The Bionic Sound Project

this girl’s journey to sound

On The Virtues Of Batteries Thursday, June 14, 2007

Today, at work, my battery for my hearing aid was starting to die. I wasn’t hearing my coworkers or the guests in the store very well, and had a few near-collisions today. But what sucks more is that it leaves me out of conversations (even though I can follow along SOMEWHAT by lipreading, but it’s MUCH harder), and guests who don’t know I have a hearing loss, get frustrated with me, and go off in search of somebody else. It’s not too bad when I’m with my team lead, or other coworkers that I’m familiar with, so that’s a relief, but still.

In regards to the battery issue, my hearing aid is frustrating because the battery doesn’t give me a warning that it’s about to die (I suppose I could keep a calendar, and change it on a regular interval, but that’s beside the point). My old hearing aid used to make a click-click-click sound to let me know that the battery was dying.

With the cochlear implant, there’s no warning. It just dies. It’s clear cut and dried. It doesn’t cling onto its last gasping breath, nor does it trick my ear into thinking it can hear, but faintly. I know it’s dead, because I can’t hear anything, nor do I feel the stimulation in my head. It’s weird describing the process of the battery dying, but it’s like everything grinds to a halt, with one last pulse shooting through your head.

I prefer the fact that that the CI doesn’t mince with a dead battery, like the hearing aid does.  When it’s dead, it’s dead, and I’m not running around struggling to hear.

In terms of sound, I’m having trouble with sounds lately with the CI. Music is starting to be icky, sounds are starting to be unfamiliar or rough. I don’t know if it’s time for a remapping, since I haven’t had one since….winter quarter? Usually, you get one at 3 months, 6 months, and then 1 year. But as Megan and Mandy can attest, I’m very particular with my MAPs, refining it to the last detail.

I can’t wait till I can put my order in for the Harmony trade-in. ONE MORE MONTH. (and at the same time, I don’t want it to be July, because it means the summer’s half over!)

And that means July 10, will be my 1-year anniversary of getting the cochlear implant. I cannot believe that almost a year has gone by.

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It Doesn’t Change How I Like It…LOUD Thursday, February 1, 2007

After a few months of avoiding music because my brain was tired, graduating to playing at low volume, then listening to it through headphones, I finally realized something tonight.

No matter how deaf I am, if I have a cochlear implant or not, I’m always going to like my music loud.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for the poor souls that are within a five-mile radius of me, whether on the road or at home.

There is nothing like the feel of the bass pulsing through your body. The vibrations cascading down your back. The ripples of the sound as it skips around your ears, giving you a pleasant rush, leading you to the crescending high. Music is my drug. It’s an addiction that I can shake, but only for so long.

I just have to blast it, drench myself in sound. I have to feel it through every inch of my body. And tonight, I had the feeling of being reborn through the songs.

“4 My People (Basement Jaxx Remix Radio Edit)” – Missy Elliott
“Lazy (Original Mix) [feat. David Byrne]” – X-Press 2
“Young, Fresh N’ New (Timo Maas Remix)” – Kelis
“It’s Gonna Be…(A Lovely Day) [Bini&Martini Club Remix]” – Brancaccio&Aisher
“Shifter (Full Vocal Mix) [feat. MC Chickaboo]” – Timo Maas
“Salsoul Nugget (If You Wanna) [Extended Vocal Mix]” – Girl Next Door
“Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love, Then Why Does It Feel So Good) [Extended Vocal Mix]” – Spiller
“What A Girl Wants (Thunderpuss Dirty Club Mix)” – Christina Aguilera
“Freakin’ You” – Jungle Brothers
“Rendez-Vu” – Basement Jaxx
“Blue Skies (Deep Dish Blue Phunk Mix) [feat. Tori Amos]” – bt
“Lapdance (Paul Oakenfold Swordfish Mix)” – N.E.R.D.

The cochlear implant won’t change how I like my music. It does give me the ability to hear it when it’s faint, but it doesn’t have the same energy and intensity for me. I cannot deny who I am.

So! In the words of Nintendo’s Game Boy Campaign from the 1990s…“Play It Loud”. Rock on! \m/

And for the eardrums everywhere who hoped that the CI would make things quieter…I’m so very sorry.

p.s. If you’re familiar with any of those songs, and can think of more that I might enjoy, please share!

