Monday, November 26, 2007

My Activation Video!!

I told you all before that I was going to tape my activation and I neglected to post it. Jennifer catapulted me into posting mine :) After going through three computers, four reinstallation of Microsoft Movie Maker, several crashes, searching on Google on why Micrsoft Movie Maker hates my guts and two hours troubleshooting, I finally got the damn thing up :) Grab some popcorn and some laffy taffy and enjoy the flix.

Amazing Activation Video!

A couple post ago I told you my buddy Jennifer was being activated and she taped it! She had an amazing activation and was actually laughing! She is such a trip. Go here and check it out :) Jennifer cochlear implant activation videos!
Part One!
Part Two!
Part Three!
Part Four!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has a self-explanatory theme. You can tell the holiday is for giving thanks or sharing your grateful experiences of the year. It is a time for show generosity and a time to give charity. It is a time to contribute to society. It is a time to take a step back and reminisce. It is a time to be thankful for the memories of those who left us, the memories of those who touched us, and the memories of the yesteryear. How many people do you know that can honestly say they are grateful for what they have? How many people do you know that are thankless wretches? I am willing to bet the answer is the latter. Narcissistic souls are as comforting as a needle in my eye.

All day today, I was pondering the yearly question of what I am thankful for. Obviously I am thankful for my Advanced Bionic cochlear implant for creating this magnificent piece of technology that gave my hearing life back. Every single electrode that I have sitting snuggly in my cochlea I am thankful for. Advanced Bionics, the hospital, the surgeon, my audiologist Jennifer, and my insurance company all played a substantial part of making this holiday a special one for me. That is just one aspect, everything that led me up to this point of listening to Jingle Bell Rock on a radio today I am grateful for.

I am grateful that I lost my hearing completely, a life-altering, mind-spinning event that started a domino effect of thankful reflections.

I am grateful that I finally accepted that I am deaf, it is a part of who I am.

I am grateful for the experience of total silence; it made me a better person by turning off the music of the daily hustle and bustle of life forcing me to put things in perspective.

I am grateful for my family who supported me every step of the way especially those who were my ears when I had nothing to give back.

I am grateful for being blessed with the perfect pooch. She is my ears when I am sleeping. She never leaves my side. She accepts me as I am and leaves all my hardware alone.

I am grateful for my friends who were always concerned but never once pitying me and always willing to help me.

I am grateful for the people I have met who are just like me. They opened my eyes making me realizing that I am not the only one walking this earth without hearing the crunch of the grass give way underneath my feet.

I am grateful that I have a awesome audiologist who listens to me.

I am grateful for everything that I have seen, touched, smelted, tasted and heard for it serves a higher purpose.

I am grateful for the men, women, and children that walk in and out my life opening doors to new things.

Most of all, I am just plain grateful for being chosen for this opportunity to wade through life being me.

Happy thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Whizzing right along here!

It is Sunday already?

Where in the world did this weekend go? I have a feel this week will be a quick one too! I am fasting for Thanksgiving with the family down in Maryland. After gaining a couple inches in my waist that I am planning on burning off in a number of stores on Black Friday, I get to splurge on gifts. Then I come back home and relax by clearing a room, ripping out carpet, painting some walls, put down new flooring and make a bed frame. Should be a breeze! Right? :)

Then on MONDAY, November 26 at 7:00pm at the Summit Speech School in New Providence, NJ, I am going to see a double reading by Michael Chorost and Josh Swiller, author of the new book The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa. I am thoroughly looking forward to this event because I get to meet someone for the first time that has a cochlear implant. Not just anyone, I get to meet the household names of the bionic community! Rebuilt was the first book I read about cochlear implants and it was so nice that I read it twice. His sense of humor just grabbed me. I love sarcastic humor and he has it down to an exact science. I am looking forward to the possibility of a second book since he is getting his second implant done on December 17! I am in the process of finishing Josh Swiller book, which is just equally delightful to read. He certainly has gumption in just about every aspect. It is amazing what one human being did in a third world country, deaf nevertheless, it did not stop him. The man obviously does not have borders. Me on the other hand, my border is the east coast. I can't even get on a plane to cross the big pond! I'm so excited that I can hardly keep myself charged!

