Now it’s time for another part in the descriptions of my experiences from the first period of hearing with Cochlear Implants (CI). In the previous two posts I have presented the experiences from the first week. In this post I will tell about the experiences from the rest of the first month.
Generally speaking I experienced that the sound started to normalize so that I could handle far more noisy environments. But I clearly felt that there was a long journey ahead before I would feel that the sound was normal.
Tomorrow (august 8th) I will be attending a camp for young people with hearing losses. It is a little fun to realise that it is just a year ago that I started to consider getting a CI at such a camp. I am looking very much forward to this camp and no matter what I feel that I will be attending this event with a whole new perspective now that I have CI. I am now looking forwards to being able to hear even more than I can right now 🙂
In the previous days I started on my first program and gradually turned the volume up until I could switch to program 2. But at this day I realised that I could start directly on program 2.
When I watched TV I realised that it was an advantage to switch to program 3 (the highest program) as this made the sound much more clear. But I could not stay on this program as the volume was way too high. I therefore had to avoid making sounds on my own as that could be very loud sounds on this program.
Later this day I noticed that the microphone placed at the entrance of the ear (the T-mic) was not activated on my processors. That made me very frustrated as that meant that I was training without using the optimal microphone. This also explained why I had found it so hard to train phone conversations – I had put my phone towards another microphone than the one my processors were using.
When I found out that my processors used another microphone I tried a new phone conversation with my mom. I held the phone towards the active microphone. It went much better than the previous attempts and I was now able to have a conversation for 20 minutes without using any other assistive devices or Facebook Chat. But it was still a very huge challenge and it definitely made me feel tired.
During most of the day I used the loudest program (3). I noticed that I could hear more several birds inside even though the windows were closed – It is very fascinating when you havent tried that before. It was a fun feeling to stop up in order to notice and appreciate small details like this.
This day I experienced that music started to sound like something I had heard before even though I really missed the lowest frequencies. The main difference I experienced was that I was now able to hear a lot more instruments in the music – in the beginning I was only able to hear vocals and the rhythm. But even though I was beginning to hear the instruments I also experienced that if there were many instruments playing at the same time then it became impossible to hear any of them – it sounded like a scratchy beep concert. I also experienced that it was difficult to hear what instruments were played – it is a little strange when you cannot hear if an instrument is a piano, a guitar or a flute.
In the evening I had a head ache even though I felt that I had not trained too much.
In the start of the day I had to go to a rehabilitation session and it went much better that I had anticipated. I mentioned the problem with the T-mics (the microphone in front of the ear entrance), and my trainer therefore contacted the technician. They spotted the error in my map and I was told that this would be fixed at my next adjustment (2½ weeks later).
We then made a test where my trainer would read some text that I should repeat without using lip reading. The result was really good and it was very few times that I had to ask her to repeat words. When we were done we had reached just as far at we did last time where I was able to rely on lip reading. I was told that it was impressing that I was able to get this result without lip reading. We also performed some other tests that showed that I had problems with discriminating some of the vowels so that was something we would train in the next session. It was a strange feeling to have difficulties with the vowels – when I had hearing aids it was the opposite – I had almost no problems with vowels but many problems with the consonants.
On my way home from the rehabilitation session I felt tired and started to get head ache like on the day before. I therefore decided to take a long break from sounds when I got home. In the end of the day I experienced that the sound became extremely choppy on my right ear. I therefore tried everything I could in order to determine if something was wrong with the equipment. But I could not find a solution.
In the beginning of day 12 the sound was normal but within an hour or two it started to become choppy again. I therefore decided to contact the manufacturer on their support mail. I received a quick response and after mailing back and forwards we agreed to meet on the next day (Saturday) to transfer my map to another processor.
The next day I therefore went by train to Copenhagen where I would meet with the technician from Advanced Bionics. We found a location at the train station where we could borrow a power outlet. When the map was transferred I annoyingly had to realize that the sound was still choppy on my right ear. We therefore agreed that it had to be my train that was still trying to get used to the new way of hearing. I was however very grateful that we could get this clarified and that we could even do this on a Saturday.