 

The Obstacles Of Having Hearing Friends And Family That Love The Movies Friday, January 26, 2007

Thursday night, MK and I went to see the simultaneous ASL-Voice play at school titled Obstacles. It was a great play, really emphasized the obstacles that deaf people face in a hearing world. I haven’t been to one of those plays in a long time, but only because back then I couldn’t understand what was going on, due to being a new ASL learner. I’ll discuss the play next time, and the obstacles it talked about.

Tonight I realized that I had my own obstacles. My hearing friends. Ok, maybe not them, per se, but the things they choose to do. They want to go to the $2.00 movies tonight, and invited me to come along. But they forgot that I needed open-captioning (OC).

So, I told them that it wasn’t OC, and that they could go ahead and go without me.

I really didn’t feel like
a) going outside when the temperature currently “feels like -2” according to the weather report
b) sitting through a movie, missing the dialogue, but knowing what happens visually. It ruins the movie for you when you actually see it with captions because you already know what happens.
c) watching a movie when I would rather watch it in the convenience of my own apartment, without missing anything if I have to go to the bathroom. I also have a particularly bad habit of falling asleep during movies.

Anyway, it’s fine with me, as I’m used to not going to the movies with everybody else. A few years ago, I told my family to go ahead and go without me, when one of nieces/nephews wanted to go to the movies for their birthday, but it wasn’t OC and it was about $15. So I went home to my mom and did other stuff.

The last time I went to a non-OC movie was Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. I only did that because I had never been to a midnight opening of a movie, and wanted to experience it. Secondly, HP4 was my favorite book in the series (of 1-6, when’s #7 coming out?) so it would be easy to follow along, because I already knew what happened in the book. I don’t even remember what was the last non-OC move that I saw.

My friends discussed about the possibility of coming over to watch a movie, since we’re all going out to do errands in the morning together. I didn’t hear back from them until they were already at the theater. Apparently, they lost track of time, and had to leave immediately, and weren’t able to tell me what the plan was until after they got there.

Growing up, I was forced to go to the movies like every week with the other kids at my babysitter’s house. The only thing I liked about it was that I got to have all kinds of special treats at the movie, and it was nice and cool inside. It was a great relief in those days, as the summertime temperatures were ~115, and we spent the entire day in the pool, swimming and being toasted to a golden crisp by the Arizona sun, even with sunblock on.

I do remember being traumatized by movies or television that I watched as a little kid. I got so upset seeing “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” only because I didn’t understand the dialogue, and the grandma looked like/reminded me of my own grandma, who I was especially close to. There were times I would be scared, such as in Silence Of The Lambs, The Black Hole, The Neverending Story (it’s one of my favorites, now that I understand what’s going on), and Speed (ok, that one was Dad’s fault, as Mom expressly told him that I was not allowed to watch it because I was too young. I was up all night, too scared to go to sleep, and so were they).

But that’s the way it was growing up. I hated it. I was so glad when the ADA was finally passed and captioning was mandatory. For the first time in my life, I was able to participate in watching stuff with my peers and family. No longer was relegated to sitting in the corner of the room, my nose buried in a book, or making up my own storylines to match what was going onscreen.

The benefit to that is that I became exceptionally well-read and extremely creative with the stories I would come up with. And then captioning came, and I learned to read fast, devouring information quickly.

I don’t want to keep my friends and family from going to the movies, which they enjoy doing and makes them happy. My mom and Stef both said it would be great if I can understand movies with the CI, so I can go with them. I don’t know when that day will come, or if it ever will.

I want to be able to go to the movies when my family and friends want to go, without having to check and see if it’s captioned. The movie I want to see, Dreamgirls, isn’t even available in my area, OC.

But where do I draw the line between going along with being a part of a group, doing something that I really don’t want to do versus being all alone, doing something else that makes me happy? It’s a conundrum.

 

It’s All About The Babies (And Hearing Loss) Saturday, November 4, 2006

Yesterday morning, I got my new replacement sidekick (yes, less than 2 months after receiving the brand new one, it was a major software glitch that caused it to crash constantly after we changed to Daylight Savings Time).

