Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch

24 03 2010

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And Audie said, Let There Be Sound.

It’s switch-on day for my new bionic ear. I can’t say I’ve been looking forward to it as I didn’t know what to expect. You have to roll with the curveball that you’ve been thrown. Everyone is different and so there are a wide range of experiences from hearing nothing to understanding the audie right out of the gate. I was hoping to hear sounds similar to my hearing aid.  Being born deaf, that was probably unrealistic. I was feeling very very nervous as I stepped into the audie’s office.

The cochlear implant processor was plugged into the computer and put on my head. Eilene, my audie, first set the impedances – measures of the electrical resistance between the individual implant electrodes. Then she set the sound levels. I listened to 4 beeps, very much like a hearing test. I had to tell her when each beep was too soft, comfortable, or too loud. This set all 16 electrodes as each beep set 4 electrodes. Now I was set to go!

They unhooked me from the computer and Eilene tested me out with some sounds. I could hear her voice, but it was beep-beep-beep-beep. Clapping? Bip-bip-bip-bip. She rustled papers. Bip-bippity-bip-beep.

I am a bionic girl in a morse code world.

Wow. This is different!

I was so shocked at my switch-on that Smudge, my hearing dog, picked up on this and freaked out. He jumped up and down, looked at me as if to say ‘It’s okay mom’ and wouldn’t leave me be. Awwww bless! I was unable to hear Eilene rattle her keys. She asked me to put the plug in her office sink, run the tap, and unplug. Listen for the plug being put in, water running, water draining out, plug being taken out. I couldn’t hear a bloomin’ thing. Smudge then ran over to the sink and put his paws up on the rim – he obviously wanted a drink, so we put some water in a bowl for him. Beep-beep. Beep-beep. Beep-beep. That was the sound of him drinking water! It was beeps, but it was sound. Whooooo!

I went for a quick coffee break in a silent cafe, there were 2 small children with CIs playing computer games. I could hear them beeping like happy little R2D2s. Then I went to see Liz, my speech therapist. Liz took me through some speech sounds, I can tell when she is saying AAAAAAAH with her voice and without. I found it hard to tell the difference between AMA (beepbeep) and APA (beep – pause – beep) but with practice I will get better at this. I can tell the difference when she says TEA (beep), COFFEE (beepbeep) or HOT CHOCOLATE (beepbeepbeep).

These beeps will change over time into meaningful sounds as my brain learns and adapts. It’s like being a baby, I have to learn to hear all over again. Although I am disappointed I am hearing beeps, at least I am not hearing nothing, and I am not getting a sensation of being electrocuted rather than hearing sound – common switch-on reactions for those who were born deaf.  I am able to turn up the volume if I need more before my next mapping in 5 days time. The strange thing is, when I go outside, I hear nothing – this is something to do with the acoustics. I cannot hear my male colleagues but my female colleagues are beeping away. I really AM starting from scratch again. I can now understand why this process is scary for some, especially for those who have had good hearing before they lost it.

(Captions courtesy of Howard Samuels and Bill Cresswell)

I was given my box of tricks to take home, filled with coloured covers to jazz up the implant, a dry-box, batteries, battery charger, car charger, different leads and ear hooks. And a health and safety manual. It’s very important not to plug a cochlear implant into the computer / laptop whilst the computer is plugged into the mains electricity supply. I’m also advised not to crawl under electric fences. 🙂

I’ve been wearing the implant for 10 hours now. Let’s see ….. what’s beeping?

Keyboard keys

Moving the keyboard on the desk **

Putting objects on the desk, e.g. mobile phone, glass, pen, oh heck – anything! **

Paper rustling **

Sighing (me)

Sniffing (me)  **

Phone dial tone


Light switch

Kettle boiling and switching off **

The fire doors at work closing **

Clothes landing in a pile **

Drop a pen on the carpet **

Hear someone talk (i.e. beep) in another room **

When I give Smudge a kiss **

Plosives in speech (T, P, B, K, G, J, D, Q) **

All the sounds with stars ** are sounds I cannot hear with my hearing aids. So there you go. Progress. Even if it’s in baby steps.

Beep beep!




18 responses

24 03 2010

Thanks for your update. You have gave a very informative post, so I can understand what you are currently going through. It will be great to hear further posts from you as time goes on, in the new sounds you hear soon.

I hope that things get better for you over time, and look forward to following your progress.

