Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

When I got my last set of hearing aids, some 8 years ago, I was thrilled to discover that they now had Bluetooth enabled streamers which would allow my phone or other Bluetooth enabled devices to send sound direct to my hearing aids. I thought that was the coolest thing. It almost made dealing with hearing loss better than normal hearing. Ok, not really, but it certainly was a nice perk! Not only was it incredibly cool, it was super effective. The clarity the streamer provided made talking on the phone easier (the sound went to BOTH ears) and music or TV shows were great sounding too without all the extra ambient noise. 

Well, a lot has changed in those 8 years and there are even more tools available to help people like me hear our best. With my Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implants I have some amazing tools at my fingertips! My personal favorite is the ComPilot – this is very similar to the streamer I had with my hearing aids. It connects me wirelessly to my iPhone, Kindle Fire, & laptop.  With the TVLink, I can stream the sound from my TV through my ComPilot for crystal clear stereo sound. It also has a remote microphone that I can use if there is a speaker at a distance, like in church or at seminars. The ComPilot has an auxiliary port too, so I can connect to anything via a auxiliary patch cable – this is extremely handy at movie theatres or places that have assisted listening devices where they have a receiver box with headphones. I just unplug their headphones and plug in direct to my ComPilot with my patch cable. Pretty slick, eh?

My ComPilot plugged into the assisted listening device at the theatre.

There are other tools that are available to me as well; the Roger System (similar to the compilot, but with a slightly different approach), DECT Phone (a landline phone that streams directly to the processors), EasyCall (attaches to any cell phone and streams calls to both processors), and the AB MyPilot Remote (allows the remote changing of programs, volume, & sensitivity). I don’t use any of these tools though. Other brands of CIs offer similar options too and the latest processors have just introduced direct connection with iPhones. It still has its drawbacks, but it’s neat to see the progression of technology throughout the years. 

These tools exist to give us a leg up and help us hear our very best and maybe make our lives a bit easier along the way. Early in the process, these were invaluable to me, especially with my auditory training. However, I think the holy grail of cochlear implants is to hear well enough to not need these tools. Well, guess what!? I’ve noticed recently that I have been relying on this stuff less and less. 

I do love to stream music or TV straight to my processors without the need for headphones and no one is the wiser; but realizing that I no longer NEED to stream the TV in order to understand without captions is mind boggling! I can’t really say that this was a goal I was actively striving for either, it just kind of snuck up on me. I would find myself watching a program and not struggling to hear so I didn’t bother turning on my compilot. A while back, I stopped giving my remote mic to speakers because I did ok without. Now I only use my compilot for phone calls when I’m driving in the car since it makes a great hands-free device. It’s been a remarkable progression!

These tools were integral to my training and early listening and are still incredibly handy to have. All this said, I do love my gadgets & tools that help me hear in cool and innovative ways, but I love the fact that I no longer NEED them even more! 

Thankful Thoughts

Thankful Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends & family! As an American living in Canada, I still find it odd to celebrate Thanksgiving in October. American Thanksgiving has so much tradition and significance that the Canadian one seems to be missing – like football, Black Friday, a 4 day weekend, and of course it’s the whole kickoff to Christmas. The plus side? We try to celebrate both Thanksgivings – woo hoo!! One thing the two have in common though is the theme of thankfulness. 

Today, I have a lot to be thankful for. At this time last year, I was still heavily drugged up and recovering from my first surgery. If you read my last post – year in review – you’ll get a good idea of all the amazing things that have happened so far. I’ve had almost a year of hearing with my right CI and just over 2 months with my left CI. So keeping with the Thanksgiving theme, here are my top 17 CI Thankful Thoughts for 2017. 

17. Tinnitus – you will have to read my other posts to truly understand the relationship I have with my tinnitus. Suffice it to say, I would not have my two CIs if my little friend, Tinnitus, wasn’t my constant, incredibly maddening companion. 

16. Undercut Hairstyle – What’s a hairstyle have to do with CIs you ask? Well, to start, mine makes it easier for me to pop on my magnets every morning without funky chunks of hair going directions they’re not supposed to. It’s a versatile style that I can wear up or down. Plus, when my hair is up, I can totally show off my processors. That’s a big plus in my book!

