First lessons, initial sounds

It has been four weeks now since my implant was activated. A very interesting four weeks! Almost immediately I started hearing environmental sounds. When I got home that first day I heard what I thought was a whole new set of creaks going up the stairs. When I sat down for dinner even my dining room chair creaked. I had no idea.

I don’t wear my hearing aid while I learn how to hear with the implant unless I need to talk on the phone or am with a group of people. I have an extremely powerful hearing aid that actually overpowers the implant in my right ear at the moment. The sounds I am describing I hear with the implant only.

In a matter of days from the initial activation of my implant, the computer keys and mouse went from a buzzing sound to sounding just like they should – click, click, click.

The second or third day I heard myself crunching toast very loudly. I have not heard this sound before.

I want to utilize my implant for as much sound as I can and as I work from home, have been watching and listening to the noontime news. The news reader is very easy to lip read and I turn the sound way up so I can get the gist of it. In my third week she was interviewing a reporter from London. I actually heard his English accent! I wasn’t sure what he said but I definitely heard the upper class tones.

I have a whole host of friends and neighbours signing up for ‘tutoring’ sessions to help me learn to hear again with my implant. We started with simple two-syllable words such as weather, cookie and snowball and I try hearing them without lip reading. To my amazement, I get many of them right. This week we start on short sentences.

In addition to the lessons, I also have conversations one-on-one in quiet surroundings using only the implant and lip reading. By the end of week two, I could manage about 20 minutes of conversation before fatigue set in.

And oh my goodness, the mind numbing fatigue!! I thought it was tiring to hear just using my hearing aid. And it was. But this – trying to hear with the implant alone – is a huge job. I’m lip reading and that helps a lot. But I really want to be able to actually understand the words and that is taking its toll. I need to step back on occasion and rest my ears. This is really hard work! But it is so much better than it was. Before my implant, I knew this constant fatigue would only get worse as my hearing got worse. Now I know it will only get better. I can live with this.

Music is one of the most complex sounds around and it is the most challenging series of sounds for an implant. It was suggested that I play a very simple melody several times until I recognized the notes. So I started playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano during the second week. All the notes sounded exactly the same and they most definitely did not sound like music. In fact it was pretty terrible – like the beat of a kettle drum played badly and with lots of static. This will take a while.

Thanksgiving weekend I was in New York for a four-day family celebration. Talk about surround sound stimulation! I took in all the noises of the street, even those that really didn’t sound like much. By the end of the trip, I thought I heard words in both my hearing-aided ear and the implanted one. My audiologist assures me that this is likely. The implant is catching up to my other ear. The sounds are still very Darth Vaderish, low, fuzzy and robotic, and I don’t hear the entire word yet, just bits of it. I have been told that it will likely take anywhere from six months to a year before the sounds I hear with my implant are ‘normal’.

A few days ago, I tried Twinkle Twinkle Little Star again. It actually sounded like the song – notes and all. An octave lower than the middle C I was using and pretty fuzzy, but unmistakable. On to Chop Sticks!

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7 responses to “First lessons, initial sounds

  1. Rosemary your accounts are really fascinating. It’s wonderful to read of the stages of your recovery of hearing. I can well imagine that the work is pretty overwhelming but each advance must be a tremendous reward.

    A thought for you – the best poetry has very few words of more than two syllables. E.g., Milton’s “On His Blindness” (only the word “consider”), Ozymandias (pedestal, Ozymandias and colossal). The rhythm might help to clarify the words.

  2. Fascinating post, Rosemary… really found it interesting!

  3. So very interesting, Rosemary. You remind me of a child acquiring new skills, but being able to explain the process with an adult mind. It’s very exciting and moving.

  4. Hi Rosemary – great description of your challenges and triumphs. Really glad you are getting some sense of the notes you are playing.

  5. Yes, I agree…just fascinating. You are describing it all so well. I think it will be a very interesting book one day.

  6. How amazing is the human brain! Wishing you continued good progress

  7. Amazing journey Rosemary. I hope others entering the world of implants will be magically directed to your blog. It will be invaluable. For me…just fascinating.

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