Saturday, November 29, 2008

Long Time No See

Hello, everyone. It’s been a while so I thought I’d post something so you know I’m still around. :) I hope everyone (in the US) had a great Thanksgiving.

Last week I had my 3-month mapping (the personalized adjustments made to the CI-cochlear implant-that helps me to hear in all kinds of situations).

The first thing the audi (audiologist) did was put me in jail, that is, the sound booth. I am familiar with the layout of the room now after three visits. It is dark in there and for us Usher folk, it takes time to adjust to the darkness. I have to take a step into the room and walk over to the chair. The first time I went in there, I found the arm of the chair but almost found myslf on the floor because I thought the chair was turned to me when it was turned at a 90 degree angle, not 45 degreej angle. Once I sat down, I faced a huge speaker and to the right of me, is a window to another darkened room where the audi does the testing. I can see her outline in the tinted window.

She told me to turn off my HA. So I just took it out and cradled it in my right hand.

One word tests were awful. I may say words that rhyme with them, the beginning, middle, or ending sounds of the word, like shoe for shoot or bake for make. I scored 36%, up from 26% at the 1-month testing.

Sentence test: I scored 87%, up from 79%. And with my HA and CI, I got 93%.

Then the audi made it challenging. I had to be tested with noise in the background, like voices in a crowded restaurant. I scored 40 something percent. I was also tested with sentences with me telling her what the last word of a sentence was. That can be hard because most of the sentences started with “They discussed the ….,” “They were talking about the …..,” and “She was considering the …..” Augh. Those were hard because with sentences, I could fill in the blanks with the context of the sentence. When it’s vague like that, there’s no context.

Here are the test scores of my speech perception and what some of the abbreviations mean.

HINT=hearing in noise test
CNC=consonant-vowel nucleus-consonant words (one word tests)
SPIN=speech in noise (various tests with static or people talking in background).

(You can click the grapic to bigify if you want.)

The CI gives me more hearing, environmental sounds and conversational, but I still do best one-on-one for optimal results. I am still deaf. I still struggle in crowds. I am still shy and awkward. I still worry about saying something stupid. It doesn’t change my personality (i.e. life of the party) or anythinhg. I am still me, new and improved hearing-wise, but still me.

The other day, Flare and I talked about her choir class. She’s a soprano (she can get to the high notes without cracking her voice). She’s a really good singer. We were looking a hymnal and she was telling me about the rows of musical notes. I am musically illiterate; I cannot read music. There may be three different notes for the same syllable/word of the song. I had no idea what they meant. I was never taught about those notes to that degree. I told her about how I was placed with the altos for Christmas services in high school. The music teacher never heard my voice. He just placed me with the altos. Flare just shook her head at me because her teacher separates the altos and sopranos and whatnot for each student by their singing voice. My music teacher never heard me sing. I never did. I just lip-synced it. I had no musical talent and I grew self-conscious about it when I got a lot of stares and people turning to look at me because I sang terribly. When I attended high school, it was on a volunteer basis to be a part of the Christmas service. It meant a great deal to my mom for me to be in it and I only joined to make her happy. I was not an asset to the services at all. Today, some twenty years later, that same high school changed some things. It was now a requirement to be in the Christmas service in your freshman year. It was part of the curriculum. In other words, it was part of Flare’s grade in choir class.

Last Wednesday, Flare left to spend the Thanksgiving weekend with her dad. That night we, Angel and I, needed to get to church. The taxi came on time to pick us up. Angel was part of a choir that included 3rd-8th grade volunteers. They were sometimes accompanied by the adult choir. I was not able to hand my Zoomlink (FM system) to the pastor, which I only use on the HA until I can get the necessary parts for the CI (the receiver). Because this service was special for the holiday, it was not the same as the regular services. I got confused at times, sitting in church by myself without Flare’s help, since Angel was sitting with her group.

After the service, the pastor wanted to make sure I was doing okay. I told him I was. He said he saw me come in, but I didn’t see him. (Sometimes I get there late and he is in another room, getting his robe on before the service. He wanted to make sure I was understanding the service since I didn't give him my Zoomlink. I told him I was fine.