15. Podcasts – I’m incredibly thankful to the genius behind the idea of podcasts – a personal soapbox for anyone with a dream, the guts to speak what’s on their mind and a microphone to record it. And a computer & software & probably a bunch of other stuff that I don’t have a clue about… So I’m also thankful to all those dreamers who do put themselves & their ideas, creativity, and expertise up in the cloud for people like me to LISTEN to. Because it’s really important to listen a lot when you have a new CI, and listening to interesting, good, clear audio is great for training!

14. Rechargeable Batteries – My Náida Q90 processors use rechargeable batteries – AB offers a huge variety of power sources for my particular processors but I love the rechargeables! With my old hearing aids, I would have to replace the batteries every couple of days. This gets expensive over time! I not only hated the exceptional cost, but also the amount of waste. With my rechargeable batteries, I get 15-16 hours with the small 170minis (my fav) and about 27 with my large 230s. This means I can go the whole day without having to replace them and simply pop them on the charger at night so they’re ready to go again in the morning!

13. T-mic -Another brilliant feature of my processors. The T-mic is a small microphone that is attached to my processor and is positioned right in front of my ear canal. It’s flexible so it can bend which allows me to wear headphones or talk on the phone normally (just by putting the phone up to my ear). If you’ve never worn hearing aids, you may be scratching your head at this one – but here’s why this is a big deal. Most hearing aids and all the other CI brands have mics on the processor (the part that sits on the top of your ear) so when you want to use the phone, you have to try and position the phone higher so the ear piece is at the top of your ear, which is incredibly awkward – and looks kinda funny too. Plus, forget wearing normal headphones – with processor mics, you have to get gigantic over the ear ones or wear them in a funny position which can be very uncomfortable. Oh – and I can even use earbuds!! Earth shattering, I know!!

12. Noise Program – My noise program is a special processor program that my audiologist tailored for me. It utilizes UltraZoom which focuses my incoming sounds through a narrow window in front of me and the ClearVoice setting on high. These two combined give me amazing clarity in exceedingly noisy settings. So good in fact, that I find myself out “hearing” my super hearing hubby and other normal hearing people! Going out to dinner or group events is no longer the struggle it once was. 

11. Music – Music has always been a huge part of my life – not from a professional standpoint, but solely because music moves me. When I went deaf, this was one thing I missed so much. After getting my first CI, my determination to listen to and enjoy music pushed me to train heavily with it. I truly believe my intense training with music has helped improve my hearing in general. I am SO thankful that I can hear music again and that it was a major motivating factor for me in my training. 

10. iPhone – iPhones are great & everyone loves them (except the crazy people who like android – 😉) but did you know that they are an incredible tool for those learning to hear again? The voice recognition is great & has helped me countless times when trying to communicate without my CIs (remember, I’m still deaf without them!). My iPhone holds all my music – all my favorite songs I knew by heart – these are the songs I trained on – and I can sound hound lyrics when I hear a new song and can’t catch all the words. There are so many apps that I can use on my phone to help me learn to listen better, too – at home, or on the go (not while driving, of course…). Plus, the Bluetooth capabilities allow me to link directly to my compilot and stream sounds straight to my head. Oh – and I can’t forget the flash feature that I use as my alarm – seeing as I don’t sleep with my processors on, even the loudest alarm would never wake me. The strobe flashing does the trick! Technology is amazing!!

9. Training Apps – I think the training apps deserve their own number, and I actually ranked them above my iPhone because they are so integral to my progress. My favorite training apps are Hear Coach & Angel Sounds. What makes these apps so useful is the progression of levels and tracking. You have words being spoken, but then as you improve, the programs introduce background noise to make it more challenging. Like any skill, the more you practice, the better you become. The tracking capability lets you see how you are progressing, even unlocking subsequent levels. It’s like a video game, but super beneficial! Recently I discovered a new app called Auralia Pitch Comparison – this app is helping me improve my music appreciation even more (and validates my thoughts on my current pitch perception). 

