The Bionic Sound Project

this girl’s journey to sound

Work and Music Listening Games Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wow, my blog is at 9,992 as of this posting. I wonder who the 10,000th visitor will be!

Back at work. it’s going supremely well. I absolutely love my job, and my “teammates” on my team. Communication is so much easier with the cochlear implant, especially around noisy equipment. And with the job I’m doing, it’s awesome being able to hear the beeps on the PDT (the hand-held scanner that I use for my job), because the different beeps tell me a message from the computer. I love being able to hear it, as it makes my job so much easier. I remember struggling to hear it with the hearing aid, especially in a noisy environment. And with the Spanish-speaking customers who speak English as a second language, it definitely helps in catching those little speech sounds that sound slightly different.

Today, while eating lunch with Jenni and Matt, I thought I heard music playing, but wasn’t sure if it was my hearing aid being weird. I couldn’t hear it with the cochlear implant (either that, or it was focused on other noises, I can’t remember). Finally, after hearing it several times, I asked Jenni if she could hear music, because I wasn’t sure if my hearing aid was freaking out. Turns out somebody’s cell phone was going off in their locker. We heard it at least 4 times in 15 minutes…annoying.

Lastly, if you’re on facebook, there’s a ilike music challenge. It also exists on ilike.com for those of you who aren’t on facebook (but you should be!).

What’s super-awesome about this is that it plays a 35-second clip of music, and asks you either what artist plays that song, or what song it is by that artist. You have to pick from the list, and you get more points the faster you answer.

Right now I’m at the level of Music Genius with 5,505 points, with 580/1,584 (36.6%) with an average response time of 3.9 seconds. Earlier, I was at 40%.

There’s no better feeling for me, than to recognize a song or an artist, and clicking on it right away. I also like how it gives you the choices between 4 similar sounding bands (i.e. Louis XIV, Hot Hot Heat, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy or for another category, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who). I also practice deductive listening by listening for female vs. male voices, or other characteristics that I know of in different bands that I listen to. What’s funny to me is that I’m getting the spanish ones right, that I’ve never heard before.

It’s been great listening practice, and a lot of fun! I’ve also discovered a bunch of potential new artists to listen to, so I made a trip to the library and got a stack of CDs, and have a list of artists that I want to listen to.

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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.

 

Video Games And The CI Saturday, January 13, 2007

As a gamer chick (severely reformed from the marathons of my youth), who never really paid attention to the music and sound effects in the game, my perception has been blown away in the last few days.

I’ve just started playing The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess (gamecube version), that I got from Tim and Janet for Christmas (many thanks!) and I have been blown away by my discoveries.

I can hear the richness and detail in the footsteps of my character, Link. I can hear the sounds from his travels: rustles, whispers, creaks and groans that the world offers me. I could hear the differences in his footsteps, whether they were normal, or fast. I could hear the ticking of the bomb. I could hear the whizz of the sword as it sliced through the air. The sword makes so many different sounds, depending on what kind of motion you make. I can hear enemies creeping up behind me, and turn around to kill them. I hear the animal noises from the animals both in the village and the forest.

It feels like I’m actually there in the world, that I am Link, and hearing it for myself.

I play with both the cochlear implant and the hearing aid, and I can tell the differences in where the sound is being picked up, the quality of it, and the duration of the sound.

People talk about surround sound and high definition sound and the full theater experience. That’s what I felt like I was getting with the CI, even though I just have a regular TV from the mid-90s, nothing fancy.

I’ve played Zelda for the Nintendo NES, Game Boy, Super Nintendo (my favorite), and Gamecube, and this one just blew me away. Maybe it’s just the game that has this extraordinarly rich sound, but the fact remains that what I could hear was different in both ears.

Now I want to go back and play the other games and see if I get the same results with the sound effects.

I felt tears welling up, because it was so beautiful. Sound really does make the whole experience, whether it is a movie, tv show, music, or even a video game.

 

Snow, More Mix-Ups, and Incoming Freshmen Saturday, December 9, 2006

Woke up to snow this morning…had about 3 inches on the ground, but by the time I got outside, it had been plowed, so I didn’t get to experiment with the sounds. Basically it sounds the same, but there’s more of a musical “squelch” as your boots press down on the packed snow.

Yesterday, I mentioned that when I had the hearing aids, I didn’t like the sound and feel of snow squishing on asphalt/concrete, nor did I like walking on it. It still holds true. What I can’t figure out is how much of it do I hear versus how much of it do I “feel”? It was too noisy outside with all the environmental noises plus my boots didn’t help.

While waiting for my lunch today, I had the realization that I was hearing more with the CI than with the HA. Maybe I need to change the battery. Maybe I’m just becoming more dependent on the CI for listening. Either way, it’s neat to see the dependence change from hearing aid to cochlear implant.

