Friday, January 18, 2013

Three Months Later

On Wednesday Rebecca went in for her three month appointment and I went along with her. We were actually a week shy of three months since Rebecca had her implant activated, but we are going to call this the three month appointment anyway.

First, we sat down with Amy (the audiologist) and talked about how Rebecca felt she was doing. I got to pitch in a little and file my opinion that Rebecca's hearing is getting better even though it is difficult to perceive the progress.

Next, Rebecca moved to the sound-proof booth to evaluate her hearing with the implant. Rebecca wrote previously about this evaluation process before she got the implant. The purpose of the evaluation at this appointment was to measure how much better her hearing is now compared to her hearing aid several months ago.

The evaluation for her right ear with her hearing aid (pre-implant) was about 25% comprehension. Today, with her implant, she scored more than 40% comprehension. In other words, she is hearing almost twice as well with the implant today as she was with the hearing aid three months ago.

But also in other words, when she only has sound to rely on (no lip reading or other visual cues), she comprehends less than half of what anyone is saying. Amy and Rebecca's goal is to reach at least 80% comprehension after one year with the implant.

I enjoyed being there because Amy was telling me all about the equipment and what she was doing with it while she was evaluating Rebecca.

After the evaluation was over we went to another room and Amy tweaked the power levels on the implant. Again, I got to watch Amy make changes on the computer and I learned a little about the software she uses to configure the implant. Of the 22 electrodes in the implant, Amy was only setting the power levels on 6 or 7 and letting the software automatically determine the settings for the remaining electrodes. This process is called interpolation.

It was nice (for me, at least) to see improvement in numbers, even if it is not necessarily an accurate depiction of how well Rebecca hears in the real world. I still think Rebecca is hearing better and is increasingly confident in her own hearing.

Rebecca's next appointment with Amy is in three more months.

Monday, January 14, 2013


People are still asking me how I'm doing, and I don't have a terribly interesting answer these days.  My hearing is mostly stabilized, and it seems that the changes and improvements are a little more slow to come. In some ways, that's a good thing because it means that I don't wake up in the morning wondering what to expect. In other ways, I find myself becoming casual about the miracle that has been wrought. The really unpleasant side effect is that I don't have as much to blog about!

It's kind of hard for me to do a self-evaluation here. I like to think that maybe my speech is a little clearer and that I ask others to repeat themselves less. But I don't know for sure.  And it's really not a question that I can ask: "Hey, friend, do you think that conversations with me are less frustrating than they were six months ago?" Maybe I need to start finding people that I haven't seen in a long time and asking what they think. Any takers?

On Wednesday, I have another checkup with Amy. This one is a milestone appointment because I'm going back into the sound booth. I wish that it were as exciting as recording a debut album, but it's not. Really, what we're going to do is tweak my processor settings a little bit more just like we've done at all of my post-surgery appointments and then head to the sound booth to test my hearing with the implant. The benchmark is the test that Amy did at the very beginning of my evaluation process. I think. So, I'll be listening to sentences and trying to repeat them as best as I can. And if I can get better than 25% comprehension, we'll know that the implant has worked at least a little bit.

On a slightly related note, I still haven't tried to make a phone call. Hearing aids have a nice feature called a t-coil that blocks out background noise during a phone call. I think that my implant's processor has something similar, but I haven't figured out for sure yet. I'll ask Amy on Wednesday how to get ready for phone calls.  But honestly, the prospect of phone calls still slightly terrifies me.  Maybe the sound booth testing on Wednesday will help my confidence a little bit there.  In the meantime, William continues to do a bang up job as my personal secretary.

And so it goes on this slow road back to hearing.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Finding What was Already There

Yesterday, I had a conversation that I've been thinking about since. I ran into an old friend at a church meeting. She's been following my story and asked how I've been doing. I gave her what was probably kind of a boring answer. And then she said, "So, is it bizarre to hear new sounds?" It's a natural question, with the underlying assumption being that new sounds picked up by my implant must be unfamiliar and out of the limited context of my hearing-aided world.

The response that I gave her was that no, nothing is bizarre or even unfamiliar.  "It was always there. The sounds were always there. Nothing is unfamiliar." And then I choked up a little bit thinking about the significance of that. She was very kind, but I was surprised at the emotion that her question triggered.

When I hear a new sound, say the "s" sound in speech or the beeping of my slow cooker timer or the rustling of leaves in a tree, it is familiar. I don't mean that they are immediately recognizable, because quite often, I have had to ask William what a sound is. But once the sound is identified, I'm not surprised at how it sounds. My reaction is more like, "Oh, yes. That's what I thought the rustling of leaves should sound like. Now I know for sure."

Maybe that's part of the miracle: sounds that should have been foreign to me are not. In truly hearing for the first time, there is recognition. I really feel that I am finding in me a capacity that was always there and meant to be tapped into. My brain and ears just needed a little outside help in finding what was already there.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Irony, or Molly's First Word

Sweet little Molly is talking! About two weeks ago, we were reading a baby book about food together (of course). She was babbling and cooing as usual, but as I listened more closely, I heard her saying something over and over again. "Apper, epper, apper, apper, pepper, apper, apple, apple, apple." And then I said, "Molly, did you say, 'apple?'" And she beamed and kept on saying, "Apple, apple, apple."  This new ear of mine gave me the gift of hearing my child's first word clearly. (And it would seem that I've come a long way.)