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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Harmony Info and Hearing Things That Hearing People Don’t Notice Monday, December 4, 2006

Today was the first day of the quarter. I did errands and had a therapy session with Mandy. First I stopped to see Karen about scheduling speech therapy for this quarter, but to no avail. Mandy’s going to be playing speech therapist AND audiologist.

While working out my schedule in Karen’s office, she was typing away at the computer, eating a cracker, and I heard something which sounded like somebody hammering in the distance.

“Karen, do you hear that noise? It sounds like somebody hammering.”

“No, I don’t, I am eating crackers though. That may be what you’re hearing.”

“No, that’s not it, there definitely is a noise that sounds like faint hammering.”

So she stops everything she was doing, and listens for a few seconds.

“I still don’t hear anything.” and after she said that, she leaned down and picked up her bag that was pressing against the buttons of the tape recorder on the floor, making the “hammering” noises that I was hearing.

“There is absolutely NO way that you could have heard that.”

“Yeah, I did hear it. It sounds like ‘thnk-thnk-thnk-thnk’.”

“That is so incredible. It’s just unbelievable what you are hearing. I don’t even know how many decibels that was, but I couldn’t even hear it myself, and it took me a few seconds to figure out what it was! It’s a low, low, low frequency sound, almost silent, and to pick that up, wow!”

So, I went over to see Mandy since it was time for my appointment with her, and Karen told Mandy what happened with my sound discovery, so both of them looked pleased.

I’m going to be seeing Mandy 2x a week for auditory practice, and not seeing Karen for speech therapy, because of all the schedule problems from last quarter, and my final class schedule wasn’t definite until today, and everything’s booked. As a result, I’ve decided to fly solo this quarter without an interpreter for my major class. My teacher does know some sign, and has experience teaching all-deaf classes, and is willing to work with me in his class without an interpreter. It’s scary, but I’m up for the challenge. I just hope I don’t fail, because it is a 5-credit hour class out of 12 credits.

Mandy got back from the audiology conference that was in Buffalo this weekend, and true to her word, she showed me all the stuff she got at the conference, that had to do with the Harmony.

If I thought Megan and Dr. M were excited about the Harmony and what I am going to think of it, Mandy is way more excited about it than they are, and myself. She wants to get started with the Harmony…NOW. Hehe.

So far I’m the only active patient of hers that is going to be getting the Harmony (especially in January) and what I had to hear about the Harmony was pretty interesting.

Among some of the features of the Harmony:

– Built-in programmable LED light that will give system status for different things. It will be like the Firefly for the Auria, but most operations will be programmed to either light up for a short time, or permanently be on during operation.

– programming with the Harmony will be similar to programming with the Auria, but it will be one-click. It will convert the MAPs from HiRes 90 to HiRes 120 with a single click of the button. When I go in with the new Harmony, all it has to do is get my MAP from the Auria, and convert it with the click of the button.

– Users with the Platinum Sound Processor will be able to use the HiRes 120 processing strategy. This is a great way to determine if they like the strategy enough to upgrade and switch to the Harmony. With the Auria, there is no way to test out the HiRes 120 to see if you like it, except for getting the Harmony.

I’m really happy I got my cochlear implant in July, because I will automatically get to start with the Harmony and HiRes 120 processing immediately. I don’t have to wait several months to take advantage of the HiRes 120 Fidelity, as it will be much stronger and powerful than the Auria.

The patients who are getting implanted in January and beyond will not be able to take advantage of the Harmony’s benefits immediately. Apparently, the FDA is recommending that all new patients start off with the HiRes 90 processing/programming strategies (which is the Auria’s capabilities), then switch to the Harmony’s HiRes 120 capabilities 3 to 6 months after activation.

Now that I know what my Auria can do, and sound for the most part is normal, I’m ready to take on the Harmony and reach the next level with my hearing!