As soon as I powered it up, I got a message from Chris, a good friend of mine from my 1st year of college, who is also an ex-boyfriend of mine. He suprised me, as he and his wife are here in town for a wedding, and staying with another friend, Todd. The three of us were part of the same group of friends freshman year (Todd, Chris and I). They all wanted to get together for lunch, so we ate at the Commons, and I was surprised by the news that Chris and Pennie are 51/2 months pregnant, which is so exciting for them. It was so much fun reuniting with everyone, but I had to cut it short due to my listening therapy session with Mandy.

Mandy has decided that the activities in the book from AB is too easy for me, so she’s trying to make them more challenging for me. I’m having trouble with some words that I used to be able to get correctly before, are now sounding “off”. The Nucleus Hear We Go book, some of the activities are difficult because they deal with things that people in Australia would know about.

Next week, as it’s the last week of the quarter, she is going to do a sound test, to determine how much I am hearing now with the CI, as compared to when Megan did the test 1 week after activation. We are also going to go in and make a new MAP for the CI, and this time she thinks that we will be able to increase the threshold for sound for me, giving me access to a wider variety of soft and loud sounds at different frequencies. This may help in making sound being more “natural” for me, and on the same page as the HA.

A few hours after that, I met up with my friends again, to have a surprise birthday dinner for Chris at TGIFriday’s. I caught up with some other friends that were there. And then there was curiosity about the CI, as the interest in getting one is growing among deaf people. The funny part was that one of them used to work with my current audiologist, Mandy, when she got her CI 3 years ago. We were talking about her experience, and where she was at now with the CI. It’s always interesting for me to hear about other people’s progress and how the CI has or has not worked for them. I always feel bad for those who say the CI has not worked for them, or that they don’t like it for various reasons, and wish it wasn’t the case for them.

Afterwards, we headed back to Todd’s apartment, where we played a very fun game of Monopoly and chatted. At one point, there was a loud exclaimation/outburst from everybody, and the baby gave Pennie a good swift kick. It was the first time that the baby had kicked in response to a very loud sound, and she told us all that. That made me curious, because I don’t know that many deaf women who have been pregnant, as my peers are all starting to get married and/or starting families.

I called up my mom today and asked her if I ever gave her a good swift kick in response to loud noises when she was pregnant with me, and she said no. That was one of the first indicators that she had that there was something up with my hearing after I was born. The only time I did respond to noise and kick/fuss was when the Phoenix Suns were vying for the playoffs back in 1981-1982.

I just thought it was funny, as I’m a Phoenix Suns fan, all the way! Got the original license plate from the 1993 playoffs, with the old Suns logo, on my car.

But yeah, now I know that when I do get pregnant (in many many years down the road – don’t worry mom, dad, and linda, there aren’t any grandkids coming your way), that’s one of the things I’m going to be watching out for during pregnancy, is the response to environmental sounds.

It’s fascinating to me, as Pennie and I were both born deaf, with unknown reason for deafness. Chris was born hearing, lost it to sickness. Most people with a hearing loss, usually lose it due to being sick. In combination with that, considering the guys I have dated, I probably will marry a guy who was born hearing.

That’s one of the things I wonder about for the future, what’s going to happen when I do have kids. Will they be hearing or will they be deaf? Is my deafness genetic or just a random freak occurence?

I do remember the time a few months after my niece was born, my half-sister called my mom because she was worried that my niece might have a hearing loss. My niece wasn’t responding to sounds, and I remember being scared for my sister and for my niece, because it’s a hard road to travel, trying to raise a child with a hearing loss to survive in the hearing world, and that it would mean that there was a genetic component to my hearing loss, and that I would have to think about my own kids, when I did have them.

At the same time, there was a tiny part of me that was secretly happy (as much as I hate to admit it) at the prospect that there could be another family member with a hearing loss, because face it, it is lonely sometimes being the minority, and it is nice to have another person who is similar to you. I love my family very much, but there ARE times when I feel very left out (and sometimes have nothing to do with hearing loss, but rather being too old for the younger kids, but being too young for the adults). I’m happy to report that my niece is perfectly fine, with normal hearing, and so is my nephew, who came two years later.

No matter what happens, I’ll be prepared for it, after growing up deaf, and so will my family. Hearing or deaf, the kid will be special, period.

