Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Testing: 1, 2, 3....

From the University of Maryland School of Medicine website
This picture is similar to the hearing testing room I was in, except that to me, the rooms were very dim..

Well, I had my one-year mapping last Friday, Oct. 30. Actually, it was postponed two months because my audiologist was on maternity leave. So now all my appointments will be two months behind. For the not-so-cochlear-implant (CI)-savvy, a mapping is basically an adjustment to the programming of a CI. What we, the CI useres, hear changes-sounds may become too soft so the maxed volume of 9 on a Cochlear Freedom can be adjusted to a normal volume at 6 and I can increase or decrease the volume when I need to. There are also certain sounds that are too sharp or too soft and the trained audiologist can set the programming so that sound and speech is comfortable to me, the CI user.

Tests Galore

I was put into a sound-proof area. It’s very dim in there and I had to sit in a chair facing a large speaker. The room is larger than most sound-proof areas. There was a big window where I could barely see the audiologist in the other room.

I was given a series of tests to see if my hearing remained stable or improved. Since I am bimodular (wearing one CI in one ear and one hearing aid-HA- in the other ear), I was told to take out my HA. The first hearing test was to see where my range of hearing was with certain tones. I believe they remained in the 20 decibel range. Then I was given various word and sentence recognition tests.

I’ve always hated the one-word tests the most. There were no other words to support what I heard. Is it duck or buck? Is it worm or warm? I did the best I could with those and when the recorded male voice (in optimum circumstances-no interference). The recorded voice said the word “ready” before each word I had to repeat. It went like this: Ready….duck….ready…wall…ready…bark. and so on. There was a pause between each “ready” so I could repeat the word I thought I heard.

Then I had the sentence tests. I was warned that some of them didn’t make sense or was too vague. Every time I listened to a sentence, I repeated what I thought the sentence was. I would get sentences like these: Mother shut the window. They watched the train go by. The mailman shut the gate.

I had two kinds of HINT (hearing in noise tests). One was staticky and the other was like listening in a crowded restaurant or bar or something like that-with a lot of conversations going on at the same time. I had tricky, vague sentences or ones that didn’t make sense, such as: They discussed the frog. She made the bed with cream cheese. She considered the (insert word). That test, I only had to repeat the last word of the sentence. Most of the time, I’d hear the rest of the sentence and then…huh?...what’s that word? They considered the what? I didn’t have anything to help me predict the sentence. That was the plan, of course.:)

Some of the tests, I was told to put my HA back in my other ear to see how much I could hear with both the CI and the HA.

After the tests were done, she said I pretty much remained stable with little improvement from the previous appointment in May. Most of my test scores were in the 90% range.

The single word tests? It was 60%. A big jump from my pre-CI test. I scored 0% in the pre-implanted ear and in my HA ear it was 32%, I believe. So that’s a big improvement in a year.:)

The Mapping

She had new software in her computer because of the newest FDA-approved model (Nucleus t)that Cochlear Americas came out with in the last month or so. So she had to feed the new information into my speech processors. I still have the Cochlear Freedom model. I’m happy with it and only had it a year. It would cost too much to upgrade to the Nucleus 5 anyway. It’s not too different except for the slimmer size and the remote. Who knows what new model(s) they'll come out with in the next 5-10 years? It'd be silly to upgrade every time a new model comes out. That's like buying a new car every two years or so. Why do that if it runs great?

After that was done, she did some changes to the programs. The Freedom has four programs. She put the volume 9-it has 1-9 volume control- to a 6 in program one (P1) and had increased volume in P2 and P3 was the focused listening program for zooming in on the person in front of me and cutting out background noise, and P4 remained my music program with a little bit of more volume.

So now, I have an 18-month visit (really 20-month), then the 2-year one and then once a year after that. I can’t help but relate my mapping appointments to well-baby routine checks. You get a lot of baby check ups in the first year and then they start to space out so it’s about once a year. In a lot of ways, my “new” ear is a baby. It is only a year and three months old.

It’s been worth it and if I had to do it again, I would.

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