 

Who Designed Advanced Bionics’ Auria? Friday, November 10, 2006

Filed under: accessories,advanced bionics,information,links,media,research — Allison @ 10:56 am

I used to be an industrial design major, so I check out what’s happened in the world of design every now and then.  I’m interested in the medical products divison as I worked on a team project for a competition that had to do with healthcare.

IDEO is the industrial design company that everybody dreams of working for. It has been referenced through multiple fields of study throughout my college career, not just the design classes, but in my Organizational Behavior class as well.

So, while surfing the web, I was surprised to find out that they were responsible for the design of Advanced Bionics HiRes Auria.

Advanced Bionics HiRes Auria: Silver, Medical & Scientific Equipment

Contact: Scott Underwood, IDEO, 650.289.3409, scott@ideo.com

Credit: IDEO and Advanced Bionics

People with sensorineural hearing loss who have cochlear implants (electrodes surgically implanted in the coiled chamber of the inner ear) must use sound processing devices to hear. This system offers customizable covers that snap on and off to either mask or decorate the device, for both children and adults. Programs for different sound environments are accessed with the flip of a switch and the unit can be configured to work with various audio inputs, power supplies and microphones. The system also comes with ear hooks to make the fit more snug.

  • The device also has a visual confirmation that the processor is working with the implant.
  • There is a version specifically for children.

Learn more about IDEO, check out the following links:

IDEO’s official website

Wikipedia Entry

BusinessWeek Article on how IDEO is changing the way businesses innovate

 

Initial Test Scores for Sound & Beyond Monday, September 18, 2006

There are moments where I miss the simplicity that hearing aids have when it comes to listening to sound in its wholeness, and hate the CI for not giving me that same access to sound. Then there are the rare moments where the intricacies of sound are revealed to me with the CI and revel in the amazement of it, and I fall in love all over again with the CI.

Listening with a CI is *NOT* a quick update or a quick fix to hear music or sound in its entirety. It takes lots of practice to get to that point.

The baseline test scores for S&B from Friday, 9/15
Consonant – 15%
Vowel – 35.42%
Food Words – 94%
Melody – 75%
Instrument – 61.1%
Animal Words – 98%

These scores help the program pinpoint where I should start and what I need to work on. Today, it assigned me to start with Level 2 for vowels, and Level 1 for consonants.

Unfortunately, this afternoon I was feeling frustrated and apathetic. While doing the consonant training, I had to determine which sound was the different one out of three, but had no idea what was being said. I can tell which one is different, more than 80% of the time, but it drives me crazy that I can’t UNDERSTAND what is being said.

It really bothers me that with some words, the only way I can differentiate is to compare how they “feel” and what kind of pulse is happening in my head. Sometimes I’ll hear a speech sound and then the rest of the word is a pulse. This is not what I expected sound to be like. But the point is that I have to train myself to listen to it and just got to keep working at it, and have PATIENCE.

I am also having problems with the sound dropping out, or gaps where there’s absolutely no sound (especially when its really noisy, it seems as if it’s overloaded the CI so no sound comes through), and Mandy realized that Megan had set the RF to manual. She changed it to PoEM, so now program 1 is with PoEM, and program 2 is same as program 1, but on manual. Program three is the same from last week, where we added gains in the high frequencies.

Today, I woke up at what I thought was 16 minutes before I had to leave for my class. I shot out of bed, and turns out it was only 7:17, but I still overslept by more than 45 minutes. I somehow changed the time on my clock instead of the alarm clock to get more sleep. As a result, I didn’t get to do my hair today, and it made it difficult in terms of wearing the CI (especially with wet hair).

In the book, AB suggests shaving around the part where the magnet is (which makes sense, but not necessary in my case as the hair’s already thin there) so the other option is wearing a headband.

I told Mandy it’s a good thing the 80s are back in fashion, because I would be in style with a headband. But first I need to get clothes that go with headbands! I love the 80s, especially the Hypercolor t-shirts!

But the one sentence I understood while waiting outside Mandy’s office, was her saying “thank you very much” as she hung up the phone.

