The Bionic Sound Project

this girl’s journey to sound

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.




Photos From The Film Shoot on September 15, 2006 Friday, September 22, 2006

Mandy’s been bugging me about posting the pictures from last week online, so here they are!

On September 11th, I was asked to be a part of a project that the school is working on. It wasn’t till September 14th, that I found out exactly what the film is about. It’s going to be a recruitment video that is going to be sent out to 2,500 people, about the school itself. One portion of the video discusses services for deaf students, and the part that we participated in was the services that they provide for Cochlear Implant recipients.


Mandy and I, before shooting starts



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.


The First Few Days Back – Friends, Classmates, and Campus Life Sunday, September 3, 2006

Wow! The last few days have brought me a plethora of new sounds to hear and experience. I’m amazed by all these sounds that I didn’t have before.

I wasn’t sure what the reaction people would have to me with the CI, especially in PH (which is all hearing), but they all seem cool with it. I also see myself as being a bit more open to talking to/meeting new people, but at the same time, really shy about it because I feel like I can’t hear them as well.

The first night back, I was having trouble with the HA, so I turned it off, and was struggling to hear/understand all the conversation with people, plus being exhausted from flying.

My friends have latched onto the word “mango” and won’t leave it alone either! Jen G. felt my head, and was grossed out by the fact that there is something under my skin! I still need to train my friends that even though with the CI, I still can’t automatically understand and know everything that’s going on. Although I have been told by them that even they themselves don’t know what’s going on either, so it’s just not me.

Saturday night I went to a dance party hosted by the school, and I had another sound revelation here. I could hear the vocals, the differences in the music/melody, and the crowd noise. With the hearing aid, it was one big blast of sound, where everything just meshed together and sounded completely like music.

I was totally amazed that the CI and HA had different performances for one extremely loud and noisy situation, and I much prefer the sound of the CI than the HA for that dance event.

The phantom noises have all but disappeared and have stopped waking me up in the middle of the night or early in the morning. I was getting tired of hearing voices I couldn’t understand in my ear, especially when they wake me up from my sleep.

I have discovered that I absolutely *HATE* the sound of the faucet (bathroom and kitchen) in my apartment. UGH!


The final session for summer 2006 – saying goodbye Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Today it really hits me that I’m leaving and no longer working with Megan, Kim, or Susan (for a long time). I had my last therapy session with Susan, until Nov/Dec., if not till summer 2007. And I was just starting to get comfortable and settled in too.

Susan said she was going to be sure to tell Karen to pick on me about Mango. I already beat Susan to it, by telling Mandy and Karen to beware of certain people suggesting mango for a therapy word!

Today, we did the usual round of sentences and words where I looked at the paper, and told her which one it was. Doing pretty well with it, but it’s not real life. Then a new test for me! Category/Keyword, open set. We did entertainment for the category, and several different keywords (whatever was given related to entertainment (i.e. emmys – “did you watch the emmys on sunday night?”)). She would tell me that she was going to say a sentence related to entertainment, using one keyword. I had to repeat it back what I heard her say and where it was in the sentence. I was getting 60% for my first time, and able to repeat it back. The brain is a funny thing…you hear something, and you know it’s not right, so your language system kicks in to make it right. It’s amazing.

Pretty good for 3 weeks. But I still have a long way to go, and for the other test, have trouble differentiating between similar sounding words, and if they sound the same or are different. That was my reality check for the week, because I did badly on that one.

So yeah, Allison, you’re doing amazing with the CI for three weeks’ time, but this is just the beginning of a long hard road ahead. As Coach Seaquist used to say…“keep on swimming.”

Next Stop On The Tour: Mandy, Karen, and a whole new world of sounds, people and experiences. I fly out tomorrow. Oh boyee.


The Two-Week Mark: Itchiness and Mapping Session #5 Monday, August 21, 2006

Dr. M says that the itchiness is a result of the humidity/heat that we’ve been having here the last week. Of course, having something new and foreign next to your skin doesn’t help. I took off the interchangable accent colors for a few days, and it seems to help with the itchiness. The redness comes from me scratching my pale skin, and I’ve been trying very hard to avoid doing that.

I’m loving my CI more and more each day, as it starts to sound more realistic. I’m still missing details, and I can’t wait till I start to hear sounds in its “wholeness” instead of in its current state, which is hard to describe.

I’m starting to be able to hear/understand what the captioning doesn’t cover, like on TV commercials, where they say “Monday at 8 pm” or have a graphic with the words, but don’t caption what is being spoken. The other discovery is the huge lag between what is being spoken and what I can read on the TV.

Last Friday, I went out to the Yard House with my mom and her coworkers to celebrate Brian’s graduation from the MBA program. We sat outside by the entrance, and I could still hear the invididual voices at our table with the CI, as compared to hearing one big glob of chaotic noise with the left ear.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been exactly 14 days since I’ve been activated. Today, I had my 5th mapping session with Megan, and instead of doing all the beep testing, we focused on fine-tuning the implant. I wanted to get more clear speech sounds, so we spent today’s session working on that. I had to sit and listen to her read from a list of words, with her face covered by a black screen, so I couldn’t lipread her, and didn’t have a piece of paper to read off of.

We started with the animals, and I did pretty well with that (Except for tiger (was only getting the “ger”)). Then we did fruit, and I got almost all of them right, except for Mango and Blueberry, which was stumping me for awhile, because it sounded like “rooberry” (that should have been a clue right there!) My problem with a lot of the words (such as peach, cherry, blueberry, mango, tiger, cat, shee/p/t) they don’t sound right, but I can hear enough of the word to tell what it is.

During the mapping session, I could hear Kim out in the hall, her chair moving around, talking on the phone, going through papers at her desk, and was amazed, because each time I come there, I’m hearing more and more of the little sounds that make up the real world. Eventually we had to close the door, because it was too distracting for me to be able to figure out speech sounds and filter out the real world. That’s going to be a big challenge for me. The other thing that I learned is that people are lazy with their speech! “Button” is a perfect example of that. There are words that I know they’re supposed to sound like this, but when I actually hear them, they don’t sound like it, because people leave sounds out! It’s like the dialect of different areas, and ways of speech!

Music is starting to sound much more real to me (pre-implant). There are several songs that just don’t sound right, and others that sound like they did before, if not a tiny bit better. I’m hearing more of the vocals in the song as opposed to the melody, which is cool. I’m excitedly anticipating what the 120-channel processor is going to sound like, if I’m getting these results with the Auria.

Today’s random link
Dangerous Decibels: How Loud Is Too Loud?