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?
Moving the keyboard on the desk **
Putting objects on the desk, e.g. mobile phone, glass, pen, oh heck – anything! **
Paper rustling **
Sniffing (me) **
Phone dial tone
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.