Posts Tagged ‘cochlear activation’

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!

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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.

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>

Testing – 1,2,3

I think it’s time for some tests. Self-imposed tests.

I want to mark my progress, how far I’ve come in this hearing journey, so I want to see where I stand with this cochlear implant of mine. Now that I’ve just hit the six month post-activation mark, I think it’s a great time to do some tests. Ok, maybe not tests, but more or less observing what I can and can’t hear at this point. It’s not that I want to really want know what I can’t hear, and limit myself, but the thing about a cochlear implant is that it takes work to hear better or understand more. If I figure out what I can’t hear, I can target my listening therapy and probably fix the issue.

What I can hear:

My children are playing in the living room with toys, while I’m writing this in my bedroom, in the next room. I can hear them talking to each other, I can tell the difference between the voices, and sometimes I can understand what one of them is saying. I can hear the tone of voice and know that they aren’t fighting or crying, but again, I’m only actually picking up 10% of what is being said.

What I can’t hear:

The full conversation. I can pick up every few sentences, but I can’t understand enough to conclude what they’re talking about.

One of the big things I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that I am really good at watching TV and movies now. But only in the right conditions. Movies in the theater I can pick up about 90%, probably pretty close to what an average hearing person picks up. I can pick up the same amount in a television show if I’m using a cord that goes directly from the speaker to my processor. Several nights a week my husband and I will lay in bed at night with his laptop, which has two headphone outputs. He uses headphones, and my audio cable goes from the other headphone output and connects directly to my CI. Pretty much the exact same as wearing headphones. I do the same thing with the speakers from my desktop computer.

At six months post activation, I have noticed limitations. The reason I can’t pick up the full conversation of my children in the living room, is because they aren’t in the same room as me. So it’s quieter from where I’m sitting, trying to listen to them. And the same goes with watching television in the living room. It’s not a clear and distinct sound, when the sound is bouncing off my wood and tile floors, than if I had my cable attached directly to my CI. Another thing to consider is that my flatscreen is probably fifteen feet from my sofa.

I know all this info is probably boring you, but I know I have to catalog it here. I’ve been spending about one hour, three to four times a week, watching television from the living room to get used to the difference in sound. Therapy sure is hard, isn’t it? Laugh, because it is kinda funny, but the more I watch television in the living room, the more I will be able to eventually understand the words coming from it. I’ve done this for about two weeks already, and I can tell I’m understanding just slightly more than when I started. It’s all a big huge process.

Hopefully my “therapy” will evolve into other aspects as well. The unfiltered bouncing around sounds from the television, that I will eventually be able to understand, will most likely help me understand my children from a different room. My concentration on therapy at this point is to listen to sounds that are imperfect. My brain needs to learn to adapt to it’s surroundings and understand the sounds that are not directly imported to my CI.

Time will tell! I will definitely check in about this again at the one year mark and see how far I’ve come. What amazes me is that I can hear so much. I’m fine-tuning now, not trying desperately to just understand one word from another. I’m hearing, I’m just working on perfecting, something I know will be a lifelong process. One I look forward to!

Chains of Habit

Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.

So says a favorite author and motivational speaker of mine, John Maxwell. I gotta give the guy credit. In my own life, I find this adds up to 100% of what’s happening to me here and now.

Habits die hard, don’t they? And the further I get down the road with my cochlear implant, the more I realize that the decisions I make right now will define the habits I create for my future. I know this is deep. So crazy deep for what I had originally envisioned as a lighthearted and not-so-deep blog. But if there’s one thing I haven’t been shy about yet, it’s the fine details of living through a deaf life and on through the recovery of a cochlear implant recipient.

Here’s the thing. I totally didn’t see all the psychological effects that this thing would have on me. Somewhere near the six month post activation date, I felt like I was hit by a freight train called Reality. Yeah, I was hit. Reality told me that the chain of habit that held me back, more than anything else, is…

Fear.

One four letter word. Awful, isn’t it?

