Platform 9 3/4

3 04 2010

It’s been one week since switch-on and what a start it’s been to my journey to better hearing. It’s been nothing like I dreamed it would be, with unexpected twists and turns, and I’m sure, many more to come.

I was delighted when the beeping faded and real voices started to come through. I had been pumping the volume higher and higher and finally requested an early tune-up from my audie last Friday. Now I was able to hear the keys being depressed on my Blackberry (not the tone sounds, but the actual key depressions themselves), cutlery on plates, and traffic just as it whizzed past me. I was happy with the increased volume but as I left work on Friday evening, I stepped out of the building and this loud whine started up in my head. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. It didn’t go away. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I couldn’t hear anything else, just this loud EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. What was it? Was there something wrong with the cochlear implant? EEEEEEEEEEEE. Or my brain? EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I ripped the implant off after 30 minutes as I couldn’t stand another minute of EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. It just did my head in.

*shudders*

The next day, I turned the volume down quite low and this was a relief, as I was busy taking photos all day in Covent Garden, it was very busy with lots of people around, making for lots of background noise. I didn’t want to take the cochlear implant off as in order to maximise success, particularly in the learning stages, the user should wear the processor for every waking hour possible. This is not a ‘Nazi’ view (as one ignoramus has accused me of having) but a strategy recommended by cochlear implant centres. A cochlear implant is not like a hearing aid at all. It’s a completely different animal. The more you wear it, the more your brain becomes accustomed to sounds, the more synapses your brain will create, the more sounds your brain will recognise, and the better your hearing will become. It’s like training to be an athlete – an hour here or there when you feel like it will not help you to become a world-class athlete, but regular and consistent training will.

On Sunday, I turned the processor up again. I was thrilled to hear my dog ‘talk’. He talks a lot! Erasing my notes, I was shocked to hear the eraser scrape across the paper. It moves ….. ergo it makes a sound. I heard a racket and discovered this to be pigeons and doves in my chimney. I heard the door unlock and the light switch click, in the bathroom next door. I could even hear myself breathing. Stunned was probably how I felt that day.

It was Monday morning and I slapped the processor on my head. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. I couldn’t hear anything else, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE, couldn’t stand this for another second, EEEE – took it off, and hightailed it to the hospital. The processor was checked and the impedances were fine. I was given a new mapping and the whine was still there, quietly in the background, so the audie turned the high frequencies down to 5% and switched my HighRes Fidelity 120 from HighRes-P to HighRes-S which has softer high frequencies. She reckons that I have pushed too far, too fast, and my brain is protesting at all the new high frequencies I haven’t heard before. This new programme seemed to work. I got a shock to hear a colleague preparing her lunch, she was using a knife to jab holes in the plastic wrapping of her microwave lunch, it sounded like loud gunshots. I picked up the sounds of my dog sighing (like, every 10 minutes!), my footsteps on carpet, and the beeping of the supermarket till in an otherwise silent supermarket.

My tinnitus decided to make a comeback in my unaided ear and gave me this lovely loud drilling sound for the next three days. I haven’t been wearing my hearing aid as I want to give the cochlear implant 100% and get this up to a high standard before giving my brain mixed signals to cope with. Sounds from hearing aids and cochlear implants are very different; the brain does acclimatise to cochlear implant sound but some people’s brains do not like mixing the two. This is something I may try when I am ready, perhaps in six months time. In the meantime, my brain does not like having no stimulation in the unaided ear, and is giving me merry hell with tinnitus. It has, however, been quiet for the last two days – until I start my Clix soundwork. Fickle brain! Clix listening activities are available from The Listening Room, where you can practise listening skills on your own or with a coach, and record your progress.

Over the last couple of days I have been able to pick up new sounds from downstairs – voices and rapping on the TV. I’ve also been able to hear footsteps coming up the stairs and a bottle cap being unscrewed from the bottle. AGC (Automatic Gain Control) is another thing I’ve noticed. This is a process whereby the hearing aid or cochlear implant automatically reduces all sound for a few seconds when a loud noise is heard. So when I call Smudge, my world goes silent for two seconds. It’s a very odd experience.

