The Bionic Sound Project

this girl’s journey to sound

Advanced Bionics Neptune Processor Monday, June 4, 2012

With the announcement of the waterproof, swimmable Neptune sound processor, I am beyond excited about this. I have been waiting years for a hearing aid that was able to withstand water, and strong enough for my hearing loss (and still waiting). And now we have a cochlear implant processor that can do it? AMAZING.

I have been following the news around the Neptune, and while I am not sure if I will qualify for an upgrade, as I already have the Harmony. The Neptune is is definitely a huge step forward in Cochlear Implant technology.

However, after thinking about it for awhile, the ability to hear in all environments slightly scares me. I’ve gone my entire life without swimming with hearing aids on (other than that unfortunate incident at the babysitter’s when I was five). I vaguely remember the feeling of “WOW! I CAN HEAR”, as I climbed out of the pool and my hearing aids died their quick, waterlogged electrical death.

Throughout my life, as a water baby through and through, logging countless hours in the pool as a child growing up in the intense heat of a Phoenix summer, and as a competitive swimmer for one of the nation’s top high school girl’s swim teams, I’ve made it by without hearing. In high school, one of the highlights of my life was a five-day whitewater rafting trip down the San Juan river. There were people who signed, so I wasn’t alone, but I still spent time on the water in silence. All these years, and I’ve made it through my aquatic life, without hearing sound.

Now to think…what will it sound like to be swimming, and hearing the noise of the water as you are surrounded by others? Of playing Marco Polo, and being able to participate with the hearing children at daycare? Of hearing the bird calls while floating down the San Juan in a ducky boat? Of not being afraid of being thrown in the pool with my hearing aids on. Taking kayaking lessons and having the full experience of hearing the teacher’s instructions on how to do a roll to get one upright. Of floating outside today in my pool, in silence, enjoying the blue sky and sunshine shining down on me.

There are pros and cons to the Neptune for my personal use. To hear while wet is a foreign concept to me.

I think today’s kids who have this chance to fully participate in the life aquatic are extremely lucky. Thank you, Advanced Bionics, for creating this swimmable processor.

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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.

 

Phonak MicroLink MLxS FM System Monday, January 22, 2007

Today’s goal was to get the FM System to work with the cochlear implant. This time, Catherine helped us fix it, and it worked on the first try!

I have the Phonak MicroLink MLxS FM system, along with the audio shoe (T-SP) for the Siemens Triano SP and the earhook (iConnect) for Advanced Bionics.

The boots/earhook look and feel humongous, so one of the issues is cosmetics versus being able to hear. I admit I’m turned off at this huge bulking monstrosity that’s perched on my ear, but after learning what it can do, it’s amazing and may be worth it.

I can hook it up to a stereo/television/computer/ipod and walk around my apartment, wireless up to 100 feet depending on which “cable” is used. The signal strength depends on which cable is used as the antenna is located in the cable. There’s also an option to use it with a cellphone, through BlueTooth, but I didn’t pay attention to that, as my hearing isn’t for telephone use.

Last night, I tried it out on my own at the apartment. It was after quiet hours, so I hooked it up to my computer, and I could hear the music from anywhere in the apartment, loud and clear. The best part was being able to do everyday activities, without having to worry about cords, dropping the iPOD, catching it on something. TOTAL FREEDOM. I could have used this last year, without having to freak out about my iPOD falling out of my pocket and into the tub of chemicals when working in the darkroom.

I can see how this technology can be manipulated…such as hooking it up to my iPOD, putting it in my backpack, and listening to music during really boring lectures (like I would ever do that). But the fact that the technology exists is what is so exciting to me. Nobody else knows that I’m listening to music but me.

