The Bionic Sound Project

this girl’s journey to sound

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.

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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!

 

The Airport Announcements Sunday, December 3, 2006

Saturday, I flew back to school. I had a nearly 2.5 hour layover in Cleveland, Ohio. While waiting at the gate, I was approached by a deaf young man, John T., who also goes to school with me. Felt like I had seen him before, but we found out we had some mutual friends in common, and figured that’s how we probably met. Gotta love the deaf community.

Anyway, the gate I was at, had multiple planes at it (the kind where you have to walk down the stairs and out onto the tarmac). This lead to staggered boarding, as they were boarding the multiple cities at different times.

What I was so excited about was while I was engaged in a conversation in sign, I heard them saying word-for-word over the PA, “we are now boarding for Rochester, New York” and I said to my new friend, “that’s us!”

It was so weird to be able to be engaged in conversation in a noisy airport, and hear the announcement word for word in the background. And at the same time, absolutely THRILLING to be able to understand it with the cochlear implant.

Flying was much better this time around, but my ear still doesn’t like the pressure on it. But I didn’t feel dizzy/off-balance after getting off the plane, and going through the security pat-down was quick, compared to last time I flew out of Phoenix.

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s entry that Megan has been listening to Christina Aguilera way more than I have, and every time she hears her music, she thinks of me. I infect people with the Christina goodness!

My focus since I’ve been activated was to listen to a diversity of music, mostly my favorite songs, to retrain my brain to associate that pulse with that sound. Now that I’ve trained my ears with different music and it is starting to sound natural, I may start listening to Christina’s new stuff more.

I think I didn’t want to corrupt her beautiful voice with the CI until I could get a sense of normalcy with music.

Megan also said that music will be so much better with the Harmony, and both she and Dr. M can’t wait to see what I think of it as compared to the Auria, since I’m a music fanatic.

I also learned that I have to wait for a letter from Advanced Bionics, that will explain about how to get the Harmony, then I have to call and order it, then bring it in to program it. Just a month to two months to go!

A lot of people are getting implanted in January, because they want to get two Harmony processors. I’m glad I got implanted when I did, because I want to enjoy the Harmony when it’s turned on, now that I’m doing reasonably well with the Auria.

Ok, 6:35 am, and I should go do something productive before heading out to the Toy Fair and sushi with my friends! A new sound adventure awaits, and this time it’s one of my favorite things…TOYS!

 

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!

 

Going Home For The First Time Since August Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I am oh so VERY excited. Today I am going home for the first time since August 30th!

I’m actually at the airport right now, waiting to board my flight, and killing time by posting from my sidekick. Going through TSA was much easier this time, probably due to the high volume of deaf people that live and travel in this city.

Today, the weather couldn’t be any more perfect…51 degrees, bright blue skies, and sunny! I’m looking forward to the weather back home even more…79-82 degrees!

I finished the fall quarter with my last final this morning. This quarter was an interesting one for many reasons, but most importantly, I survived with a cochlear implant.

I’m so excited to go home because I cannot wait to hear what sounds there are back home. I want to know if I can hear the sounds of my dog, cats, and guinea pig. I know my guinea pig makes whistles, squeaks, wheeks, and a whole host of high-pitched noises, but I really can’t hear it unless he’s right next to my ear. Mom says that he calls when he’s hungry, wants attention, or hears the refrigerator open. And then I have my three cats, one which growls and hisses at everything (we don’t get along), the other likes to have “conversations” with you, and the third likes to quietly announce her presence when she jumps up on the bed, commanding your attention, otherwise she gets mad and jumps down. I want to hear toenails clicking on the tile, the clomp-clomp-thump of my three-legged cat as he walks around, the bells jingling on their collars, and the sound of my dog snoring, which always cracks up my mom.

I can’t wait to hear the sounds that my house makes. I want to hear the noises that happen in the neighborhood (especially the kids at the park, which the people on my street can hear).

It is going to be a mind-shock for me because I only got to experience being home for the first 2.5 weeks with the CI, and my brain didn’t understand what it was hearing. Now it’s almost 3.5 months later, and what is going to be different? Am I going to be catching on to what my mom says in conversation even better than I did with the hearing aid? I’m just bursting at the seams thinking about it.