I send my best wishes to you.

24 03 2010

THAT is one hell of a post title!

Your posts about getting your CI are really interesting. The thought of hearing just beeps for a period before your ears adjust is certainly a scary one. Good luck with it – looking forward to more CI installments!

26 03 2010

Hey Steve, I’m not hearing with my ears now, I’m hearing with a computer from Advanced Bionics and my brain! It’s a whole new ballgame!

25 03 2010
Howard Samuels

Excellent, Tina! All those asterisks on day one! Now relax and have yourself some beepbeepbeep.

As much as we all talk about practice, practice, practice, a lot of it will just come naturally. You will just start noticing that you are hearing things that were just beeps (or inaudible) before.

On this side of the pond, the rabbi carried a cigar instead of a watch.

25 03 2010
laura j

i watched your video. 🙂 its been a long time since i was activated lol i remember them doing all those shakey things and clapping! look forward to see how you do as the weeks go by 🙂

25 03 2010

And there was sound…

25 03 2010

You rock, girl! I can tell from your post, you got the attitude and curiosity to pull this off 🙂
Couple of questions though:
1. do you use the T-mic?
2. how and why did you and your audie go for the F120? (I did the same myself, but wonder if you discussed it at all?)

Finally I want to give you an advice/info: all this sound-adaptation that you are going through, is likely to drain you of much energy in the time to come. I noticed a very significant change after my 6 month sound adjustment, so it’s still hard work!

To me it meant a psychological reaction as well (it is a kind of a crisis that you need to cope with). Just make sure you take time to rest during the day. Go into a dark room, lie down and close your eyes. RELAX! Very important!

When you want to work on sound, see if you can find a pleasurable way of listening to complex sounds. Stress is your enemy and will eat you unless you are aware.

Wish you the best sound experiences in the time to come! And Tina, if you ever need someone to write to; don’t hesitate to write to me 🙂



26 03 2010

Hi Ulf,

I am on 100% T-mic. We didn’t discuss programming, she gave me F120-S. It is improving by the hour. Very exciting!

25 03 2010
Ruth Campbell

Hi Tina – First of all congrats on sharing your first audie experience with us. That’s brave!

I’ve always been interested in Molyneux conjecture (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/molyneux-problem/) – and the various (philosophical) responses to it. There is some psych literature on the topic (eg http://www.richardgregory.org/papers/recovery_blind/1-introduction.htm)… which is very interesting. You might like to see if there are parallels with your new audition.

For hearing – oddly – no-one poses the Molyneux question: it’s as if hearing people dismiss both lipreading and signed languages as a way to develop language ‘without ears’.

If it’s not too tricky, please do keep us updated on ALL your new audi-experiences – and how they mesh with life BCI (before cochlear implant). Well done you, and a pat for Smudge!

25 03 2010

WOW. Terrifyingly fanstastic.

Dance with your dog!


25 03 2010

I think your blog is excellent and I love the way you speak so honestly about it. Please keep us updated on your progress..you have a large fan club. LOL

26 03 2010

Thank you for sharing your activation day and your are doing wonderful!! Keep up the good work!!

26 03 2010
Howard Samuels

Ruth, I followed your link about the Molyneaux conjecture. The most amazing part to me is that somebody had their cataracts removed in 1728! Can you imagine the conditions of that surgery?

26 03 2010
Sinead Hasson

Tina I just wanted to say congratulations – its so exciting follow your progress. I remember being at school with you in the 80’s when there was so much equipment involved for you. Many congrats I look forward to reading more about your progress. xx

28 03 2010
Speak Up Librarian

Thanks so much for posting this update. Watching the video helped me understand the switch on process better. Beeps today – words and sounds soon to come. You are a very brave woman, and I am so happy for you at all the new things you can hear!!!!

28 03 2010
Jeremy Freeman

Wow, incredible update. Fascinating process and you have a brilliant attitude for it. Take it easy Tina.

30 03 2010

Hi Tina, such a lovely post and and the video was so touching. You are an example to us all to show how to be determined and see things through.

I look forward to the future instalments when you are ready.

Best of luck and good wishes.


13 08 2013
Tomorrow is Cyborg Day | Lindsay Genius

[…] nervous.  I’ve been reading a few cochlear implant blogs in preparation.  This one is my favorite since the author’s history is similar to mine: she’s been deaf all her life and got an […]

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