Category Archives: Cochlear Implant

The Difference Between Test Scores and Life

I have been waiting for my audiologist to scan and e-mail me my scores. But, atlas, she has probably been busy. So I am going to give you approximates.

I went into see my audiologist a week and a day ago. We did our usual adjustments followed by questions and answers before I made my way to the sound booth. I had been nervous about this test all week. It really felt like a test I was going to fail, miserably. Let me explain; I have been at odds mentally for awhile now. Now that the CI has started to sound better, I have noticed that the more I wear it, the worse my hearing aid sounds. A lot of people say this is a good thing; I am hearing things I’ve never heard before with my hearing aid and I’m hearing it at a louder level. It just still doesn’t sound quite right and honestly sounds frustrating. My audiologist sat down with me before the test and explained to me that I need to start accepting that my cochlear implant is the “normal” one, not my hearing aid. She said that many people are trying to “make” their CIs sound like their hearing aids and that is simply not going to be the case: the CI can turn the volume up louder than a hearing aid can and a CI can “hear” more frequencies. I think that has been my frustration which has led to me to putting my CI aside, once again, in favor of my hearing aid.

The other thing that was interesting was that when I walked into the audiologist office, my CI was on “directional microphone” and at a sensitivity level of 4. This meant that I was hearing what was in front of me and not very far away from me either. I couldn’t hear things behind me or further than like a foot in front of me. It just goes to show my lack of tolerance for loud noises!!!!

I’m afraid of letting go of what I’ve known for the last 23 years. I purposely got my right side implanted to avoid this, and what do you know, I have to do it anyways. I think everyone is scared of change, and that’s what makes a cochlear implant so controversial.

So back to the sound booth. She did a normal hearing test with only the cochlear implant on and two sentence-recognition tests: one in quiet and one in noise. I could not lip read.

My hearing in my right ear pre-surgery was at about 110 dBs. When she got done with the hearing test, it was at 20 dBs; which puts me up there at “normal” hearing. All I can say is “Holy smokes”.

The sentence recognition tests were amazing too. I got 82 percent of the sentence-recognition test in quiet correct and 51 percent in noise correct. This is up from I believe 13 percent and 0 percent respectively.

In my right ear (with my hearing aid), I only got 38 percent in quiet! It is such a huge difference.

I was sent home with homework:

  • Increase the sensitivity setting on my CI.
  • Listen with just my CI for an hour or more each day.
  • Work on listening skills with a book from Advanced Bionics.

I go back Thanksgiving.

Day Break

Tomorrow I go in for yet another CI mapping. This one’s different. They’re actually going to test me against the hearing tests I took before surgery. I’m looking forward to it and a little nervous too. Unfortunatly, my 5:35 a.m. flight is the only thing between me and the “noise jail”.

First Days

The first few days with a CI have been interesting. I feel that I have a better understanding of why people do not like to wear it and even stop wearing it after awhile. It can be the ultimate tinnitus/headache inducer and yet not be one (as soon as you take it off, it goes away – WEIRD). A cochlear implant is not something that is easy or an instant fix. It takes a lot of time and energy if you’ve been deaf a long time (I think it is probably easier for someone who just lost their hearing) I thought it would be a lot like switching from analog to digital hearing aids, but it’s a lot more difficult than that. My brain really doesn’t know what to do with all that loud ringing, but it’s making progress.

I haven’t felt well these last couple of days. My stomach feels nauseous a lot. It’s not a strong nauseous feeling – it’s pretty faint. I’m not sure if it’s because of my disorientation from the cochlear implant or if it’s from something else. Before my surgery, my doctor had informed me that I have a profound loss of balance in my semicircular canals. Basically, the surgery can’t make it worse than it already is. So it quite possibly could be something else like the medicine and if so, then it should go away soon. It may also be because I’ve been kind of pushing it with the volume. Maybe I’m just turning it up too fast. My logic at the beginning was to push my brain and maybe that’s not such a great idea. Today has been my “take it easy” day.

I think I’ve made pretty significant progress with it. Despite all the nausea and headaches (which was to be expected) there’s a lot of good things. The ringing in general has become more defined. I feel like having a hearing aid on has really helped a lot because it helps the CI side identify the sound and now things are becoming part of what I hear on my hearing aid side – only louder. It’s not perfectly defined yet, so I hear speech worse than with just my hearing aid. When my CI side has figured out what I am hearing, I hear what I usually do on my hearing aid side, only louder with a slight echo to it.

Right now speech sounds like bells, but I can identify each syllable and spaces between words when I am watching the person’s lips and reading captions (on TV). I can differentiate between speech and general environmental sounds with just my CI on. Everything sounds like bells, but the bells that speech makes is just slightly different than everything else. Every now and then, I pick out bell “patterns” and realize that I’m listening to something! Today I was in my office and the bells were making rhythmic patterns. It sounded like something electronical was going in a cycle/circle so I believe it may have been a computer fan. I lost the sound though before I could ask someone what it was.

Last night I was listening to talk radio and I could’ve sworn that for a short while my cochlear implant was picking up their talking when my hearing aid could not. It really fascinated me. I kept playing with the radio to see how soft I could make it and still hear it. But I think after a little bit, my brain made an adjustment to the CI (time to turn up the volume) and I couldn’t hear it any more.

I went to a bar last night too. It was so loud, but for some reason I think it may have been slightly easier to understand other people in the bar. Either that or my mind is playing tricks on me!

