Friday, May 15, 2009

Of French Horns and Bomb Raid Sirens

This new implant is wonderful. I am now able to use the phone with confidence at long last. I was forced into it really as I have had to ring around all the vets to see if my old grey girl has been handed in. Unfortunately - she's still missing and i'ts now 9 days. Her poor mate sits at the top of the stairs every night waiting for her to come up. Sad.

Anyway, for the past two weeks I've been pleasantly listening to a kid practising his trumpet or french horn. I figured this kid must be in a band or orchestra gearing up for a concert as it would simply go for hours.

Bron came over yesterday and we were having a coffee and chatting when the trumpet or french horn started up again. The conversation went something like this...

Bron: "Can you hear that"

Me: "Yes - this kid has been practising for two weeks now - very dedicated budding musician obviously"

Bron: "It's a dog howling"

Me: "Rubbish - it's a french horn or something"

Bron: "no it's a dog - I can hear the voice breaking, but it is very low, and quite weird for a dog"

Me: "Really?"

Bron: "Yes - it sounds like a World War II bomb raid warning"

Me: "I guess my implant needs adjusting again!"

So gone are my visions of this dedicated budding musician practising for all he/she's worth, and instead I have the vision of my neighbour's lonely dog howling mournfully for company.

Live and learn :)

I'm not alone in 'mishearing' with a new cochlear implant. A friend wrote.

"The first time I went running with my second implant I kept stopping trying to figure out what the God awful noise was. I was running on a wooded trail and started to get freaked out thinking something was following me. Seriously it took me a good mile to figure out I was hearing myself gasp for air."

I have this vision of monsters breathing down her neck while on her run - I'd be freaked too, as I've heard my own footsteps echo at night and wondering if someone is following me too.

I guess it takes time for the brain adjust all over again, but in the meantime, I'm sure I'll end up laughing a lot at my ear mistakes!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Missing - Lost

Northcote/Hillcrest Area

Much Loved Family Pet, Burmese Blue, 13 years old

Healthy but slightly arthritic

Very Vocal, Likes cars, Nosy

May be locked in a little used shed/garage.

Answers to the name of Mika (Meeka)

Owner desperate to find her.

That's the flyer I have been delivering around my neighbourhood today. I've searched high and low, canvassed the neighbourhood, and put up flyers in the local businesses and shops, and all the vets in a 2km radius.

She's old, doesn't ever wander, and recently I bought a new bed complete with an electric blanket for her which she loved. I haven't seen her since Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday night was awful - she's slept on my bed for 13 years, and I really noticed she wasn't there. I keep hoping she'll walk in, demand food, then head to her new bed. But I have a sinking feeling she's not coming back.

We have a safe neighbourhood. There's nothing that's dangerous out there. No Snakes, Bears, wild animals. She doesn't go near the road as she doesn't like cars, in fact I've been scouring hte roadsides/verges in case there was a cat who has been knocked over, but there has been nothing. No sign of her at all. i suspect she got nosy, climbed in an open window nearby, or walked in the door, and got locked in without someone realising.

While my cochlear implant is fantastic, I doubt I will hear her meow over the other noises around, but it's the sound I most want to hear right now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's a Success...

It's now two weeks since I was switch-on with my new ear. These are the things I have been hearing...

Indian Mynah birds fighting on the neighbour's roof.

When someone talks to me from Facebook there's a quiet 'click' sound that alerts me to the fact they've messaged me on chat. I had no idea that it gave a sound at all.

Spider Solitaire - has the most wonderful sound when you move the cards. I can't stop playing it just to hear it.

You Tube - Susan Boyle. The implant still sounds a bit flat, but I know the song and could follow aong. I long for a more depth of sound, which I know will come over time. But it was nice to actually watch her vid when I had no sound, and then a week later when I did have sound. The difference was palpable!

You Tube - Sound of Music at Grand Central Station - Antwerp. Wow - to hear the music and and see the dancing as well. I've watched this 100 times already. Fortunately my friend showed me how to download it onto my HDD so I wouldn't use up all my internet alllowance!

The Cats - man - they're loud - have they always meowed this loud?

The Phone - am phoning lots of people and can even pick up the phone when it rings without breaking out in a sweat! I hadn't realised how nervous I had become of the phone in the last two years.

Skype - After much angst getting the microphone to work on my computer, I can now use skype and rang a friend I hadn't spoken to on the phone before. Talked for one hour without any difficulty at all.

Hired DVD - plugged my cable into my laptop and have been listening to movies with and without captions no problem at all.

Talking Books: - listening through my laptop a talking book. Can get about 90% without reading the book with it.

Just hearing the keyboard as I type is lovely.

I keep thinking there's something wrong with my car when I drive it - it's been so long since I've heard an engine, I'm not used to it - so I turn the implant off while driving to stop me wondering if the motor is about to fall out!

Talkback Radio - can follow along in the car and get 95% of what is happening, even those that phone in, where it's not as 'clear'!

Wow - I can't believe two years have gone by and I missed all these things so much. Most people would take all these for granted, but each new sound I hear gives me a thrill that I cannot explain.

I finally feel reconnected again. Long may this current cochlear implant live!

Wired for Sound once Again

The 22nd April took a long time to come. In fact I was emailing my implant team my countdown on a regular basis in the last week. I think my Facebook friends also got sick of it!

I didn't take anyone to my switch on this time around. I think the Novelty of being switched-on has worn off the third time around!

I arrived and the usual thing happened - just like last time. First I had to listen to the sound I could just hear to set my threshold levels, then I had to apply each electrode to 'medium' loudness for my comfort levels. A few sweeps to make sure I could hear each beep, and they were all even, and then I went live. This process would have take the best part of an hour.