 

Use Your Head Sunday, September 17, 2006

While at the lake today, I learned two very important things regarding the CI.

1. Don’t do a header with a soccer ball.
2. Running to catch a frisbee is difficult, especially if you dive for it.

The CI bounces around on the ear or falls off. I had to grab it (yay for awesome reflexes) before it hit the ground.

I need a way to get it to stay put when I’m running around, and still be able to hear. This is going to be important, because I am going to be playing in the IM Soccer league with PHouse, if we get approved. It will be difficult to run up and down the field with an all-hearing team, and only have one hearing aid, and not be able to hear them if they are calling to me.

Mandy called AB on Friday to ask them about replacing the magnet for the headpiece, by adding an extra or stronger magnet.

It’s difficult for me to wear the headpiece under my hair, cuz I tend to tuck my hair behind my ears a lot, and when I do, it knocks the headpiece off. I can’t put it on the outside of my hair because it is thick, and also fine, which makes it slippery.

The AB rep said to not put another magnet on (so I can wear it over my hair), because it would cause irritation and not provide a good “lock” (connection between the headpiece and the implant), and they don’t recommend that route. Instead, I should wear my hair up, cut it short, or shave a little spot where the headpiece goes.(!!!)

I really need to become more adept with styling my hair, and am at a loss of what to do with it right now. Even though I have the XX chromosome, I’m not one of those girls that played with makeup, hair, and clothes growing up. I was very much a tomboy, preferring to get dirty than to be girly.

Last week, I had to do speech testing with Karen to establish a baseline for improvement. The last time I had speech therapy was about 2 years ago. She gave me my results on Thursday, and discussed what I need to work on.

Results From Speech Testing 9/14

Fisher-Logemann Test (single words)
% Consonant Error = 24/67 (36%)
% Vowel Error = 0/16 (0%)
% Total Error = 24/83 (29%)

Clarke Sentences
98% = 4.7 Intelligibility Rating
(1 being lowest, 5 being highest)

Rainbow Passage
Sample of narrative speech reflected more errors than read speech, and errors were:

er (first), /s/ (mostly in the medial and final positions, and in blends)
st, nd, ns, ks
sh, ch

Words that contain nasal sounds also tend to sound too nasal. Carrying the nasality over to adjacent sounds.

Strengths
Overall very good intelligibility
Communicates ideas and opinions clearly
Excellent lipreading
Highly motivated
Highly intelligent

Skill Areas To Work On
Improve selected consonants and blends
Encourage better self-monitoring and self-correction at the conversational level
Practice a slower speaking rate
Monitor and encourage relaxed communication interactions.

The theory is that with the CI, it will be easier for speech because you can actually hear the speech sounds, and as you get more familiar with speech sounds, you will be able to incorporate them into your own speech, and correct yourself.

 

“It’s A Sound Good Thing” Thursday, September 14, 2006

I’ve been listening to music with the CI at home for the last few hours, as opposed to being hooked up to the iPOD. It’s so hard to describe music with the new map now, but basically my mind is just blown.

At 9:07 pm, I heard my first actual “s” in a song. I heard “Sugar baby” in Crazy Town’s “Butterfly”. I know that I can expect the “S” in my mind, but when you actually experience hearing it in a song (especially one that is considered nu-metal/rap-rock), it’s amazing!

I’ve written about listening to music since the day I’ve been activated. With each mapping session, sounds evolve and change over time, that I just get more amazed with each nuance and discovery that I make with the CI. It’s very interesting for me to analyze it, and what I am missing.

Right now, it sounds so much clearer (especially with the HA on at the same time), but I am getting so much more information in the CI ear that I can’t hear with the HA.

The reason I can tell the difference is because I actually can hear or “feel” the stimulation of the sound, whereas the same feeling/sound does not translate to the HA ear.