I told someone the other day. If there was a pill that could make me hearing, I wouldn’t take it (yes, this is after activation!) There are two reasons. One: oh my gosh, everything is so LOUD. And to think, there are still five more programs to get through in a week and a half! Each program is louder than the previous. Can you imagine how painful that can be to just turn someone on? It makes me shutter just thinking about it Two: I love being deaf. Everything is so much calmer. I really don’t understand why hearing people like listening to all that loud noise constantly. I love my breaks and my beauty sleep!

I Got Bells

Yesterday was activation day! It started off with a series of tests that weren’t meant for me to hear. Followed by beeps. I was told to count the number of beeps. Except they didn’t sound anything like beeps – more like head throbs. I was counting the number of head throbs they were giving me! After awhile they started to sound more like sounds than throbs. Finally, came the interesting part – going live! All I could hear was bells… not the pretty ones that churches ring, but raspy, staticy bells.  At first the bells were constant. The room was small and there wasn’t much noise in there. The audiologist told me that they had a loud computer fan in the room and I was probably hearing that. That was pretty neat because even though it sounded awful, the cochlear implant WAS picking that up. This is something I wouldn’t be able to hear with my hearing aid. With speech, since my hearing aid is on, it sounds like an bellsy echo after each word.

I was turned off and sent home after an hour. Today we went back and learned how to use it. It was awful to put on because the stimulation was so overwhelming. Since then I had it on pretty much all day. After I took it off to rest for about 30 minutes and then put it back on, it was painful and took a long time to get used to again. I think taking it off and putting it back on again 15, 30 or more minutes later is worse than just wearing it, no matter how annoying the bells are.

Things I hear:

  • The clicking of the keys and wheel on my Blackberry.
  • The clicking of the keys on the keyboard.
  • Water is VERY loud. The worst is when I flush the toilet.
  • The bottle cap screwing on and off.
  • I think I’m starting to hear paper.

My audiologist told me to keep wearing my hearing aid. I think that helps with picking up these sounds.

I was given 8 programs – four on each external piece. The volume goes up 10 points including 0 so I have about 80 stages to go through in two weeks if I feel comfortable enough to do it. I’m up to volume 4 on program 2. I’m sure tomorrow morning, I will be turning it waaay down. Ow.

We took a video of it. Hopefully, we can clip that and caption it before putting it up. It’s kind of funny because when I first start hearing something, I literally jumped out of my chair each time.

Little Things That Should Go Away

1. My taste buds are temporarily screwed up. Everything tastes ‘numb’. It still does taste kind of like it should, with that numb overlay.

2. My ear pokes out and I look like a half-elf.

3. Still a bit woozy. I don’t feel good standing up for long periods of time even though this is day three and a half.

Tomorrow, I’m back to work. I hope to make it through the day without having to bow out early. But if I have to, so be it.

The Day After

Surgery went well and fine. No complications occurred. We got to the hospital and checked in. They soon directed us into a room where I was told to put on a hospital gown, complete with pants, socks and a hair net (although I’m not sure why they gave that to me, I’m sure it didn’t stay on long – they probably ended up using something else). My husband took some pre-surgery photos. And the nurses started coming in to ask me questions.

A nurse then proceeded to put an IV in my hand. It really scared me because the last time someone put an IV in my hand it felt like the needle was scratching against bone, it caused a lot of pain, but the nurse was nice and gave me local anesthetics before putting in the IV. We had a lot of fun with him talking about the old days of anthesia and talking about the scarf on his head – it had blood cells all over it, not real ones just pictures. After about a half an hour of waiting, I was taken to another room where they had me move onto another bed and they started adding monitors onto my body. I looked over and another nurse was adding something to my IV. I asked her if that was the stuff that knocked me out, and she said something like “oh yes” with a knowing look. That was the last thing I remembered.

The next thing I know, I was being woken up. My interpreter was in the room which was strange because she had not followed me into the other room earlier, well, it seemed like seconds ago. The nurse told me that I was “All Done!” I was literally shocked. I kept asking if it really was over. And they kept reassuring me. After I figured out my surroundings, I realized that my throat was dry and asked for water, they were only able to give me ice chips. I didn’t feel any pain at all then, but it did feel like an ear infection – to which the nurse hurried off to check with my doctor on that one. When they wheeled me into the recovery room, I was starting to feel some pain. My family came and my husband brought flowers and movies for me. I was given a pain killer by mouth, given my clothes back and was told I could go home. I felt pretty alert all day yesterday. I took several naps but I was surprised at how easy it was. No bandages, no nothing, just deep dissolveable stitches and glue.

Today was a little more painful. The blood has to drain somewhere so it has been draining down to my neck causing it to swell. I’ve also felt like I have a horrible cramp there too and can’t turn my neck. We talked to the doctor about this and he said it should go away today or tomorrow. The stiffness is getting better though – I can turn my head a little more than yesterday and this morning.

I am curious what it will feel like to touch it. I’m a little too scared to touch it yet. My husband lightly dragged his fingers over my head to see where the magnet is and showed me where he thinks it is.

It’s Surgery Day!

It’s approximately 4 a.m. and surgery is in four hours. I have to be at the hospital at 6:15 though and we have a 45 minute to an hour drive in front of us. It’s hard to describe the feeling I have right now. It seems weird to me that I’m going to go to sleep and then wake up when it’s all over. Yesterday they talked about the anesthesia at my pre-op appointment. Basically, I will be given an IV. Then sometime after I pass out, a tube will be put into my mouth/throat for sleeping gases. In addition to just anesthesia, they will be given me amnesia medicine. This kind of makes me nervous, but in a way I am glad. I have heard stories about anesthesia not working and the person is awake but cannot move or tell the doctor. This way if I does happen, I won’t remember anything anyways. Kind of creepy though.

Midnight last night marks when I had to stop taking food, water and anything else by mouth.

Got to go. Hopefully it goes well.