Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

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.

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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?

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!