8. Compilot – The compilot is the interface between my processors and any Bluetooth or hard wired device (that has a headphone jack). Easily my favorite gadget of my processor kit, my compilot connects me to my iPhone, kindle Fire, TV, computer, laptop, and even the assisted listening devices in movie theatres. I wear the compilot around my neck and when I connect to anything, it streams that sound directly to my processors, bypassing all the background noise that makes hearing difficult. 

7. Facebook Groups – I belong to a few groups on FB that are CI related – the two biggest are the Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implant Users Group & Cochlear Implant Experiences. These groups have been an incredible source of support for me in my journey and now I try to return the favour by supporting others going through the same thing. While each of us may have very different outcomes and experiences along the way, the journey itself is something that only those who get a CI can ever truly understand. This is why groups like this are so important. It lets us know we’re not alone. 

6. The Candidates I Am Mentoring – I have only just started my mentorship journey but have already met some amazing people and have been blessed to be a part of their journey. I had such a great support system when I first started down this path so now I want to be that support for others. It fills me with such joy to see others embarking on their way to better hearing and to see the progress they make. It’s not always a happy experience either, but I hope to be here to provide a shoulder to cry on or to celebrate their milestones. I am so thankful that they are letting me be a part of their lives and I look forward to developing and strengthening our friendships for years to come. If you’re looking to connect with someone, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m happy to share in your journey too!

5. My AB Cochlear Implant Consumer Specialist, Kimmi – Being a mentor is a new thing for me and I’m blessed to have an amazing teacher and guide. Kimmi is the CICS for all of Canada and just happens to live only a couple hours away from me. I’ve had the pleasure to meet with her both online and in person and she has proven an invaluable resource. I’m sure I’m driving her batty with all the techy questions I keep asking, but she always finds the answer for me. See, I want to know everything about my new ears and how I hear. I figure, the more I know, the better I can make my hearing and hopefully the better I can help others! So I’m very thankful to have such a kind, patient, and knowledgeable friend in my corner!

4. My Big Brothers – Dave & Nate – Dave was the first in my immediate family to get a CI and he really paved the way for me. Nate followed shortly after Dave and so seeing how well the two of them did with their CIs, made it that much easier for me to take that leap. I remember them encouraging me a couple years back, saying that CIs blow HAs out of the water. Guess what? They were right! At the start of my journey they were always there to answer questions and cheer me on. I honestly don’t know if I would be hearing right now if it wasn’t for them going first. 🙂 Love ya, bros!

3. My Family – First and foremost, my hubby who has been my rock through all the ups and downs. It’s not easy living with a moody, depressed, deaf girl, I’m sure. Even though he has never experienced deafness or tinnitus, or CI surgery and training, he has been so very supportive. He held me when I cried of desperation from the ceaseless roaring in my head. He took care of me as I recovered from 2 surgeries. He picked up the slack when I could no longer perform my usual duties in our business. And he shared my joy in my successes. I would be lost without him.  I’m thankful for the rest of my family too – my mom, my kids, and my “adopted” family of friends who took interest in this adventure and cheered me on. 

2. My Audiologist, Sylvie – Sylvie quite possibly played the biggest role in this journey of mine. She saw the desperation in me as I struggled with deafness & debilitating tinnitus and had compassion to help push my first surgery through as quickly as possible. When I was still struggling after going completely deaf in my left ear, she advocated for the second implant and expedited the process as well. I owe a lot of my success in hearing to her skills as an audiologist. I’m so thankful to have such a kind, compassionate, and skilled CI team. 

1. Being Bilateral – My biggest gratitude goes to being bilateral. I am still awestruck every day by how much better the 2 ears sound together. I find it ironic that I named my blog “2 ears are better than 1” before I even knew how one ear would sound. I never dreamed two would be this good! Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for my bionic ears. 

So there you have it – my top 17 CI Thankful Thoughts of 2017. Thank YOU for taking the time to read my musings. Until next time…

A year in review

A year in review

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, I was newly implanted. What a year it has been! As I have mentioned before, in one sense, I can’t believe a year has already gone by and in another sense, I can hardly picture myself without my bionic ears. 

I am fully aware of how blessed I have been on this journey. While it may have been a bit of a rocky start, things have progressed far better than I could have ever imagined. Perhaps my perspective is somewhat unique as a lot of people still have some hearing left, no matter how small, when they get their CIs. Perhaps they have never felt the utter despair having zero access to sound brings. 

