as often as I can, when I’m not working or really needing my left. I’m having major deja-vu with my right ear on. Constantly, I find myself stopping what I’m doing because there’s some noise I’m suddenly picking up, and I have to figure out what it is. Refrigerator, air conditioning, water running, any number of sounds I don’t understand with my right ear. I find I’m re-learning every sound. Fortunately my brain does remember what sounds I heard first the last time around, so I can use a process of elimination to figure out which sounds I’m hearing at the moment.

Over the past few days, I have noticed some small progress with my 2nd ear. I was in a loud noisy restaurant with a large group on Sunday, and I could understand conversation without a huge amount of effort, unlike it used to be. The people to the direct right of me (where my new ear is), I had a lot harder time with, but if they were in front of me or anywhere to left direction, I could clearly understand their speech in this noisy environment better than before.

As for the people to direct right of me, I know that I failed to understand them as much because I didn’t have my left ear as my primary ear picking up the sound. It could only slightly compensate. Whereas with people in front or to the left of me, my left ear primarily was in use, with my right ear compensating. It’s imperative that I get my right ear to understand speech better, so that with a minimal help of my left ear, I can only image how phenomenally well I will do in large loud noisy settings.

Something else I learned? I’m SO EXHAUSTED by the end of the day! I forget how much brain power I use when I’m trying so hard to learn new sounds. I’m thankful though, and I know all these new sounds are worth every effort!

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Activation Day: Going Bilateral

One thing I find about myself is that I like to occasionally go back to look at where I started, so I know how far I’ve come. With that knowledge about myself, I felt it was absolutely necessary that I catalog my experiences going bilateral.

My activation date for my 2nd implant was set for June 29, 2017, and when I arrived at the office, the office was dark. Closed. Apparently in some miscommunication, I had failed to understand I was supposed to be at a different office, about 1.5hrs away from where I was. I very quickly got flashbacks of 6 years ago, the agony of not being activated, the lengthy wait time for the revision surgery, and the arduous wait for the actual activation, 4 months after it was supposed to happen.

I called the office, and they fortunately were able to squeeze me in the next morning, first thing. I was relieved and angry all rolled into one. My husband joked that there was just something about me and activation days. So true, so true.

Friday, June 30th I was officially activated with my 2nd implant.

My audiologist had me take off the left processor. I was receiving two new processors. She would transfer my mapping data from my old processor to one of the new ones, upgrading my “old” ear’s processor. While working on that, we went through the process of mapping my new ear’s processor.

When she turned the processor on with full sound, it was only my right ear, my new one. My very first thought was darn! Everything has the bizarre high pitches again. Unreal sounding aliens and Mickey Mouse thrown in here and there. This is exactly what it was like when my first ear was activated. It really is like starting ALLL over again! Somewhere in the back of my head, I really thought that all the amazing progress I’d made over the last 6 years with my left ear would somehow magically transfer to my right ear.

No suck luck.

My audiologist explained to me that our ears each have their own individual neural pathways to the brain. So yes, I do have to start all over again with my new ear, because the ears can’t learn from each other. I can see how that’s a good thing, but it didn’t mean I liked it at the time…

My 9 year old daughter asked a few questions to the audiologist and I could understand some of her words. See, the last time I went through this, there was an overwhelming feeling of awe, knowing I could hear sounds again. This time though, I’m spoiled in already knowing I can hear those sounds, and not wanting to put forth the effort to study the sounds with my new ear. My mom, in near tears, not knowing the thoughts and emotions spinning around in my head, commented about how amazing it was for me to finally be able to hear out of that ear again. She was amazed! Naturally, I reminded myself of the truth in what she just said. I’m incredibly fortunate to be given this opportunity.

After a few minutes with just my right ear turned on, my audiologist finished transferring the data to my left processor, and I turned it on. When my daughter spoke, it was interesting to mentally note that my brain instantly could tell I was hearing on both sides. It was louder, and still very odd sounding too.

We went through all the fine details about all the new accessories that came with my new processors. I can’t say anything significant came to my head as we packed up and left the office. I was just trying to adjust. Everything was so weird sounding all over again, and I just tried to do my best at keeping up with how different it was again. Understanding words was a lot more work again. My left ear had to work extra hard to compensate for the right ear’s distorting sounds. My work had definitely been carved out for me.

After going home, dropping of my husband and kids, I drove to the store, needing to be busy. As I passed the crosswalk and was about to walk through the doors of the store, a large vehicle passed behind me. I distinctly heard the sound pass from one side of me, leaving one ear, and entering the next before exiting. I paused. Turned around. That’s new, I thought, as I realized I really did see the vehicle and it really did just happen. I half smiled. I think I can do this after all.