If my child is deaf, I’ll travel down that road when I get to it, in terms of what route I will pursue. Who knows what the technology and educational methods will be in 5 to 15 years? There’s many factors to consider, such as city that I live in, the services available, job situation (my mom quit hers to stay home and do therapy with me, while dad worked), finances, etc.

For now, I’m happily single, very independent, living my own life and enjoying it.

 

Whispering In Class and Music On The Radio Wednesday, November 1, 2006

I know it’s bad to do it, not to mention the epitome of rudeness, but this morning was just one of those days. A class where everybody is immeasurably bored that you can’t resist talking to your neighbor, and that was what was going on today.

One thing I’ve never been able to do as a deaf person is to whisper. I either talk too loud in my attempt to “whisper” or I think I’m whispering, but I’m actually making no sound, and the other person can’t hear me, much less read my lips.

I was whispering with my classmate, Jen A., and to my amazement, she could understand what was saying, and I wasn’t being loud that others could hear me. But even better, my lipreading was enhanced by hearing what she was saying.

However, I still find it very difficult to be able to whisper and control your voice/make the sound in order to be understood without having an audience.

At work today, I was standing in the work area, just stretching my ankle because it was sore, and I could faintly hear music playing.

“Kathy, do you hear music playing?”

“I have the radio on, it’s really low though.”

“Are you serious? No way. I can hear that, it’s very quiet. But that is sooooooo cool.”

I was AMAZED because I was a good 15 feet away from the radio, and could hear it distinctly…I could tell the difference between the music and the voices, and I was just impressed as it’s only been 2 months, 3 weeks, and 4 days since activation.

In the middle of my delight at hearing this, Kathy asked me why I asked her that question, as I’ve been asking her and others at work off and on throughout the quarter about noises that I’ve been hearing, and she didn’t understand why I was doing that, as some of the questions struck her as being odd.

What she didn’t know was that all these sounds I that I have been hearing are new to me, and that I was a new implantee. She knew I could hear with the hearing aid, but not that the fact that these were new sounds for me.

It was a very good thing that I could hear the radio from where I was standing, because that is the equivalent of a “normal hearing” person.

I borrowed a different battery charger to determine if the short battery life of one of my batteries is an issue with the charger or with the battery. After yesterday’s dismal “run time”, it’s definitely the battery. So back to AB it will go, because a brand new 18 hour battery should not be lasting 12 or less hours.

I know that in the days right after activation, Susan told me that I needed to document my journey, because as time goes by, I’m going to look back and go WOW…look how far I’ve come in this short time that I’ve been activated. I see it each and every day and am thrilled.

I would not trade one day of this journey at all. I do not regret my decision at all, and happy that I got the CI when I did. The CI has been amazing so far, and I *LOVE* it. Thank you to everybody involved.

 

Are You Deaf Or Hearing? Monday, October 23, 2006

“I hate it when teachers and students see me as this dud that can’t go anywhere without an aid [sic]. I hate broadcasting my deafness to the entire class by having another human being there to assist me. I hate being reminded of my deafness every day.” – a livejournal friend of mine, Chiara

I hear ya, Chiara. I do. Like her, I want independence and not have my deafness be the thing that defines me. I’ve always been a strong supporter of doing things for yourself, taking initative, and going after what you want, and not letting things stop you from achieving what you want. My mom raised me this way, as this was her goal for me in life, to use my own voice.

This is one reason why I don’t understand why deaf people would rather rely on interpreters than talking and listening for themselves. I know that some can’t for different reasons, but there are many that I know that are capable, but choose to be “Deaf”. I can’t fathom that. I want to be able to speak for myself, communicating my own thoughts with my own voice, and hear things for myself.

But I’m not at that point yet. The CI doesn’t give me that ability, and there’s no guarantee that it ever will. Maybe if I was implanted as a baby, when the brain is much more plastic.

Anyways, as a result, today was one of those days where being deaf was thrown into my face. It’s my favorite time of the quarter, registration for the next one. *sarcasm*

The problem lies in the fact that there are a limited number of seats for deaf students reserved in specific sections of a course. I haven’t been able to register due to other issues that are currently being resolved.

But I am now locked out of all the available supported sections for that course, (except for one, which conflicts with every section of my other required class). It’s frustrating for me, because my teacher told me that she absolutely will not add an extra student to the lab class (which I understand the reasons for). Student Services won’t boot somebody from the class so I can have a seat in the supported section. And Support Services does not want to support another section.