A depiction of my isolating silence drawn by my amazingly talented daughter.
The best description I could make is that before my CIs, life was cold, dark, and void of color. For me, living in a world without sound was like being trapped inside a snow globe of swirling silence – seeing the world outside but not being able to interact. Separated. Isolated. Depressed. Alone. It was not a pleasant time for me and was a daily struggle to not allow the depression to rule my life. Knowing that I had the potential to hear again through cochlear implants was what gave me the hope to keep going.

Having my hearing restored was as if someone came and shattered that globe, freeing me from the silence that had entrapped me. Experiencing the warmth of the sun and the vividness of the colors in absolutely every aspect of life. Reconnecting. Laughing. Hearing. Living.

It is a gift like no other and I don’t think I would have the words to adequately portray the debt of gratitude I feel for the team that gave me back my hearing. As I entrusted myself to the skilled surgeons & nurses a year ago, I had no idea what to expect. My hopes were as high as the moon, but I tried to keep my expectations as firmly grounded as I could. At the point I was at, any sound would be better than no sound. 

In the past year, I have heard so much! The sounds of life are so wonderful. Even now, I still find myself marveling at certain sounds or more so lately, how well I can hear. I can talk on the phone again, watch a TV show without captions, have a conversation in the dark, listen to music, find an annoying cricket across a room, carry on a conversation in a noisy setting, hear the tick of a clock, the drip of a faucet, the buzz of a bug, the song of a bird, the trill of a thousand frogs, a whisper in my ear. I have found that I am whistling & singing to myself again. Every. Single. Sound. Fills my heart with joy to the point that it is overflowing. 

I am still battling my beast that is Tinnitus. We had very high hopes with both surgeries that it would vacate the premises, but either my brain is too lax of a landlord or my Tinnitus is a very tenacious tenant. It is very much with me. Even with the processors on, it’s a constant companion, albeit a little less obnoxious. Last week I started “notch therapy”. It’s too early to tell if it will have an effect, but it’s worth a shot. It involves listening to a track of white noise that I created specifically with the frequency of my tinnitus removed,thus creating a “notched” soundtrack. So now I get to listen to static for hours on end. It’s very quiet, barely noticeable actually. I’ve tried pretty much everything else though, and people have had improvements with it. I figure I have nothing to lose but the tinnitus and let’s pray I do! Even so, I am grateful for this burden to bear, because without it, I would only have one ear. 

And as I always say, 2 ears really are better than 1!

Noise? No problem!

Noise? No problem!

My ears are better than your ears! Na na na na na na… A childish taunt, I know. No, I’m not stooping to bully level to tease others, I’m not really a meanie. However, after my experience last night, I can’t help but make this statement as there’s a lot of truth in it. Mind. Blown.

Last night hubby & I attended our township’s annual wine & cheese business mixer. It’s a great event that brings people and businesses from our region together for an evening of networking. I’m the current president of our local chamber of commerce, so I kind of have to go to these things. I have always cringed at these events because I spend most of the time pretending like I know what’s going on when I don’t have a clue what people are saying. 

A visual of hearing in this setting.

Conversations overlapping conversations, overlapping conversations. Throw in poor acoustics and a bit of an echo and it’s a tough situation for even the best hearing. When you’re practically deaf, you have to rely on speech reading so it becomes a ping pong match of trying to follow the transitions from one speaker to the next. It’s utterly exhausting. 

Anyway, back to last night. When we arrived, the room was already crowded with people and it was rapidly filling as more showed up. We began our mixing and mingling. It was crazy loud and confusing and everyone was struggling to understand each other, myself included. 

See? A lot of people in a crowded room. (Photo courtesy of our mayor, Eric Duncan)

Then I remembered my ultrazoom program. I quickly tapped the program button and moments later I had amazing clarity on those speaking near me. The background din had completely faded. 

Another visual to show how it sounds with ultrazoom

It became apparent rather quickly that I was actually faring better than most of the normal hearing people! A gentleman had asked my hubby a question and because hubby couldn’t understand, the guy had to repeat himself three times, yet I understood him the first time. This became a common theme throughout the night. During another conversation between two people, he couldn’t understand her (again, I understood the first time). She mentioned to him that he needs to learn to lipread like me! I kind of chuckled at that, because I was understanding WITHOUT lipreading. 