I then went to another train station in Copenhagen where I had agreed to meet with one of my friends that I had not seen since before my surgery. We met in the center of the town and then walked to his apartment. We therefore had to walk along a very busy road – but even though this was a hopeless environment to hear in we actually managed to talk together even though I had to frequently ask him to repeat what he said.
When we got to his apartment I realized that even though this was a quiet environment I felt that I was in some sort of an imaginary bubble – if someone talked outside this bubble I felt that they were talking Russian – I could hear them talking but not understand what they said – strange experience. In general it was a good experience to try training my ability to hear in a much more normal environment than what I could do by listening to audio books, watching TV or attending the rehabilitation sessions.
On my way home I considered if the choppy sounds were caused by my tinnitus – I had noticed that the Tinnitus also sounded choppy. Later in my process I have found out that this is something that happens if I get too tired or if I train too much.
On day 14 the choppy sound luckily was gone. During the day I tried a phone conversation with my dad. It went fine but I had to realize that it was difficult to relate to and pick up on long sentences. I still experienced that I could give up on understanding parts of what was said if I experienced that there were too many words that I did not hear or if I had to ask people to repeat too many times. This whole process has made me aware that I should become better at reacting in such situations by asking people to talk slower, clearer or something else. But it is actually quite difficult to do that in the situation. Sometimes it is not even an option and in other situations it can actually feel like I am moving out of my comfort zone when doing it…
On day 15 I started by oversleeping and I was therefore quite busy in order to get to my rehabilitation session. The rehabilitation went fine – at one time I for instance had a test where I should select the correct image based on some questions. But there was an error in one question that I noticed before my trainer. I therefore had to reply that there was no red mushrooms in image 3 even though the question implied that (they were in image 2).
The biggest challenge at this rehabilitation session turned out to be when we trained my “auditory memory”. In this test the trainer read a text without any pauses after which I should answer questions about what was said in the text. With the last text I was told to tell all the details from the text that I could remember without getting any questions. These tests were quite good as I over the years have become accustomed to using all my energy on listening. This have of course been necessary but the consequence is that I don’t have enough focus on remembering and relating to what was said. The result is therefore that I have often experienced that I have heard most of what people said but if someone then asked me afterwards I would not be able to tell much about what was said. This problem is also the reason why I during the years have experienced that it was impossible to listen and write notes at the same time. These tests was therefore something that we used much time on during the following rehabilitation sessions.
During the rest of day 15 and a large part of the following day I spent on the long audio book. I felt that I was able to listen to longer parts without breaks and the book was finally getting a little more exciting – I was half way through the book.
In the evening on day 16 I heard a lot of music and I realized that there was a lot of sounds that started to sound more correctly. It made me very happy and I almost got tears in my eyes because it finally started to sound like how I remembered it. Of course there was still some sounds that sounded unclear and I really missed the low frequency sounds – but it did not feel like a big problem anymore – I really enjoyed listening to music with what was very high volume to me. It was also very touching that I started to notice details in the music that I had not been able to hear before 🙂
Labor day (May 1st)
Approximately 2 weeks later I attended a labor day event in Copenhagen. This was the first time since I was activated that I went to an event where I knew that there would be much noise and loud volume. I therefore looked very much forwards to this. But it was also success to go there as I felt that I had now gotten so far that I was able to understand as much as I did with my hearing aids. I was able to communicate with my friends through the noise from the music and I was actually able to hear some parts of a speech that was given at the stage without me looking at the stage. But I still felt that there was a long way to my goal of being able to participate in this kind of situations – There was still many conversations that I could not participate in if people did not talk directly to me.
To be continued…
In the next post I will tell about my experiences from the first adjustment since I received CI and the experiences I had in the following time. Something that really took my focus and energy in the following period was that I continually hit a “wall” where I experienced choppy sound in one or both ears and that there were some sounds I could not hear when this happened. But the most difficult about this definitely was that I was not able to determine why these problems occurred.