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that my buddy Jennifer getting her second implant which she was assimilated with no problems. Now she is being activated on Tuesday! I am so happy for her! Drop by and wish her good luck, her ears need it :)

Now wish me good night, Abbie needs sleep.

But before I lay my head down to sleep, I had a CI moment yesterday at Home Depot. I was at the self check out and I scanned an item in and I heard it tell me the price. That was the first time I ever heard that. I turned around to my friend asked her if says the price .

"Yes Abbie." she said.
"Really? Has it always said the price or did the register software get an upgrade?." I said inquisitively.
"It always said the price." she said with a big smile.
"Heh, neat." I said happily scanning another item to hear the computer say $3.97.

The novelty wore off when I had to pay.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Beauty is in the ear of the beholder

Olympus BioScapes 2007 Digital Imaging Competition Gallery Fourth Prize
Dr. Sonja Pyott
Department of Biology and Marine Biology
University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Wilmington, NC, USA

This enamoring picture is of the cochlea and hair cells. The little green trolls are the hair cells. I wonder what my hair cells look like. Are they attached just waving around? Did they shrivel up like a weed? Do they turn a different color? Do they lose their troll hair?

The red part that looks like a heartbeat is the neurons. When my cochlear implant receives auditory information it sends out an electrical impulse which causes the neurons to fire. When the neurons fire, my brain interpret the firing as sound. I'm not sure what the other colors represent. I have to snoop around and dig up some information.

Artist try to portray an emotion, a scene, someone, or the essence of the moment. The use of primary colors are amazing. This photo looks like a garden with children standing behind the border of flowers holding hands.

Or I need to change my contacts.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Interference phenomena explained.

Dude, I discovered my first interference with my bionic buddy today. Care to guess what it was?

Microwave? Wrong!

Security scanner? Not even close!

Fluorescent lights? Negative!

Blender? Television? Sewing machine? Denist drill? Import cars? Time machine? Ham Radio? Furbies? Screw making machine? Spaceship?

The answer is no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no and nope!

Give up? This is what caused interference

Introducing the Sonic Touch 3 machine by Salontech!

I know what you are thinking, what the hell is that thing? Binoculars, right? :)

Eh, wrong :) It is an artificial nail remover! I do not think bionic men have to worry about running into this contraption anytime soon.

Today I was not allowed into my sunny little cubicle because I am off today for Veterans Day. I decided to go get my nails done. I wanted them to remove the acrylics overlay on my nails and do a completely new set. Usually, the process is tedious, lengthy and not to mention painful. It can take up to 40 minutes for the acrylic to dissolve. Not anymore! This thing rocks for removing acrylic nails. You fill it up with pure acetone and turn it on. It uses ultrasonic waves and heat and done in 20 minutes! It was total bliss except for the part when I had my cochlear implant facing the machine, horrible static would erupt from within. As long as I had my head turned towards the MTV in China techno music videos (don't ask), it was okay :) I expected big burly machines to cause the type of interference with my implant, but not an artificial nail remover machine.

On the plus side, the nail technician that was taking care of me had a heavy accent. I understood her pretty well when she had her mask off. Not to toot my own horn here but I understood her better then some of the customers. A couple of times, yours truly relayed what she had said! That would have never happens to me if it was not for my bionic buddy! My pre-bionic era experience in nail salons was sitting there in my normal asocial manner, fixated on the TV or texting on my cell, anything to avoid conversation with the person behind the mask.

There is just something melodious, not to mention shiny about new nails hitting the keyboard.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Remember the to the music...feel the memories...

