3 weeks post activation

3 weeks post activation

Happy Birthday to me. Today is my 40th birthday. Funny, I always had a feeling that I would be deaf by the time I hit 40. Ironic that I’m celebrating my 3rd week “hearing” today. Sounds are beginning to seem more natural and I am enjoying hearing again. That said, I have a long ways to go and at times I find myself getting frustrated with my head for not working right. Voices are still the worst. 

I really wish I could sit down and have a little chat with my brain and make it start listening properly. When I hear strangers speak, it’s nothing but chipmunk chatter. Sure, I can usually understand the words they’re saying, but it all sounds so unnatural. It’s frustrating because I can remember what voices sound like and I find I am getting mad at myself for not hearing the way I should. But then again, I “shouldn’t” be hearing anything at all but thanks to technology, I can! I am by no means complaining or regretting my decision to get this implant, but simply being honest about the process. Even with a “rockstar” activation, it’s not all sunshine and roses. I went to a support group meeting on Saturday and one thing that was very clear, is that no two people have the same journey or the same results and I truly am blessed with how well I’m coping thus far. The one thing we all have in common? We all had to work to improve our ability to hear. 

I do have some great technology that works hand-in-hand with my processor; namely my Compilot. This is a small Bluetooth enabled device that pairs with other Bluetooth devices and streams sounds directly to my processor. I also have the TVLink and remote mic that pair up with my Compilot. The TVLink hooks up to my TV and the remote mic can be used to hear any individual person at a distance, or up close when there’s lots of background noise. The Compilot also pairs with my iPhone and tablet for direct streaming of audio to my processor. 

My cool Compilot!

This tool has been integral to my success thus far. The beauty of the compilot is it can stream audio direct to the processor without all the background noise. If you’ve ever worn noise cancelling headphones, that’s probably close to what it’s like – just the sound you want to hear without all the background chatter. My brain hasn’t figured out how to filter all those unneeded sounds yet, so the compilot accomplishes that for me. It’s remarkable to hear all the small sounds on TV that I’ve never heard, like footsteps as someone walks or sighs or even just breathing. I call it my ninja sound, especially when I’m streaming from my iPhone as no one has a clue that I have music playing in my head. It’s pretty cool!

At this point in my journey, I have to really focus in order to understand speech. It’s as if I have to actively tune my hearing at all times. Regular everyday sounds come in, no problem, but to catch what someone is saying, I really have to work at it. I notice this mostly when I pass by people conversing – I hear their voices but unless I actively “tune” my hearing I won’t catch a single word they’re saying. Maybe it’s just because I’m out of practice when it comes to listening, or perhaps it’s because my hearing is more mechanical, I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s an exhausting process. When I do engage in conversation, I still have to work extra hard to actively listen. It really is like a switch, when I get tired, that switch flips off and I could be right there facing someone talking and miss everything they say, but with a little focus, their speech becomes perfectly clear. It’s like I have a super power and have to work on honing my skills. Regardless, I really look forward to the day when listening becomes natural again. Until that day, I’ll keep working on my ninja/superhero hearing and loving every step of the process!

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2 weeks post activation

2 weeks post activation

Activated! My cool AB Naida Q90 processor.
I have been hearing for 2 weeks now and all I can say is I’m still in awe. I was blessed to have what is considered a “rockstar” activation. To put it simply, when they hooked me up to my processor and switched me “on”, I was not only hearing sounds, but actually understanding speech. What a remarkable experience to go from zero sound to hearing. I heard the swoosh of a piece of paper as it was pushed across the desk, the rustle of plastic wrap as a package was unwrapped, the zip of a zipper as a bag was opened, and the rumble of my husband’s stomach as he patiently waited, seated behind me. These were just a few of the first sounds I heard. They didn’t all make sense to my brain or sound the way they should have, but I HEARD them!

Voices sounded extremely mechanical – like everyone breathed in helium or a bad rendition of Alvin & the Chipmunks. Even after two weeks, voices still have a very mechanical quality to them, but the sound is getting better. At first, I could not differentiate between a man, woman, or child – now I find it easier to tell men & women apart. 

I am quickly realizing how blessed I have been to have such a stellar activation. I hear often of people who struggle to make out words months after activation. Even so, it’s not an instant fix for me. I actively practice listening several hours a day. I use various apps and programs that are specific to training your brain to listen as well as simply listening to speech (TV/talk radio) and my favorite songs. They sound very different than the way I remember them, but in theory, my brain will eventually “click” and sounds will seem normal again. 

I can’t wait to get rid of the chipmunk voices, but the sounds I hear every day are nothing short of miraculous! Did you know that fluorescent lights make a pulsing sound? Light switches make a distinctive click when they are switched? Dog toenails clip on tile floors? My shoes squeak when I walk? Fabric whooshes when it rubs against itself. These are all sounds that I have NEVER heard, even before going deaf. My brain hasn’t figured out how to filter all these sounds out yet, but soon it will and I won’t notice those little sounds so easily, but right now I’m loving every little new beep, chirp, or click I hear. 

Already I have done things I never expected – talked on the phone; watched TV without captions; heard someone speak from another room AND understood what was said! It is exhausting and takes an enormous amount of concentration to get my new ear & brain to work together and it’s still far from perfect. Situations with lots of background noise or poor acoustics are nearly impossible for me to follow but hopefully that will come with time too. I have months, if not years, of practice & training ahead of me with several more mappings (adjustments & programs made to my processor to help optimize my hearing experience). For now, I am basking in the glow of sound and thanking God every day that I live in an age where technology can give back my ability to hear. Every day is a new experience and a step toward better hearing.