AB sent us a bill for $175.00 for the headpiece. This goes back to the screw-up that was supposed to be taken care of on September 29th. *sigh* We sent it back, per the instructions we got over the phone, and it’s still an issue.

I’ve been having rushing noises in my ear since I got home and laid down to rest on the futon. It only happens when I move from side to side, and feels/sounds like the tide coming in, growing louder and louder till it crashes against the shore. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but I’m used to it since I lived with it for one month after surgery. Just weird to have it back after not having it for awhile.

We had an open house today at school, and all the Special Interest Houses were there to meet with prospective freshmen and give tours of our floors. At one point, a tour group of deaf kids and their parents came in, and I was looking to see how many had cochlear implants (about 75% of the group, mostly Nucleus, which is about right, considering the ratio between CI companies here on campus).

I was at the table for Photo House, and out of all of them, ours was the only one that had a deaf person at it (me). It was nice being able to talk to the prospective students and sign with them, whereas the other houses didn’t. It’d be nice to have a bigger mix, but the world doesn’t work that way. There’s still a cultural divide between the deaf and hearing worlds, but it’s getting better here. Much better than when I first set foot on campus several years ago. As for our house, I’m the only deaf member, and there is one that is hard-of-hearing but doesn’t sign.

Several members are learning sign through the ASL class, which is pretty cool, and I’m proud of them for doing that. However, I feel conflicted between being me, which is speaking versus signing to them to help them learn. The reason is because I’m not good at signing and speaking at the same time, because my hands can’t keep up with my mouth and brain! That, and I find it odd to sign to a person who can understand me when I’m speaking and doesn’t know sign!

 

Playing The Piano Thursday, November 23, 2006

Tuesday I saw Susan for auditory therapy. She said that I had basically finished the book, as it goes up to Level D. When I last saw her in August, I was getting 60% on the sentence tests with the keyword in the sentence. 3 months later, I’m getting 70% on the sentence test without the keyword. Magic.

Driving back home from therapy, I was listening to the radio, and heard a song that I thought sounded like it would be one of Christina Aguilera’s. I looked down at the text playing on the dash, and it was “Hurt”. I haven’t listened to her new CD that much, especially in the last few months, because I’ve been all over the place with music, trying to get a wide exposure to different genres (minus Country). So it was cool to recognize it based on the music/vocals.

Wednesday night, I sat down at my piano, as we had just moved everything from the first floor back into the house on Tuesday. The tile and the painting is done, and the first floor doesn’t echo anymore. The CI really loved the echoes (not), especially when my dog is barking. Fingers poised, I excitedly anticipated what the piano was going to sound like, as I have been waiting for this for 3 months.

Pressed the keys for my favorite chords, the measure by how I rate a piano’s sound, and was pleased. Started playing some of the songs I knew and was in good shape.

It was when I took off the hearing aid to play the piano with just the CI, that I was shocked. I was just absolutely disappointed in how it sounded. The richness, the warmth, the emotion of the music didn’t come through at all. I could hear the thunk-thunk as the keys pressed down, or the hammer striking the tightly-wound wire inside the great belly of the beast.

There seemed to be a lag or even an echo when playing. I played several songs and my heart grew heavier by the moment, as there is no way that I could play the piano with just the CI by itself. I felt like it had gone through electronic filtering and I was only hearing bits and pieces of it. There were some notes that came through with the CI and others that didn’t. It felt like an electronic version of music.

Maybe it will resolve the more I play the piano, but even when I was first activated, music didn’t quite sound like this. I hope the Harmony will resolve this issue with playing the piano, because if it doesn’t, this may be the one thing that keeps me from ever going bilateral.

Tomorrow is Black Friday, and then we are having our small Thanksgiving dinner after I get home from work. Hope you all had a enjoyable Thanksgiving.

This year, I’m thankful for the Cochlear Implant, and for everybody who made it possible. I’m thankful to all the people who have been a part of this journey, and helped me to get where I am today, and continue to do so. That’s my thanks for this year.

 

My First Workout and Being Grossed Out Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wednesday, my sound discovery was hearing a classmate of mine cracking her thumbs about 8 feet away from me during critique.

That afternoon, I found out that I won’t be able to get the support services that I want for my major class next quarter. After much conversation, Anne and Sheila both recommended that I not do it, as I’m not ready to be independent with the CI. So I had to rearrange my winter quarter schedule. *grumbling*

It just further resolves my desire to work harder at it, but it doesn’t help when I’m not in the mood to work with Sound&Beyond. I went to lunch at the Commons, after picking up my replacement 18-hour battery from Mandy. Ran into MK there, and we talked about planning for the Holiday Party. Rockin’ The Holidays is probably going to be the name.

Friday was my 4-month anniversary of getting the CI. It was also supposed to be my last session with Mandy for the quarter, but it got canceled. It has been rescheduled it to Monday. We are going to do testing to see how much hearing I’ve gained in 3 months, and also check the T-levels.