I am on this weird soup kick. It must be the weather. I was in the kitchen making Leek soup and I was chopping potatoes with my back turned to my mom who was in the living room. She says to me "Does this look alright?" I turned around and I told her it looks fine but add a jacket. I went back to chopping potatoes and my mom goes, "Abbie! You just heard me!" Damn skippy I did!

While I am on the subject of the kitchen, I hear boiling water, pans heating up, frying, oil popping, food cooking in general. I never heard the little subtleties of onions and garlic being sautéed if that is the correct terminology for it. I usually burned them but now that I can hear the EVOO just beginning to heat up. I am proud to announce I have gotten it down to a culinary science of not burning food!

Now let us switch gears from the culinary station to my place of employment. Right behind my sunny little cubicle is another sunny little cubicle four feet behind me occupied by an Italian sweetie named Angie. Before I went bionic, Angie has devised all sorts of techniques to get my attention. They range from shouting, doing the wave, showering me with paper clips, and rubber band target practice. She made work fun for me :) She has perfected her aim to the point that I was going to badger her to join my softball team. Now all she has to do is say my name and I turn around. She is absolutely stoked that she doesn't have to resort to beaning me in the head anymore. Although, I am a little disappointed, I don't want her to lose that arm she got. She might be the "one" we need to win a softball game!

Now let us go from my sunny little cubicle to any random mercantile establishment. I was never aware of how many stores or malls play music until I went bionic. It is one of life's little nuances when you can hear something in the background. Those head bopping civilians you see shopping are not victims of the nervous twitch, they are actually listening to the music! It all makes sense now. I can hear the beeping on the cash register. I can hear those rare employees that have developed proper customer service skills say, "Have a nice day!" New Jersey is not known for its neighborly disposition. I can hear my friends call my name if I am ahead of them looking for something. I cannot lose them as easily as I use too anymore.

Now let us go from a random mercantile establishment to the comfort of my Laz-E-Boy. Besides the fact that I can sit here and hear my heater turn on which sounds like a spaceship powering up, this is where I do my auditory rehab. I have my direct connect cord plugged right into the laptop at one end and plugged right into my cochlear implant at the other end. It is called daisy chain in nerd talk. I listen to audio books (currently listening to the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickinson, Christmas came early for me :)), online stories, audio dictionaries, English language websites, and finally, MUSIC! If anyone knows me, they know I love Chris Daughtry. His voice is so captivating. He was the last singer I heard before what little hair cells I had left on my cochlea started dying one by one. I brought his CD to support him but knowing if I listened to his CD, it would have sounded awful. It was not just him because all music sounded horrible. Let me see if I can attempt to describe what music sounded like when I heard it. Oh! I know! Hook up any radio to a pair of blown out speakers, turn it on to the worst radio station, and throw the entire thing in a Rubbermaid trash can. That is what I heard, trash.

Now that I am bionically capable of hearing Daughtry, I have been listening and reading along with the lyrics. He sounds utterly and absolutely amazing now then when he was on American Idol! Total ear candy! Now the real kicker is that Chris Daughtry is going to be playing at the Poland Spring Arena on December 7th, which is right up the street from me, and it is all SOLD OUT! I did not hear the radio announcement that the tickets went on sale early. DOH! I felt like someone hit me right between the running lights. sigh... Maybe I will just hang out in the parking lot and hope that my bionic ear will pick up his sensational voice outside. Don't think I won't have a tail gate party at a Daughtry concert in 30 degree weather because I will.

Chris Daughtry totally rocks my thermal socks.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pay the premiums and then what?

Insurance companies, do we love them or hate them? When you are deaf or hard of hearing and in need of a test to prove you are, it might not be covered. My insurance company is Horizon BCBS of NJ whom covers standard hearing tests at in network provider BUT the test to see if I need a hearing aid is not covered. That makes as much sense as painting an ostrich purple does because a majority of the hearing tests are the same!