Ellen did the usual thing and told me that I would not like the sound all over again. I did my nod - of course - I've been through all this before - of course!

And so Ellen and Gayle started talking to me.

This was the conversation...

Me: "Oh my god - Oh my god"

Ellen: "What - something wrong?"

Me: "There are no chipmunks this time - it sounds almost normal"

Gayle: "Yes - well - we shot them all before you arrived!"

I could not believe it. We sat and talked for half an hour, then my brain wanted more. Everything was becoming quiet after just half an hour. So we did another mapping right there and then and I got a lot more volume.

It was now lunchtime so I went up to the cafe and sat on my own eating my lunch and revelled in the noise, just hearing everyone talking around me at other tables. Chairs scraping, cutlery banging, the coffee machine brewing. It was bliss. These are sounds I had not heard for the six months I was totally utterly deaf. I once again felt 'connected' to the world and it's a really really nice feeling.

After I had finished eating, I thought about texting my friends and family to let them know of my success. But I was hearing so well that I decided to ring them. So then spent the rest of my lunch hour ringing up all my friends and family to tell them I could hear.

Wow - this is definitely not normal, and it's not something I could have done at my switch on day last year. A lot of family weren't home, but the people I did get hold off were amazed and thrilled, and very excited. I dread my phone bill!

I don't think it was something the Audiologists were expecting either! After lunch we did one more mapping, and I was itching to ring the surgeon to tell him and to organise a appointment with him to check my ear as it was still painful. However, Ellen did that while I went off and had a session of testing with Gayle. It was promising and I did well, but I was getting really tired.

I was surprised when I got into my car that the radio was on. It's probably been on the whole time I've had it and didn't know!!

Called into my surgeon, Robert Gunn on the way home. My ear had fluid behind the drum which caused the pain, but no infection (thank goodness) and a small course of anitbiotics to make sure it didn't turn into an infection got rid of it over the next few days. He looked very happy with the outcome this time around.

That night I sent an email to him and to Bill Baber who jointly operated on me in March, thanking them for placing the electrodes so perfectly, and that I realised that without their expertise, I would not be hearing so well.

By the end of the evening, I was not hearing as well again, so was thankful I had another day at the Implant clinic the next day.

Another mapping session, then a break, in which I caught up with Colin who was also there for a mapping session, then I went off to get tested again. By the end of the test, I once again had lost all volume and needed more. My brain is so greedy for sound after so long without it.

We broke for lunch and I spent the hour catching up with Colin and his wife Carmen, and their wonderful children I actually didn't want to part ways - the lunch hour was over far too soon. It's always nice to talk to people who have had many similar experiences who actually understand you, and understand where you are coming from.

I then went and had yet another mapping, and that was that. Off into the big world to learn to make sense of all this sound again.

It was All Worth It!!!

This scar of mine - I have to say I'm proud of it because....

It was all so worth it. I'm sitting here tonight, watching 'Stars in their Eyes'. I can follow the music and lyrics, and it's so pleasant. Two weeks ago, I wouldn't have been able to do this.

I know the scar is a bit in your face. But I remind myself that it was a such small price to pay for an amazing, exciting result. People have said I was so brave, but in all honesty, bravery didn't really come into it. If I had been really brave, I would have had it done without an anaesthetic, but being blissfully asleep I didn't feel a thing!

The last two years have been absolutely crap. For 15.5 years I had wonderful hearing with my first cochlear implant. I was able to get 98/99% open set sentences without lipreading. For those that doesn't know what open set is, it's a series of random sentences that are read out to me, which I repeat back. With my first implant I wouldn't only get 1 or maybe 2 words wrong. Even in background noise, I did extremely well with the implant. In fact, I have to admit, I then took my hering for granted.

Then in June 2007 I was thrust back into silence overnight when it failed. Not complete silence, but the implant was uncomfortable to wear, and the amount I could hear was then only about 20 to 30% - A huge difference. Fortunately, I could still lipread and I got by, but phone use was out, and socialising became difficult in background noise. I began to become a bit of a hermit. However, I kept a brave front, and I put my trust in my implant team to get me right again.

During this time of waiting, I was shocked about how difficult it was to deal with every day occurances. I had simply forgotten over the previous 15 years, just what it was like being totally deaf. Many of my past blogs deal with the difficulty in getting good customer service. I hope I never forget now, and will continue educating people despite my newfound hearing.

In March 2008 I was finally reimplanted and the initial switch on with all new technology went really well. It didn't sound as good as my first implant, but that was to be expected as I had been without useable hearing for 9 months, and the electrodes were all different - it was like being switched on for the first time again.

But after that first day, it never really improved. The chipmunks never went away, and the twang was awful. I got facial nerve stimulation (FNS), and over time, the sound got worse and worse. I was often reduced to tears of frustration and I finally asked for an x-ray. Sure enough, the electrodes had migrated out of the cochlea. At least we had a reason and I could now be re-implanted once funding had been approved. Unfortunately this took too long and by Christmas/New Year I was so miserable that I took myself off to my GP and sat and cried her office. She put me on anti-depressants, stating that no matter what has happened to me in the past, I've always maintained a good frame of mind, but this was tipping me over the edge this time. I had reached the end of my coping strategies.

I took one anti-depressant, then decided that I didn't want them. I sat down and worked out different strategies for coping, which included in keeping busy and socialising more. It worked.

Funding happened and I was finally re-implanted on March 30th 2009, and I was activated on the 22nd April 2009, just three weeks later.

Next blog post: The Switch-on ...