What I fear most is being unable to hear someone. It’s fear that when someone calls me, I won’t be able to understand them. It’s fear that I won’t hear a passing car when I’m walking with my kids. It’s fear that I won’t understand someone in public and I’ll be humiliated by saying something completely off-topic. It’s Fear. Fear. Fear.

But I have a choice. The truth is that the fear is a product of living hard of hearing and deaf for a great many years. It’s evidence that something traumatic happened to me. The great big thing is that, just as Mr. Maxwell so eloquently spoke, the bigger percentage is in how I react to what happened.

A few months ago my son needed a doctor’s appointment to finish up his required shots for entering kindergarten. I called the office without much thought, and I was smacked in the face with what I felt was failure. For the life of me, I could not understand the office’s receptionist and had to have my husband call them back to schedule the appointment. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’d have my husband and my mom make phone calls for me, and I hardly answered my phone at all in those weeks. I didn’t think I could do it.

It’s so easy to fall back into patterns that are so known to us, and I wonder how often we even realize it. For weeks, I just sat back and accepted that one failure instead of jumping up to fight it. It was one failure. One.

This month I’ve been so busy I’ve hardly had a choice but to answer my phone. I’ve talked to my husband, my mom, three sister-in-laws, and probably several others too. Each phone conversation has been a little step for me, and I’m so crazy glad that I was pretty much forced to receive or make those calls.

The big thing about those calls is that they were to family members. Every one of those family members knows about my CI journey, so it’s easy if I can’t quite catch what they’re saying. They understand.

I made progress. I returned a call to someone that I have never spoken to on the phone. This is seriously the first phone call I’ve made to someone I don’t know since that doctor’s appointment. Unfortunately I got a voicemail. Or would that be fortunate? I was cringing when I made the call, quite literally petrified to even make the call, but the good news is that I did.

I’m telling myself right now that I will call the lady again. Or I will answer the phone if she calls back. It’s terrifying. It is. And I allow myself to think that it’s ok. It’s ok that I’m scared, since most all of us have a little hesitation at the unknown, but it’s really important that regardless of what I feel, I must choose to go forward. It’s a hard road to look past insecurities and take a leap to break those chains of habit, but if I don’t, I will miss out on even greater things with this implant. My cochlear implant can only do as much as I let it.

So for all you recipients out there who I know read this, let this be a lesson for all of us. Don’t let that measly 10% of what happened to us affect the 90% of what we can choose to be.

Half-year Anniversary

happy 6 months

Today marks my six month hearing anniversary with my cochlear implant.

When couples tell me they’ve hit the 6 month mark, whether married or dating, I roll my eyes and think puh-leeze! Six months is really not that long. And I seriously thought about saying nothing at all about it. I mean, it’s natural that I want to hit my one year hearing anniversary with a big bang, but six months? Well, I had to think about it a little, which is probably why I waited until the late evening to even post.

But I really had to.

I asked myself  a few questions today.

What have I done that I couldn’t do before February 17th?

I talked to three people on the phone today. One of those people wasn’t related, nor have I ever met that person. I’ve seen four movies at the movie theater in the past 6 months, none with captions. I’ve come to count four women, all unrelated to me, as friends now. Not just any kind of friend, but closer than that. I can’t yet say that we’re really really close, since I feel like I’ve only known them for 6 months (even though I did talk to them before that), but I know we’ll grow closer still in the 6 months before my one year mark. If it’s even possible, I’ve grown closer to my mom, my dad, and my sister. Other than my husband, they’ve been my rock of support over the last many years.

The biggest things? I’ve become a better, more understanding wife. I’m a better mother. I’ve developed a more patient attitude to both my husband and my children. I have a closer relationship with my children, and carry on many conversations throughout the day. I answer many more questions from my kids, but I also teach them more about life as a whole.

I’m much more confident. I’m more outgoing. I laugh more often. I have a more positive outlook on my life. I enjoy life much more now. The depression I constantly fought while deaf has rapidly decreased, something I’m confident I won’t battle by the time I hit my one year mark.

It’s been a great 6 months.

And I’m anticipating the next.