  • First test is usually beeping at different frequencies at different volumes.
  • Second test requires a rather hard knob thing that they put behind your ear. This is called a Bone Conduction Test. When you feel the vibration or hear the beep, you raise your hand, say Ay, press a button or scratch your tummy and pat your head. Whatever your audiologist wants you to do.
  • Third test is when they say words and they expected you to repeat them. Words like hot dog, baseball, cowboy which most of us have memorized like the latest single on the radio (after we looked up the lyrics.)

WHERE IN THE HELL IS THE SPECIAL HEARING AID TEST?! I'll be damned if I know. Since most insurance companies do not cover hearing aids but will cover cochlear implants, some with and without a fight. You can contact DVR or the Lions Club for funding for a hearing aid. They will even pay for the tests in some cases!

While I am thankful that I did not have to fight my insurance to obtain approval for a cochlear implant, many fight and fight hard. The only issue that I had was that I could not get a straight answer from the insurance company as to whether my insurance policy covered them. Some insurance companies will only cover one cochlear implant while others will cover two cochlear implants. I am unsure if my insurance company covers bilateral but Aetna is one of the latest ones to revise their policy on bilateral cochlear implants.

I hear many stories waging a war with insurance companies with obtaining approval for the surgery because it is not cheap by a long shot. Michael Moore latest documentary "Sicko" showed a parents battle with their insurance company Cigna for bilateral cochlear implants for their daughter. It is a revelation on how political insurance companies are. To reiterate, we live in a capitalist country, the country that will discover, in complete disorder, ways to milk money out of someone regardless if you don't have enough money to buy milk. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, not spending it in sums large enough to buy a decent plot of land.

As sad as it is, there is hope. I obtained a short list from the site on which companies approve cochlear implants providing the requirements are met. is a site known for their free advocate service against an insurance company to obtain cochlear implants. They are successful most of the time but an appeal can take an awful long time to fight.

Aetna/US Healthcare, Blue Choice, BlueCross BlueShild, California Public Employees Retirement System, Cigna HMO, Great West Life PPO, Hartford Insurance, Health Texas, Medicare, Medicaid (varies by state), NYL Care, State of Minnesota Employees Insurance, Tricare - PFPWD (formerly PFTH), United HealthCare

Ironically, when we are sick we tend to visit people that went to medical school. It is a socially acceptable practice here. When the individual that graduated from medical school feels that tests are deemed medically necessary, the insurance company determines whether they are fiscally responsible. Hence, the one without a medical degree gets the final say.

Perfect nonsense.

Monday, November 05, 2007


My buddy Jennifer is having her second Cochlear Implant surgery. She is going bilateral today!! Stop by her page and give her some love and good wishes.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


This is not a derivative of pig latin or a small town or a typo. Washoe is a chimpanzee, but not any old chimpanzee. She was the first animal that learned sign language. This was a historical milestone in the scientific community. She demonstrated the ability to learn sign language from humans. The scientists use a form of conditioning called operant conditioning. Every time Washoe employed the proper movement with her hands, she was positively reinforced with stimulus such as tummy tickles. She exhibited the ability to associate a movement with an object or action. The conditioning led Washoe to build a vocabulary of 250 words. That is 225 more words than what I am capable of signing. It is a complex language people!

As if that is not astounding enough, she was able to impart her skills to three other chimpanzees without any assistance from humans. I find Washoe accomplishments exceptional, although it does not surprise me. The DNA of Chimpanzees is similar to 96 to 98% of human DNA. While two percent difference is clearly evident it does give some stipulation to the theory that humans evolved from chimpanzees. In the 42 years that Washoe has roamed the earth, she has made her mark. Now for the bad news, Washoe has closed her eyes for the last time on October 30, 2007 but her achievements will never be forgotten.

Since I am an avid animal lover, with the exception of insects because I suffer horribly from entomophobia, the feats of all living creatures never cease to amaze me.