Friday wasn’t a good day, as it seemed like everything happened at once, so I was in a bad mood that night, especially after my camera stopped working near the end of my final project photo shoot. My other friend Matt convinced me to go to the gym and work out to relieve my frustration. It was the first time I had worked out since getting the CI, and I went for a 35-minute 2-mile run. It felt SO good, especially when you cross over the plateau between pushing yourself, and feeling unstoppable…the second wind.

The real kicker came in after I headed downstairs to the pool to do some laps. It was the first time I’ve gone swimming underwater since surgery, so I was excited about starting that again. I miss swimming 2 to 4 miles a day, as I used to do that every day in high school, swimming for the nationally ranked #2 girls high school swim team. I wasn’t sure how doing flip turns would affect the CI, but I found out the hard way when I got out of the pool.

My ears hurt a little bit in the pool, but it was nothing compared to the disrupted sense of balance. I was having a hard time staying upright, and felt like I was falling over (to the left). The lifeguard was looking at me strangely, and I do have to admit I probably looked like I was drunk because I was using the wall for support while walking back to the play pool, and stopping every few feet.

I think I’m going to skip on doing flip turns for awhile.

After swimming for a few hours, we went to watch Final Destination 2, which I hadn’t seen yet. I was grossed out by the death scenes in the movie, but it was made worse by the detail of the SOUND in the movie, when I actually watched the death scenes. I could tell the difference because I dove under the blanket when it looked like something gory was going to happen, and I could hear it and felt sick to my stomach! Maybe I won’t wear the CI when watching these types of movies, because the detail of the sound is just more than I ever expected. Eeeeewww. P.S. Mandy, the first movie was the best, this one is just icky.

To make up for the ickiness (lol, I sound like Jen G.), I put in Looney Tunes, and we watched cartoons. I got such a kick out of hearing the sound effects, but didn’t stay awake long enough to fully experience the broad spectrum of noises! But that’s my new plan, to go back and watch some more Warner Brothers goodness, especially my Bugs Bunny!

 

Now What Has Malfunctioned? (and Adventures in Sinusland) Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Part #: CI-5304-313

HR90K HP Beige Kevlar

Malfunctioning product must be returned to Advanced Bionics within 28 days of replacement product shipment or it will be invoiced.

I got this email from AB’s product team and my first thought was “WHAT? What’s malfunctioning now?” (and freaking out, because after the problem with the surgery, I figured that would be the only hiccup in the road, and it has been smooth sailing since.)

I was so confused, because I (or Mandy) haven’t talked to AB about any malfunctioning parts with my CI. I don’t know if Megan has done anything, but I’m sure she would have told one of us if she had been in contact with AB.

Needless to say, I was bewildered upon receipt of the email (and had almost marked it as spam mail, but something told me to read it). I tried to call and find out what was going on, but it’s past normal operating hours, so it will have to wait till tomorrow.

Because I have a burning desire to know instantaneously, I googled it and the closest part # I can get for that is the Auria headpiece. But there’s no mention of CI-5304-313 anywhere on the website, nor does it match with any of my other accessories.

Examining the invoice closer, I’m wondering if this “HP” is the acronym for the new Harmony Processor, which is the 120-channel processor. And with KEVLAR? Does this mean I’m going to have a bulletproof ear? (remember the mythbusters episode where they tested the stopping power bullets going through everyday objects like a deck of cards, a book, etc.?)

According to the speculation and rumors from professionals who are close to the Harmony processors, and from AB’s releases, it isn’t supposed to come out until at least November.

But if that is the case, AWESOME. And then I can pester Mandy until I get my CI to sound perfect with the music!

Unfortunately, it’s being shipped to my house instead of to me at school. Drat. *on pins and needles to find out*

Jen A. came with me to see the ear doc this afternoon (and is the first friend that has come along to anything related to the CI, so yay Jen!) Dr. D turned out to be the same doctor who said that “i think you will put on the implant and look back at digital hearing aids and wonder why you didn’t get it sooner”. It was great seeing again, as I’ve only met him once, and being able to say “look! here I am! I did it!”. I was amused because Mandy introduced me to him as “my prize student”.

Basically, Dr. D says instead of sinus problems, I could be having a problem with my jaw, leading to facial pain with swollen sinuses from allergies. Common medical thinking is facial pain+swollen sinuses = sinusitis, treated with antibiotics.

He also mentioned that my “off-balance/dizziness” can be a result of my jaw being asymmetrical (which was a problem when I had braces, and was supposed to be corrected). The dizziness just happens to be aggravated by the CI, and/or being sick, stressed, or not getting enough sleep. But overall, my scar and everything looks good.

*mind-boggle* I learn something new every day, which defies conventional thinking.

And today, we did a balloon-popping demo in class. I couldn’t hear it with the CI, but my hearing aid did.