I think my mom is going to be very excited about this. No more music blasting through the house when I’m at home. 😀

The only negative to the system that I can see so far, other than the cosmetics is that it cannot be used on an airplane while in flight. It operates on a radio frequency, and the booklet says “do not use on aero planes”. I also get static with it, but I’m not sure if it’s a microphone issue or a channel issue. The FM receiver can be changed to different channels, so if you’re in an area where wireless loops are available, you can change to that channel. But if you’re nearby, and have it set on that channel, you may not get the information from your area, due to interference.

 

The Christmas Post Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I still have yet to write about the CI Holiday party, but that will come once I get the pictures ready.

Flying home was good. My ear wasn’t happy, as I’ve been having stabbing pains and itchiness. Also had several attacks of dizziness in those prior weeks.

On the flight, I was able to understand “the current temperature in Pittsburgh is forty-four degrees” “thank you for flying us airways” “we are now preparing to land” over the announcements.

When we landed in Phoenix, I was grateful to a guy who recognized me from the flight, because he was able to listen and help us find our bags. We had been waiting and due to the holiday crush, somehow our flight didn’t make it onto the baggage claim board, so we were waiting for 30 minutes. By the time we found out where our bags were at, there weren’t very many left, and the carousel was stopped. Oy. But if it hadn’t been for him, I would have thought they were just very behind in unloading, since we were sitting out on the tarmac for 25 minutes due to the disruptions of flights all over the country because of the blizzard in Denver.

Christmas Eve was nice. I don’t know what I was worrying about, with meeting new family members, but everything was just fine. I worry about how kids handle a person that is deaf, and I think it stems from the fear of being ridiculed or made fun of when I was growing up. But it was all good.

We went to the 8:30 christmas eve mass, all 16+ of us, and it was too far for me to see what the priest was saying, so I just listened. I understood “our father” and “celebration” out of the entire sermon. It was easier to follow along with the music, but I preferred listening with the hearing aid than the cochlear implant, because music is just sounding weird lately.

I have the same issue with playing the piano. I really hate playing with the CI because it just sounds….blech. But I did notice I picked the optimal ear to get implanted in, because the right ear can pick up the higher frequencies on the right side of the piano, whereas the left ear is better at delivering the lower frequencies with the hearing aid.

I got a new iPOD for Christmas, and I am just thrilled. I can’t wait to get back to school so I can upload my entire music library on it.

Well, that’s it for now. Time to meet with Susan. Have a very happy holidays!

 

Susan, Webinars, And The Emergency Vet Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tuesday, I saw Susan for listening therapy. She was near the end of the “webinar” for the new Advanced Bionics Harmony processor, so she brought me back to her office so I could see what it was like. It was interesting watching and listening to the webinar, and seeing some images and testimonials for the Harmony. I love how AB is using technology to bring the information out to the masses.

Susan also mentioned an term called “auditory closers”, and that’s something I want to look into, because it has to do with a combination of the brain’s processing versus the actual listening of what is being said. That’s one reason why I can figure out what is being said, even though I may not have heard everything that was said in the sentence.

I had a bit of trouble with some sets of sentences, and not so much with others. It’s interesting how the same sentence, said in different ways, can make more sense as compared to repeating it. I like it when I get things correctly, but they like it when I’m challenged by it!

Wednesday, Susan was talking to Megan and I came up in the conversation, and it was discovered that there was an miscommunication in the scheduling, so I will be able to see her and Dr. M on Friday instead of waiting till January. Yippie.

Wednesday night, we had a freeze warning for our area, and my poor 14-year-old dog fell in our pool. She was already showing the symptoms of not feeling well, but after the pool incident, she definitely was very sick, so we took her to the emergency vet. She’s going to be okay, but she’s a very sick doggie. It was both interesting and sad being at the emergency vet, because it was a listening sound adventure for me.

I felt awful listening to the poor dog that kept howling and crying because it was in a lot of pain after it got attacked by two other dogs. The cochlear implant gave me the beginning and end of the howl, whereas the hearing aid just picked it up and ended it at mid-howl. I could hear the emotion in the howl, which really tugged at my heartstrings, because I wanted to help ease the pain for the poor dog. I could also hear the different howls, barks, and yips from the different dogs, and it turned into a game of figuring how how many dogs were speaking at once, and differentiating between the “voices”. It really wasn’t a game, but we were waiting for quite awhile, and I was interested in what I was hearing, as it was a new environment.