That’s one way I have learned to compare if sounds are the same, based on the “feel” in my ear (if I can’t understand it). For a person who may not understand or have the appreciation for sound, this may be difficult to understand. You can differentiate between sound, by its own distinct “feel”, and I am not sure how much of a role residual hearing plays in that.

This whole experience with music is kind of disturbing to me, because I consider myself to be a music fanatic. Right now my perception is being rocked to its very core and will continue to do so as I progress with the CI.

I finally heard some more on the 120 channel processor, and its official name is the Harmony. The difference between the Harmony and the Auria, other than the programming strategies, is that the Harmony will have a built-in T-Mic, and be a “power miser” to deal with the battery drain issues.

I excitedly anticipate seeing what it looks like. I cannot wait to stick it onto my head, and have even more fine control over music and the sound spectrum!

As for listening with the iPOD with the HA, I’m about ready to break the door that covers the electrodes off the HA. It is so difficult to plug in the audio boot because it requires a fine amount of dexterity and lots of patience. There’s this whole complicated process to putting it on, but it makes me prefer the audio boot of my old HA, which I could just snap on quickly. It’s frustrating, because the industrial design side of me, wants to take my training out and put it to use redesigning it! The design flaw makes it neither functional nor practical and is an annoyance when I’m moving about and it doesn’t stay put.

On Tuesday, Apple announced several new iPODs, one of which has a capacity of 80-gb! My wish has been answered! There’s something out there that will fit my entire music collection, which currently tops out at 42-gb. Yippie!

 

“You turned it up like WOAH!”

“You turned it up like WOAH!” – Mandy

I had my first mapping at school today. This morning, Mandy and I were joined by Catherine and Don (the other audiologists that I have worked with), who wanted to sit in on the mapping session. The majority of the CI students have Cochlear, and AB makes up about less than 1/4 of the population here (unconfirmed for 2006-2007), so we had to spend a bit of time getting re-familiar with the program.

The best part of the mapping session today…my brain is definitely ready to utilize the CI!

Mandy, Catherine, and Don were deciding how to best program me, based on my reports that I’ve been making over the last three weeks, and Megan’s reports/programs. The other part that they were curious about is why I had the lower frequencies turned up high, but not the upper frequencies. Speech clarity could be an issue because the upper frequencies were missing/not as strong as the lower frequencies, so they wanted to see what would happen with my brain, if we adjusted it.

So Mandy did speech bursts testing, which is the same as the “beep test” that Megan used to do, except it fired multiple electrodes at once. It was at this juncture that we realized that what I was hearing was soft to moderately soft. This explains why speech has started to sound more distorted over the last week, resulting in frustration for me.

I didn’t have to adjust the lower frequencies as much, but I really adjusted the upper frequencies, and I am pleased to report that speech is starting to sound AMAZING with the CI, in the few short hours that I’ve been programmed. It is also starting to balance out the hearing aid now, which is a great relief to me, because I was worried that I was going to have to go without the HA, because I should be listening with the CI, not the HA.

Don/Catherine both told me that one other person has mentioned the radio playing in their head. Apparently in the past, CIs used to have RF interference, but it shouldn’t be happening today with the newer models. And feeling like that I’m hearing in my non-implanted ear when I don’t wear my HA, has also happened to a few other people. So that’s some burning questions answered that I was very curious about! I was warned that these new programs may drain the battery even faster, so I need to continue with the battery log.

I hung out in the common area while they had their department meeting, because I had speech therapy 2 hours later, and tried to do homework, but was filling out paperwork instead. After their meeting, Mandy chatted with me while she ate her lunch. It was fun getting to talk about non-audiology related stuff. She’s so cool.

My exciting news from Monday…I was asked to be in a film that the school is making, and part of it has to do with Cochlear Implants and the shoot is tomorrow. Mandy just told me exactly what it’s going to be used for, and it wasn’t originally what we thought it was. Eeek. *nervous* We’re both talking about how we have to look extra-pretty tomorrow, because we are GIRLS who like to look good!