So now I’m trying to figure out how I am going to get into this required class and have support. Frustrating, huh?

It just further deepens my desire to become independent and hear well enough on my own to function in a classroom setting. I’m already doing that with my other class, forgoing support, and going with C-Print, so I can practice listening.

So that, with some other things going on related to friends/social life, does not make for a happy me. I feel trapped.

I miss being around people like me or who understand deafness, and are similar in age/maturity to me. I want more of those friends, both inside and out of school. I miss my big sister, because we were a support for each other. As blonde as you are, I still love you and how we “got” each other immediately. 5 years apart has been too long. A few minutes in 3 years is not enough. But it feels like a lifetime with you, and all is right again, in that brief passing.

Sometimes navigating the hearing world by yourself is scary, and at other times, tiring and frustrating. Other times it is absolutely exhilarating and fun!

“What I wouldn’t give to find a soulmate
Someone else to catch this drift
And what wouldn’t I give to meet a kindred”

Alanis Morissette -“All I Really Want”

 

Hockey and Fall Leaves Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mandy gave me more Halloween goodness for therapy. Some of the Halloween words are tricky to understand. This time I got to do a word search, and I had to listen and find the keyword in the sentence. Mandy was teasing me with the word “hoot hoot” because she picked a few extra words to repeat at the end of the puzzle. It better not take the place of “mango”, which I haven’t heard for awhile, thank goodness.

I’ve gotten positive responses on my statement that was read on NPR. My mom forwarded the email to her coworkers, and I’ve heard back from them (the entire group is awesome, and have been supportive of my mom/me throughout this journey). I’ve also heard back from the faculty/staff here at school. One teacher emailed me if they could use my statement for a class project that they are doing on the topic about the situation at Gallaudet.

Our school’s first home Hockey game was at 7 pm, and it was practically sold out. Here at this school, the hockey team is the equivalent of any big-name football university. My friends and I sat with the Corner Crew (slogan: we’re loud and obnoxious at hockey games).

On the other side of the aisle was the band, so it was fun getting to listen to the band play the instruments, instead of a sound file on the computer. I really enjoyed listening to them play. The one sound that drove me crazy after awhile was the cowbell that somebody in the CC had. Listening to them bang on it repeatedly throughout the game, to set the beat for the game/crowd, was annoying after awhile.

Then there was some kind of noisemaker horn, three rows behind me, that tooted out the number of goals we had scored, and a long toot for the next one to score. We won 8-3, so I heard it quite a bit last night.

This year, with the CI, it was easier to follow along with the CC-patented chants. Some of the simpler ones, I was able to understand just by listening, and able to jump in immediately. A lot of the cheers I don’t know, because I wasn’t able to understand them last year.

Jen A., some girl behind me, and I nearly got decapitated by an errant hockey puck that was hit by the other team. My back was to the game, as I was talking to people, but I ducked just in time. It was too close of a call, eek. I’m not sure if I heard the commotion of the crowd, or if it was some developed sixth-sense of mine warning me of danger (due to deafness, you tend to develop an environmental awareness, even if you’re not consciously paying attention to your surroundings). Anyway, there were a few high-flying hockey pucks last night, so I should have known better.

After the game was over, I went back to the dorms with Jen A., and hung out on floor for awhile. Realized that even at night, with the doors closed, and not a lot of people around, the floor is still not quiet. I headed home around midnight. Midnight is a wonderful time to go for a walk, as it’s relatively quiet on campus.

The leaves have started to really shed around here, creating a thickly layered carpet of Autumn’s death. It was fun hearing the crunch of the leaves underneath my sneakers. I could also hear the slight scrape of the leaves against the asphalt, as they were kicked up by the toes of my shoes.

Then there was the tiny skitter-whistle as they scurried across the pavement, held ever so slightly aloft by the undercurrent of the wind swooping across the ground. I wanted to run around and experiment some more with the leaves, but I was turning into a human popsicle, and could only think of getting warm and toasty. I will have to do that soon before they’re raked up by maintenance.

In the past, I was able to hear the leaves (just barely) with the HA, and only if they were really stiff and on a hard surface, or if there was a ton of them, forcing you to wade through them. What a difference it makes.

 

Me and Jen A.

 

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