Then Angel and I waited. And waited. And. Waited...for the taxi to pick us up. After about 25 minutes, I called the taxi (after asking-well, really, Angel did the asking-someone where the phone was). The dispatcher on the phone said, “The taxi should be there soon. Sorry about that,” after I inquired if there was a taxi coming because it was almost a half hour late and if there was a mix-up. I realize that the taxi has a lot of other people to pick up, but still, I requested taxi services hours earlier. It should have been on record.

One of the many drawbacks to giving up driving (for my safety as well as everyone else’s) is the WAITING. I can’t get in the car and go whenever I want to. I gotta WAIT.

Some church members who saw us waiting offered us a ride home. There must have been four or five different offers. I felt so humbled. I said that a taxi was supposed to be on its way, that it was late, and I didn’t know if the taxi would charge me anyway if the driver came to pick us up and we weren't there. I was tempted, though, to take up the offer.

Finally, after being 40 minutes late, the taxi came. Angel was antsy. She wasn’t happy that I turned down the offers. She was whining about wanting to be home. That really made me frustrated even more, that I couldn't fix that.

When I got home, I felt so frustrated and shed angry tears. I let myself have a little pity party, frustrated that I had to DEPEND on others for transportation, then I had to square my shoulders and move on. Some argue that it’s not about losing “independence”, but about “inconvenience.” I can’t help but feel that it’s both of these. Getting around still a major part of life.

To snap out of it, I had to count my blessings and look at the things I DO have and be thankful for them. One of them, obviously, is the CI.

Now that I have a bionic ear, it’s given me some of my life back. I am hearing things I never knew made a sound; it brought back sounds I no longer could hear; I can hear sounds from a farther distance.

Now, how about a bionic eye? :)

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Second in Command and Miscellany

I am surprised at myself. Off and on, I may only wear the CI (cochlear implant) and not wear the HA (hearing aid) for various reasons. I still have the high-pitched edge to the voices when I wear the CI alone. It never ceases to amaze me how both the CI and the HA compliment the other and make things sound “natural.”

Sometimes the phone rings when I am fresh out of the shower. (Yeah, it rings a LOT. Mostly junk (telemarketers) that wasn't worth the effort to answer.

Wet hair...

I would grab my HA (I am not comfortable using the phone with the CI ear yet) to answer it. (In any case, it’s not recommended to get the HA or the CI wet.) Usually I may wear the HA by itself until my hair is dry enough to put the CI on. During those times, I find that my better ear, the HA ear, is no longer my “better” ear. It’s demoted. Second-in-command.

My oldest daughter can see a remarkable difference when I am only wearing the HA. I am deaf. I get sounds. I get speech. I just don’t hear as well as I do with both the CI and the HA. (How did I manage the last 10-15 years?) I guess I just didn't realize how much effort it was until the last two years or so. You just do with what you got.

I love how well-rounded my hearing is with both the CI and the HA. Amazing.

Recent CI moment:

I was sitting at the kitchen table, back to the bright window, when I heard a “pinging” sound. It was repetitive. I look at the dog, but she is curled up into a croissant-shaped puffball. It couldn’t be the clock. It’s not the same sound. What is it? I am alone in the house. No one else could be making that sound. It took me about two minutes of focused, where-is-the-sound-coming-from concentration to realize what it was. I stared at the vent that leads to the basement. Bingo.

The dryer!!

Maybe a button from one of the jeans was knocking around in the dryer as it rotated. Ping. Ping. Ping.

I would have had to be within a few feet from the dryer to hear that. Now I was hearing it through the vent in the dining room. Not on the same floor. How cool is that?

(BTW, I found out that the HLAA (Hearing Loss Assoc. of America) convention of 2010 will be in Milwaukee!! How cool is that?) :)

On the home front:

We have one less dog in the house. :(

Topaz is at “training camp” for hunting. It’s a bit quieter around here. He’s the “barker” of the two. Onyx doesn’t really bark much at all, only when she really, really had to go outside or when she had enough of being outside. And when she wanted water/food. I've noticed that she seems to bark more now, though. A "Topaz" influence? Maybe.

