Posts Tagged ‘music’

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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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>

Processor Features

Today marks Day 22 post-activation of my Cochlear Implant.

One thing I’ve learned over the past week is that I love the sound of birds. I heard them for the first time on Day 9, but for a few days after, I never noticed them. I assume it just takes time for my brain to “click”, but it did finally. Every time I walk out my front door, birds chirping is the first sound I notice. I haven’t picked up leaves swaying in the wind, or airplanes passing overhead, but the birds have become distinct.

And did I say I smile? It’s weird how I walk out my door, hear the loud high-pitched singing, and as soon as I realize what I’ve heard, I just can’t stop from smiling. It’s often these days that I go through half a day, or even a full day without rendering the fact that I can hear now. It’s easy how something becomes so constant so fast. But those birds? They remind me that even though my hearing is long lost, I’ve been given the gift of hearing once more, through this remarkable technological device. They remind me to be forever thankful.

Last week I had my second mapping. Mapping being adjustments of the sounds/pitches that I hear with my processor.

Just like during my activation, or first mapping, I spent part of my audiologist appointment listening to each pitch as she sent them through her computer to my processor, and I determined how loud it needed to be to comfortably hear it. This time, I was able to bring up the volume on the lower pitches, and I think my audiologist also slightly brought down the volume of the higher pitches. I’ve been much happier with the result, and I find that everything has a better fullness of sound.

This time around I was also given the features on my remote for the processor. Before, all I had were four programs on my remote, each with different volume settings. But now I have four different programs that each include a feature.

Feature #1 is “Everyday.” This is what I had with the volumes. It’s complete surround sound, with everything being the same level of volume. From the dishes clattering behind me, or the person talking in front of me, everything sounds the same. I use this program at home constantly. My kids were outside a few moments ago, and when my daughter started to cry because they bumped heads on the trampoline, I heard it clear enough (even with my typing noise) that I was able to go outside to get her. Have I said how much I love that I can hear the kids now?

Feature #2 is “Noise.” This one is supposed to suppress the noise around me, while still being able to hear somewhat surround sound, but I can’t really tell much difference. My mom and I were sitting in the hospital waiting room last week and there was so much noise around us (i.e. TV, kids, people on cell phones, intercom, etc) and I couldn’t tell that it helped me converse with her any more than the Everyday feature. So I can’t say that I’ve used this one. At all.

Feature #3 is “Focus.” This one I definitely use. I had originally thought that this one would mute a lot of background noise and focus in front, but that’s not really the case. It very very minutely suppresses the sounds behind me, but more than anything, I find that it brings out a person’s speech if they are in front or on my processor side. I don’t really know how to explain it. More than muting anything, it’s like it brightens a person speaking, making it easier to understand them amidst noise. Obviously I use this one anytime I’m out and around adult company. If my kids are with me, I usually stick to Everyday, so that I can hear them no matter where they are. But with adults, and in restaurants, I want to be able to pick out speech of a particular person or persons.

Feature #4 is “Music.” Now I’d love to say that I’ve used this and give some sort of educated advice, but I just haven’t had the opportunity to use it yet. One day soon. My days certainly won’t slow down over the weekend, but hopefully I’ll be able to blog about it in the near future. I love music, so I’m excited about testing the same songs with this new feature, to see if it makes instruments and additional vocalists clearer.

Today I end with a story.

I was at my local grocery store yesterday afternoon and was walking away from the cashier, having already finished paying. I’d walked a good twenty feet or more when I heard someone calling out behind me. It took them about three times before it actually “clicked” as to what I was hearing, but I stopped and turned. Then I backed up a little before the cashier caught up with me and handed me a bag of groceries that I hadn’t seen. I was embarrassed, sure. But I was actually smiling when I walked away, because when I looked at her face, she was smiling at me. She’d known that I just hadn’t seen them.

Can I tell you in words how different this experience is? I’ve certainly had this happen to me before. When I couldn’t hear. But months ago, when it happened before, I had walked from the store with a tear streaked face, hating that I hadn’t heard a cashier. She had had to completely run me down and touch my arm to get my attention. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the look from the cashier today wasn’t a I’m-so-frustrated-because-you-never-heard-me-call-you-ten-times-until-I-caught-you look, like the lady had given me a few months ago. Hers yesterday afternoon was a smile, mixed with a oh-you-forgot-your-groceries look. Big difference people. Big difference.

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.

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.

Came to My Rescue

If there’s ever a song that I feel describes my life, it would be this one.

As I entered surgery this morning, I definitely thank my husband and my mom for pushing DARS to finally schedule this, but more than that I know that God had his hand in this from the very beginning.

My whole life was turned upside down from the day I realized I was losing my hearing as a teenager. I remember prayer after prayer from that day on, consumed with my quest for healing. Or for an answer. My spiritual life has been tested, beyond limits I thought possible, but with as much as I’ve seen in my life, I could never question the actual existence if God.
I feel akin to a man named Job from the Old Testament. He had everything imaginable in life, only to have it vanish in an instant. He was broken, but never doubtful of God. Those all around him offered explanations of why he had lost so much, whether from sinning, from his own arrogance, pride, or so many other reasons, yet Job denied them all. He had looked at his life and knew that although he might have not been perfect, he had walked according to those laws God had commanded and could not, for his life, understand why so much had been taken from him.

And after Job questioned God, God answered. He asked Job if Job was there when the world was created, if Job had done the incredible things that God had, and if Job understood the things that God did. In a response, so adequately put, Job answered God this, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

And I realize that this is me. I had prayed for so long for my answer, wondering why all this happened, only to realize that it’s something I cannot understand. But the great thing is that God remembered my prayers and He came to my rescue when I needed Him most.

My husband got me an ipod for my 30th birthday today and although my schedule may be busy hearing so many new things on the day that my processor is activated, I know without fail that this song will be first on my playlist, and the first song I will hear again. Somehow thank you just doesn’t seem adequate to describe my appreciation to Him who rescued me.

Falling on my knees in worship
Giving all I am to seek Your face
Lord all I am is Yours

My whole life
I place in Your hands
God of Mercy
Humbled I bow down
In Your presence at Your throne

I called You answered
And You came to my rescue and I
I wanna be where You are

~Hillsong United

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