I do suppose that my lipreading ability did contribute to my success, but the majority was due to my amazing new ears and the awesomeness of my processors to filter out that extra noise. The coping in noise skills I have honed over the years seemed to have set me up for amazing hearing in noise now that I have two working ears. 

Even my hubby (with very good hearing) marveled at how well I was understanding things. He made an interesting comment – he said, “my hearing is just going to get worse as I get older, but yours won’t!” How cool is that? To think that as most people’s hearing continues to decline with age, mine may actually improve with better technology!

I continue to marvel each day at just how much better my life is with 2 working ears. What a blessing and what an experience to be doing so well. I will never cease to be grateful for this. 

Learning to listen

Learning to listen

A cochlear implant is not an instant fix nor is it a cure for deafness. It’s a tool and a completely new way to hear. Because of this, the brain actually has to relearn how to listen. 

Activation day is different for every person. Some people only hear whistles, beeps, buzzing, static, or screeches at switch on. Others, like me, are super blessed to be able to hear and understand words, but often describe voices as sounding robotic or like chipmunks, Mickey Mouse, helium voices, or aliens. I can best describe what people sounded like to me in the beginning as Alpha (from the movie UP!) when his collar was broken. You can take a peek at what I’m referring to here: 

Alpha is the Doberman (3rd dog that speaks). 

In case you’re curious, here’s a video of my right ear activation. 

My own voice in particular was crazy to hear. I would end up in laughing fits because I would laugh at something but the way my voice sounded to my new ear was like a maniacal cartoon villain which would make me laugh even more hysterically. It really helped to have a good sense of humor during those first few weeks. 

Everything sounded strange at the beginning. It was impossible to tell what was making a particular sound simply by hearing it. I was constantly asking anyone around me what was making a particular noise. It was so amazing to hear my brain adjusting the way I perceived sounds. For instance, when I was newly activated and sitting in my audi’s office, I heard a rustle of a piece of paper. The sound was very mechanical at first but then the next time I heard it, it sounded just like I remembered it!

The process of identifying sounds and connecting them to what I was hearing was a big part of my training in the early days. I would turn on the water faucet and focus on what I was hearing and then think really hard on what I remembered running water sounded like. Sometimes I could actually catch the sound changing in the middle, it was really that pronounced! 

Thankfully there are tons of programs, websites, and apps available to help with auditory rehabilitation. In my early days, Angel Sounds and Hear Coach were my go-to programs for ear training. Angel Sounds not only had practice for speech discrimination, but also environmental and musical sounds. Having an app at my fingertips made it much easier for me to do active training and I tried to get in at least 2 hours a day. Both of those apps track your progress and give you your score at the end of each “round”. 

They also have levels that get progressively more difficult and even add in background noise. Since I’m highly competitive, I would constantly be pushing myself to do better than the last round. I found that the training really helped improve my listening skills in the real world too. My real eureka moment though was when I was working through a level with background noise, I suddenly realized that the background noise was actually background chatter (as if in a cafe with people having conversations all around you). All along, I had just heard static!

Music has always been a big part of my life and was probably one of the things I missed most when I lost my hearing. When I was first activated, my hubby played a song off his phone to see if I could understand it. Well, it sounded really bad and I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I was hearing. Turns out he picked a song that he likes, but I never listen to! No wonder my brain couldn’t make sense of it! 

I wanted my music appreciation back though so I started training heavily with music. I created a special playlist on my phone with 20 of my favorite songs and I would play them over and over. The first couple of days, they sounded horrible and I couldn’t guess what song was playing without looking. Then, pretty soon I could tell what the song was if I heard it from the beginning, but if I started a song in the middle, I was lost. So I kept starting songs at random points until that became easy. 

Then one day, about 2 weeks after activation, I realized I was understanding the lyrics! Not all of them, but I was able to pick out words here and there. It was around the same time that I started to enjoy music again. To be honest, it wasn’t like I remembered it, thinner and not as rich, but it was better than nothing. I did find listening with my hearing aid in gave a huge boost to my enjoyment as the hearing aid was able to amplify the bass in a way that my CI couldn’t. Now that I have 2 ears though, music is unbelievable! It’s so close to what it used to be – maybe even better, because for the first time in my life, I can understand most of the lyrics!