My mom commented that it was interesting that I was hearing all these sounds and bringing it to her attention, as she never really thinks about it, as it’s all white noise to her. However, it depends on what it is, and if it catches her attention or not. So we got into a discussion of how hearing people filter out the sounds, and it was interesting to hear about it.

I could also hear the employees talking, and was figuring out if it was a male or female voice, the chair scraping on the floor as it was pushed back, a drawer being closed, and I was identifying all these sounds from inside the examination room, and my mom was confirming what I was hearing for me. However, I did hear one person laugh, but couldn’t tell if it was male or female.

So yeah, it was an interesting night. I’m just glad my dog is going to be okay, and I hope that other dog survives as well as the other sick animals there.

 

The First Update On Sounds I’ve Heard While At Home Sunday, November 19, 2006

Here’s the brief update of the last 3 or so days that I have been home.

Flying was okay, no major problems there, but I really appreciate the separation and clarity of sound that the CI gives. However, my inner ear didn’t seem to like flying that much, as I felt a bit separated/off-balance when changing planes and when I arrived at home.

Mom says I seem to have a little bit of trouble understanding her or not hearing her as well as I did in the past. I’m not sure if it’s an adjustment period or what. But it too, shall pass.

She did say that my speech sounds so much better than it did before. As a matter of fact, when I answered the phone with my standard “hello, hold on please”, and handed the phone to my mom, it was my godmom on the other end of the phone. She asked my mom “who was that? I didn’t recognize who it was.” She said my speech was so clear, but she couldn’t understand what I was saying because I talked really fast. (Sorry, Karen! I know I’m supposed to slow down!)

Here’s what I’ve been hearing since I’ve been home.

11/17/06 – the cat (Benny) giving himself a bath. He’s noisy when he licks himself, making this kind of slurping/gulping sound. I can’t describe it. But I was like, holy cow, you’re that noisy when taking a bath? I could also hear him purr without being next to his head.

11/17/06 – hearing the music from the itty-bitty speakers attached to my iPOD playing in my room upstairs, while walking around downstairs.

11/18/06 – the very beginning of the quiet growl that Pippen makes before she goes into a full-blown hiss, and the details that make up her hiss/growl language. I also got bitten (more than once) while trying to cut the mats out of her fur, before she finally peed on me. *sigh*

11/18/06 – hearing Pippen hiss at the dog, before she smacks Elizabeth and tells her to mind her own business. I could hear it, but couldn’t see it.

11/18/06 – the “rhhhk-rhhhk” of the nail file as mom was filing her nails while we were watching a movie. It was driving me nuts! Haha.

11/19/06 – hearing the hydroplane boats at Firebird Lake in the distance (just barely, and only if it was absolutely silent). The lake is about 15-20 miles away from my house. It sounded like a very low “mmmmm”. However, while typing this as my mom’s on the phone, I just heard the bigger boat clearly. My eyes widened, and Mom looked over at me and said, “yep that was the boats.”

As for my guinea pig, he just came home from being boarded at the vet yesterday morning, and I haven’t really had time to see what he sounds like. He was really cute though, when I put him on the floor to run around. It was safe to do so, as the entire first floor is empty, and we are still doing work downstairs. Right now, he doesn’t want to get up and greet the day. He’s usually very vocal in the morning, but not today. We checked on him to make sure he was okay, and he ran out of his house, and as soon as we set it back down, he ran back into it and went back to sleep. I think he was worn out from running around downstairs.

I wasn’t able to get an appointment to see Dr. M and Megan for this break, and have to wait till January! But I will be able to see Susan, and I am excited about that!

I go back to work tomorrow and that’s going to bring a whole new plethora of sounds for me. Whee!