Hubby took him in on Monday. Today he went out to visit him to see how the training was going. Topaz is learning commands. He's learning the "pointing" position really well. He says that he's just another person to him right now because Topaz has to been listening to two trainers. (Topaz, we hope you don't forget us.)

Onyx has an open sore on one of her back paws. She's been licking that wound a lot, and now it's swollen. Hubby will take her to the vet to get that looked at. Whew. Hope the owie isn't too badly infected.

It just seems like the year is passing so fast. Soon Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here. Angel is already practicing for the Christmas service in school.

It doesn’t feel like 2008 has been around here that long. I guess that’s a sure sign of getting old. I hear that all the time. LOL.

Flare is still doing great and has settled in high school life. She still bikes/walks to school. Occasionally, she’ll get a ride from Hubby if it’s raining or from the neighbor. She is so looking forward to watching the Twilight movie when it’s ready to hit the theaters.

I have been in a funk lately. I love to read. I used to read a 300 page novel within three hours, give or take a few minutes. My eyes get tired of reading within two hours and I don’t read half as fast anymore, it seems. Sometimes I’m rereading a paragraph because after I read it, I realized I lost track of who was talking or I am re-reading the same line. I have to keep my finger at the beginning of each line so I don’t do that. Note: I don’t always have to do that, though, but it helps if I want to keep track of where I am.

Right now I am reading “The Host” by Stephanie Meyer. I have about a hundred more pages left to read. I like the author’s writing style. She's not afraid to write fragmented sentences and has fresh similes.

The girl really knows how to write. I wish I could write like that. I just don’t have the imagination. It’s well thought out, too. There must be an outline of a sort to go by.

Not much has been happening that's exciting or news-worthy.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Cochlear Implant 101

Just thought I would talk about the components of the CI (cochlear implant) and how it works.

After I ran into two people who thought that once I had the internal implant in, I was going to automatically start hearing "normally." It's not like a pair of prescription glasses-presto-your vision is corrected. The internal implant alone does not work by itself. It needs the external components of the CI, too-the processor and the magnet in order to work. And I still needed to be activated and get a map at the time. (A map is a personal, individualized programming of the CI. Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two are the same, even for bilateral implantees. Everyone has their own comfort level of what they can hear and it is adjusted to fit that threshold.)

I copied this from the Cochlear Freedom literature I got from the audiologist.

Each caption in the above graphic talks about the implant: MRI safe, up to 1.5 Tesla with the magnet removed, built with titanium and platium (tested by the US Military), has 22 electrodes, and a soft tip to minimize force during surgery thus it could preserve residual hearing.

The picture below gives you an idea of the internal implant's size.

Internal implant

The picture below is what the Advanced Bionics processor looks like:

This is the Advanced Bionics internal implant:

This is what the magnet, coil, and processor look like. (This is the Cochlear Freedom, the one I have.) The second picture gives you an idea of what it looks like when someone is wearing it.

Cochlear Freedom (external components on the ear)

In the above picture, numbers 1 and 2 are described:
1) BTE (behind the ear) speech processor

2) cable and coil

Cochlear Freedom

1) Sound Processor - external component that converts sounds into digital signals
2) Digital signals are sent to the internal implant
3) Electrode array - internal implant converts digital signals into electrical energy, sending it to an elctrode array inside the cochlea
4) Hearing nerve - Electrodes stimulate hearing nerve, bypassing damaged hair cells, and the brain perceives signals as sound.

(You can click the above link "Cochlear Freedom" for a diagram of how normal hearing works.)
Other links that describe "How a CI Works":

Advanced Bionics, LLC-How a CI Works

How a CI Works

(I borrowed the two links above from fellow blogger, with permission. She saved me some research. Winks.)

Here is a good link that describes all three brands of cochlear implants (Cochlear, Advanced Bionics, and Med El).

Hope this helps. :)


(Some pictures above are copied from Google Images and if you click on the pictures, you will find the source of the graphic.)