This whole learning to listen with a CI is a big process. It hasn’t been easy or perfect despite my amazing activation. Frankly, I’m STILL learning to listen and I expect my hearing will continue to improve over time. After all, I haven’t even reached a year with my right ear and have only had my left for a little over a month. All that being said, it was worth every moment of training to get to where I am. I still train to help improve my comprehension in noise and I expect that that area will get better too. I’m happy to say that all the robotic, mechanical sounds have normalized and things sound the way I remember them. At times I find it easy to forget that I’m not hearing naturally. It’s been an amazing journey so far. 

If you’re looking to get a cochlear implant for yourself or someone you love, remember to be patient with the process. With practice and a good sense of humor, I believe you’ll get there!

One month, two ears

One month, two ears

Time is an interesting thing. Ever notice how one event can feel like an eternity but at the same time feel like it only happened yesterday? This is how I’ve been feeling with my bilateral hearing. On one hand it feels like I was only just activated, but at the same time it feels like I’ve been hearing with my two ears for ages. In actuality, it’s been 1 very blessed month. 

We had some fun during the Great American Solar Eclipse – even though we only witnessed a partial eclipse, we projected the eclipse on my processor with a giant lens.

Two weeks ago I took my kids to see the Emoji Movie. I was actually pretty excited because I wanted to see how well I could hear streaming to both ears. The theaters around us are pretty good for deaf & hard of hearing people in that they offer both captioning devices and Assisted Listening Devices  (little boxes with headphones attached that stream the audio to the headphones). What’s great about this though is I can bypass the headphones and plug the ALD directly into my compilot and stream to my processors that way. I always ask for both the ALD & the CC box because I rely so much on the captions. Well, this time, I was so excited to try streaming bilaterally that I completely forgot to ask for the CC device. Would you believe I didn’t even miss it?? I got through the whole movie – a cartoon, none-the-less – without using captions and understood it just fine! Unbelievable!!

Every day I marvel at how amazing it is to hear with two ears. With each mapping my hearing in my left ear has improved. I had my 1 month mapping appointment today and as I was preparing for the visit, I was having a hard time thinking of anything I wanted to change. This was kind of a “shoving the baby bird out of the nest” appointment as I won’t be going back until November for my next mapping. Because of this, I needed to make sure I’m good to fly alone for a good while. The only thing I could think of is just a bit more volume in my left ear as the right still felt a bit stronger. 

When I got there, Sylvie and I chatted a bit on how things were going. I got the impression that my results at this point with the 2 ears is pretty rare. It reminded me again of how blessed I am to not only have 2 ears, but 2 that are working so well together. We talked a bit about how my tinnitus still plagues me. I think we’re both holding onto the hope that in a few months it might still improve. Then we hooked up my processor and Sylvie bumped it up by 10. Bingo! The two seem almost perfectly balanced now. 

All that said, there’s still lots of room for improvement. It’s not perfect hearing but it’s such a huge boost to be able to hear with two ears. I seem to be able to locate where sounds are coming from – maybe not perfectly, but pretty good. A few weeks back, I walked into one of our large, echoey rooms and heard a cricket! Well, not only did I hear it, but I was able to zero in on where it was making its incessant chirping. Let’s just say, the cricket was quickly silenced. 

I also discovered what it means to have stereo sound. WOW! It’s so cool!! My compilot streams in stereo so when I watch a Netflix show on my tablet that has stereo, I can tell where sounds are coming from in relation to what’s happening in the show – so if a car drives by from left to right on the screen, I hear the sound travel with it from left to right. It’s so much more immersive! I suppose this is something normal hearing people are just used to so its no big deal, but when you hear it for the first time, it’s phenomenal! 

I’m so grateful to have this blessing to hear with two ears but I honestly struggle with feelings of unworthiness. I often find myself incredibly emotional and wondering why I was chosen but thanking God for my 2 ears. I wish it wasn’t such an impossibility for adults here. I will never take for granted those who made this possible for me and I will do everything I can to help others in my position to get 2 ears too. 