I was talking to Kathy the other day at work about going home. She warned me that I need to be patient with my family, especially my mom. As a grandmother herself, she cannot imagine what it must be like for my mom, away from me while I’m experiencing all these new sounds. My mom has been there with me every step of the way, and she is very, very, very excited to see me and how I am doing with the CI.

Next week, I start up again at my old job (that I didn’t get to work at this summer, due to the complications after surgery), and I’m excited. It’s going to be stressful, with the holiday shopping, Black Friday, and cranky, stressed people. But it doesn’t bother me because I’m more interested in seeing how much the CI helps me in the work environment, working in customer service, and hearing the noises that make up a retail store. So here’s my new test!

Working on seeing Susan at least once or twice while I’m home and continuing with my listening therapy, plus seeing Dr. M for my 3 month checkup, and importing my current MAPs into Megan’s computer.

Ending on that note, that reminds me, I need to go buy a kumquat. 😀

 

First Visit to the Audiologists at school, and therapy session with Karen Thursday, September 7, 2006

Today I went over to the audiology/speech department at school for the first time since last May. My first therapy session, speech with Karen, was at 1 pm.

While waiting for Karen, I saw some of the audiologists that I knew, Don and Catherine, who I have worked with in the past. Both knew about my interest in the CI, as Catherine was interviewed by me for an assigned story for the school newspaper (which didn’t get published). This lead to my interest about going through the evaluation process, which she did several times, due to my chickening out. Don was the one who started the process of new digital hearing aids with me, until he was completely booked for the rest of the quarter, and I saw Mandy instead. There were some other staff that I didn’t know, but knew who I was, after Catherine mentioned that I was the writer of this blog. I felt strangely like a mini-celebrity.

After exchanging greetings, Catherine told me that she “just had to say this to me…Mango”. That lead me to do a fake walking out the door in protest.

The dirty little secret that everybody doesn’t know is that I had a mango smoothie for lunch today, and bought mango fruit the other day for a snack.

I was asked different questions from the audiologists about the CI, and Mandy appeared from her office in the middle of it, and I was excited to see her. I didn’t get to finish answering all the questions, as Karen came along, and it was time for my therapy.

Karen and Mandy have worked out a plan of therapy for me, in which I do speech (and listening if necessary) with her one time a week (due to schedule conflicts), and see Mandy 2x a week for listening therapy. It has been so long since I last saw Karen, either spring or fall 2003, so we had to do new testing for me.

We started off with going through the battery of speech tests: Fisher-Logemann, Rainbow passage, Clarke Sentences, and a 2.5 minute free speech recording. All of these tests were recorded into a computer, where they will be listened to by a professional familiar with deaf speech, and a person not familiar with deaf speech, and scored. Next week we will get started on actual therapy.

I talk extremely well, but my biggest challenge is that I talk too fast! I also tend to drop some sounds in speech, out of habit/laziness, and sometimes use “stop” signs in speech instead of flowing continuously.

Regarding the dizziness, I had another bout this morning, leading me to trip over a box that I have yet to unpack and lose part of my poor toenail in the process. At the suggestion of Mandy and Catherine, I called Dr. M’s office this afternoon to follow up. Dr. M said that the dizziness is sometimes brought on by a change in altitude, and should subside soon.

 

Flying With The CI Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Filed under: flying,observations,post-activation,post-surgical,sound discovery — Allison @ 11:59 pm

Today I flew back to school all the way across the country. It was my first time going through airport security and flying with the CI. It wasn’t that much different than flying with the hearing aids, except that the TSA wanted me to have a pat-down and a bag search instead of going through the metal detector.

It took a bit longer because a female TSA agent had to be located, and then she had to pat me down, which felt really odd, especially when they pat around the personal parts.

Flying was another non-event in itself. I could hear the voices of pilot/flight attendants over the announcements. I could also hear passenger’s voices even when the engines were going and we were in the air. I thought it would be much more difficult for the CI to distinguish between speech and the engine noise, but I was proven wrong.

I could still hear and understand sound, even though my HA-ear was all plugged up from the altitude changes. It was odd, when my left ear was all plugged up, but my right ear didn’t feel plugged up at all. This was a great experiment in the differences between a CI and a HA in an airplane, and the CI far surpasses what one can hear with the HA.

(backposted from a few days later)