I listen to a chapter of my audio book every day, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, read by Stephen Fry. This book was recommended to me as Stephen Fry has a very friendly, clear voice which is easy to listen to. At first his voice sounded like a whine with gaps for the spaces between words, which was very very tiresome to listen to. Now it sounds clearer, I can tell there are words in an English accent, however I am still unable to understand what is said. Today I was able to pick up on when Stephen uses different voices for the characters, and on the emotion in each voice, which makes the story come alive. Voices still sound tinny and not quite normal, but I expect this to change soon. ESL-Lab will help as this website provides lots of different voices to practise listening to.

It’s truly amazing to reflect on how much has changed in the space of one week. From nothingness, to hearing all of this.

My ticket looks promising. I had better run and catch the train to Hogwarts – has it left without me? Wait up!

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9 responses

4 04 2010
Howard Samuels

Tina, that’s just freaking amazing!

My friend stopped by one day with a friend of her. As she explained to her friend that I was deaf, and that I was able to hear only because of my cochlear implants, she kept saying ‘that’s amazing!’ I added to the description of how the implants work, and she continued to exclaim ‘that’s amazing!’ Now this is a lawyer (solicitor, to you Brits). Finally, I was tired of her exclamations, so I said ‘that’s enough!’

The point is, you are doing beyond anybody’s wildest expectations, and ou will continue to hear and understand more and more as time goes on. Even after many years, your hearing will get better!

4 04 2010
Ulf

Great post, Tina!

4 04 2010
Speak Up Librarian

Thanks for the update. Good to know what that worrying EEEEEE sound was: the brakes on your brain. Congratulations on all the new sounds you are hearing.
All the best,
Sarah

4 04 2010
Bluesky

Music? what does music sound like via a CI I wonder?

4 04 2010
Graham

Hi Tina. Great news on the hearing new sounds. not so great on the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’s but glad you sorted it!! Slow down girl 🙂 Easier said than done as I’m sure I will be just the same!! 7 weeks till my op now and I’m starting to plan my work cover etc. How long was it after your op that you felt you could return to work?? I’m curious as I’m hoping to go back about 10 days after…….or sooner if I feel ok.
It’s nice that you can hear smudge!! I’m looking forward to hearing my kids too and I know they make a lot of noise!!! 😉

4 04 2010
funnyoldlife

Bluesky – I tried listening to music a minute ago. It sounds a lot better than a week ago when it was mostly beeps. It sounds scratchy but I can follow the melody and pick out a bit of the voice. The quality is terrible but it will get better with time.

Graham – I took a solid 2 weeks off work and I timed it just right. I felt very tired and quite dizzy. Towards the end of the second week, the dizziness was wearing off, I was okay in the mornings but dizzy from noon onwards. Two weeks was recommended by my hospital which is why I decided on 2 weeks and not 1 or 3. You might feel okay in 10 days…. everybody’s different. Bear in mind that the drugs will give you a high so you’ll feel great after the op – until they wear off! That dip will be about 3 days after, so do rest for a while. I’m sure you’ll LOVE hearing your kids!

5 04 2010
Graham

Yeah can’t wait for the hearing kids bit!! My wife is telling me 2 weeks too! (Have you met??). OK, I will plan for cover for 2 weeks and if I feel better before I can just go back.
How are you getting on researching Personal Training etc?? Access to work have just refitted my gym for better sound. It looks fab!!
As for music………..I’m gonna be trying my beloved PINK FLOYD as soon as I get switched on!! 🙂

4 04 2010
Nanna

Ah, Tina.

When I first started listening to an audio book, I was repulsed by the constant psssspsssspssss sound after ever word. It was so clear and so present that I had to stop listening. I asked someone else to listen and to tell what that psssspsssspssss was. That, I was told, was the presenter’s heavy breathing…

4 04 2010
Soozie

Hey Tina,

Oh wow amazing stuff. Thanks for making our ride just a little bit easier with letting us all read your own experiences( that goes to all of you with blogs!). Hope you are having a relaxing Easter weekend with no EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

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