Three days of two ears

Three days of two ears

Day 3 of being bilateral is now in the books and I must say, I’m so happy with how far my left ear has come in just these few days. I have spent at least 2 hours each day with just my left processor on and have used a variety of “active” training activities during this time. I use a couple of iPhone apps; Hear Coach & Angel Sounds; and listen to a couple of good, clear audio, podcast channels. The podcasts are more challenging as I don’t have texts to verify what I’m hearing so when I started, I just tried my best to understand what was being said. I could actually catch about half of the words at the beginning. Then I’d listen to the same podcast again. This time understanding a bit more. It took me about 5 times of listening to the same podcast but I actually understood it. With my left ear! Just my left ear!! 

I also spent a lot of time running through my playlist on my iPhone. From the get-go, I could identify the song and understand a lot of the lyrics. I’m still shaking my head at this one. Music is SOOOO much better this time around. I also try to keep my ear passively engaged too – so if I’m not actively listening to something, I stream music to my ears to keep it working. 

Now all during my training sessions, my right ear would throw a hissy fit and crank up the tinnitus on me; like a jealous sibling trying to sabotage the other. Good ol’ lefty persevered though and I’m happy to say that I am now acing all my rehab words in quiet! I can also listen to an entire podcast with just my left ear and catch the whole thing. I might miss a word here or there, but with the context I’m good. 

This does not mean that I’m able to stop my training. Lefty still sucks in noisy settings when flying solo so that will be my next phase of training. I’m floored at how quickly the left is catching up with my right. Thrilled would actually be a better word. 

I had my first mapping post activation yesterday. We cranked up the “volume” level as I was already bumping it up to my max level on the processor. I think Sylvie said we went up 20 points. It’s still a flat map where my right has each electrode tailored to my preferences. With that said, my left is almost at the same level as my right which is surprising it’s that close already. Next mapping we’ll tweak each electrode. Oh! I also got one of my switched off electrodes turned on as when the impedance was ran, it didn’t show open anymore. This gives me hope the last one will get to be turned on too. Admittedly, I didn’t really notice anything different. 

My AB goodie bag. I love AB!

I finally got to bring home my backpack and all my cool accessories. It’s funny how the audis don’t like to give you everything on activation. I’m trying to decide if it’s to keep the excitement high or simply not to overwhelm. Could be both! Anyway, I got the myriad of cables and t-mics and my most exciting accessory – theAquaCase! 

Tonight I tried out my AquaCase in the shower. I will argue that it was to test it to make sure that everything works properly before my camping trip next week; but let’s face it, it’s a new gadget and I just couldn’t resist any longer! First, I have to say it is really easy to set up. Except opening the dang thing. I swear you need 3 hands and 6 toes to get the little locking mechanism held back to flip the latch. (It does get easier once you’ve done it a couple of times.)

I got it all hooked up and then triple checked that I wasn’t wearing anything NOT waterproof (like my left processor). What a weird experience. The shower has always been my cone of silence. Stepping in and HEARING the water hitting my head was surreal. The strangest thing was when water hit the mic and slightly muffled the sound, I actually had the sensation that I had water in my ear! I probably won’t be using the set up in the shower again, simply because it’s a bit of a pain to wash your hair with a headpiece on. I knocked it off 5 or 6 times. I can totally see kids using in in the tub though and I’m really looking forward to going swimming with my kids and HEARING them. 

My AquaCase fresh out of the water
Since I only have one AquaCase, I set it up with my right processor and obviously can’t wear my left processor into the shower so I had just my right ear for that brief period of time. Well, I felt so lopsided with only my right ear! I am amazed that I experienced that so quickly. I think my left ear really likes hearing again. I know I certainly like having two ears!

My processor, safe & dry in the AquaCase.

My first 3 days of 2 ears have far exceeded my expectations. I hope things keep progressing and that I’ll gain even greater clarity in noisy surroundings. I am also looking forward to testing out my spatial awareness to see if I am able to tell what direction sound is coming from. I’ll have to devise a way to test and hone that ability. My new super powers! It’s amazing what you can do with 2 ears!