Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Children's Cochlear Implant Books

There has been a recent surge in the publishing industry when it comes to children's books that talk about cochlear implants and I wanted to share! You can order the books by clicking on the pictures and the best part is that they all cost less then a 1/4 of a tank of gas. :) I have to say that I'm digging the title of the first book for the obvious reason :) And no I had nothing to do with it. The only book that I have read and highly suggest is Rally Caps which I have purchased some time ago and donated to the my local library because I wanted to share it with others. I am planning on doing the same with the others because the more the merrier!

This book illustrates the process of how Abby gets a cochlear implant. The story shows that Abby has a hearing loss wears purple hearing aids, has a progressive hearing loss, and her family chooses a cochlear implant. The story goes on to describe hearing testing, an introduction to cochlear implants, and the steps a family would take to explore this option of habilitation for their child who has a hearing loss...

Rally Caps
Written by Stephen J. Cutler and Jodi Cutler Del Dottore
Now available in English and Italian!

RALLY CAPS is a humorous, fun-filled baseball and camp story. Ten year old Jordan is injured in an unfortunate and frightening accident while trying out for the Little League Travel team. Recovery is difficult. At summer camp he struggles to conquer his anxiety and fear in order to return to his beloved game of baseball. He forms a friendship with a deaf Italian boy, Luca, who wears a cochlear implant. Luca’s compelling positive nothing is impossible attitude, along with the inspiration he draws from his idol, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., gives Jordan the courage to return to baseball with a passion. Find out what happens as “Rally Caps” are raised in the bottom of the final inning in the biggest game of Jordan’s life. Boys and girls alike will enjoy this touching story of persevering through difficult times.

The story of a deaf girl who listens and speaks with the help of her cochlear implants! Today’s children with hearing loss may surprise you! With the help of cochlear implants, digital hearing aids, and specialized instruction in listening and spoken language, deaf children can learn to listen and speak, just like their hearing peers. According to the University of Michigan, over 100,000 people have received cochlear implants in the past 20 years. Children with hearing impairment, however, are rarely represented in children’s literature and cochlear implant technology is widely misunderstood.

My Brother John
Written by: Joanne Zellweger
Illustrated by: Andy Elliott

Release Data: May 2008
Pre-order your copy here!

It's fun, humorous and shows a day's adventure of a brother and sister.Her brother John is deaf and wears a hearing aid and cochlear implant.

I'm All Ears
Written by: Val Blakely and Tamara D. Harrison

This book is written by a resident blogger and a mother of two children that have cochlear implants, Val Blakely along with Tamara Harrison who is a speech-language pathologist that have taught her son Gage and her daughter Brooke how to speak. This is a personal account from a mothers perspective of what it is like to discover that your children have a hearing loss. I just ordered my book and I can't wait!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

That time of year is here where the sky is blue, the flowers are in bloom and the gypsy moths are procreating. My senses have been enjoying a nostalgic jaunt down memory lane. The rays of the sun are tempting my freckles to come out and play. My happy little Hostas with their army of hybrid marigolds catches my eye every time I walk past them; I stop to smell the fragrant chlorophyll. The mixture of freshly shucked corn on the barbecue and splitting hot dogs tickles my palate. As I apply the finest mist of Coppertone, the instant scent brings me back to circa 1980, where days of when I was a little girl frolicking at the beach with sand boots unknowingly turning into a lobster. Summer is here, unofficially.

Officially, today is Memorial Day, a day to remember our war veterans. Instead, most people associate Memorial Day with BBQ parties, Indianapolis 500 and a day off from work. Today is a day that should be spent honoring the unselfish commitment of hundreds of thousand men and women whose lives has been scarified for our country. Our troops are the unsung heroes that are responsible for our freedom.

It is because of those that fought in the American Revolution that we have the Declaration of Independence. It is because of those that fought in the Civil War that slavery was abolished. Without the heroes of the past, we would not have the brave soldiers of today.

With everything that our troops have done for our country, I can relate to them one one personal issue, hearing loss. Troops are being diagnosed at an alarming rate with noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus because inadequate hearing protection. They came back home from a war on terrorism and face a lifetime of a war on communication. This hardly seems fair but who says fair is life. However unfortunate it is, they view it has a small price to pay for our freedom...

Today, I experienced for the first time since I had my cochlear implant, a bugle playing Taps. I got emotional because in a digital sense I was hearing it for the first time, only better. My eyes welled up with tears as I dropped my head to tell the veterans – thank you for serving my country and me.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Life in Six Words

I've been tagged by Jim for a "My Life in Six Words" meme.

What is a meme? A meme is basically in two ways:
1. Meme--pronounced 'mem', a memory
2. Meme--rhymes with 'theme', a theme where I am tagged to answer questions about 'me' or myself...

Here's my 6 words:

Everyday of my life is precious.

I tag the following people to do the "meme". :)


Monday, May 05, 2008

Proverbial Needle in a Haystack

As usual, the weatherman was right on target with predicting the weather – completely wrong. The northeast corridor of the United States was expecting a torrential downpour starting Saturday night, which didn’t happen. I thought that I would put the day to good use since I have procrastinated far too long with cleaning up the yard. I have way too many trees surrounding my house that I wish to acknowledge and every year they shower my front yard with useless foliage. Each year I bag up damn near sixty bags of leaves that clutter my sidewalk for weeks waiting for the township waste management experts to come and scoop them up. I came up with an idea of loading my friend’s truck up with rotting leaves and relocating them to the dump ourselves. Brilliant, I know.

And that is exactly what I did! The entire operation couldn’t have gone any smoother. We raked the leaves into a huge pile and chucked them into the bed of the truck. We attached a tarp to the top of the bed and off we went to the dump. We just made it there with ten minutes to spare. However, I completely forgot to bring the rake to pull the leaves out of the truck so I used my legs. In just under ten minutes, we had a clean truck, a neatly folded tarp and growling tummies. We decided to go out for lunch but I wanted to grab a quick shower to avoid walking into any respectable dining establishment smelling like leaf mold and garbage.

About an hour later, I climbed back into my friend’s truck smelling nice and a passing thought of where were my keys came in my head.. I checked my purse with no luck. I jump out of the truck to go hunt down my sweatshirt to find that there was nothing there. I ripped my house apart from end to end. It seemed as that they have mysteriously disappeared.

I began to retrace my steps. Vivid images of memories that were created no less then an hour ago flashed before my very eyes. I watched myself put my keys in my New York Yankee sweatshirt before I started raking. I remember hearing them clank together as I was putting the tarp on. I watched myself move my arm across my stomach that brushed up against the keys on–the–way–to–the–dump. Oh dear god!

I don’t know what came first, the sinking feeling in my stomach or the sheer wave of stupidity. We decided to go back to the dump and with some slight glimmer of hope that they were still open. They close at three and it was now four o’clock but you think that stopped me, absolutely not! All of my keys are on this key ring; car keys, house keys, mailbox keys, work keys – every single key I own is laying somewhere at the township dump – a massive wasteland the size of a small smelly island. I remind my friend not to forget the rake – says the-girl-that-lost-her-keys-in-a-mountain-of leaves-at-the-township-dump.

Ten minutes later, we pull up to the dump that conveniently was closed and gated. I’m staring at the complexity of the metal that was barring us from executing a much needed search and seizure. I thought aloud, “What the hell, I’ll jump the fence.” My friend obviously thought my magnet was on just a touch too tight. Just when I thought my fence hopping days were over, here I go hopping another one. Once I came down from the adrenaline rush, I glanced over just in time to see my friend walk through the fence. I started walking over with a puzzled look on how she just did that. She shouts, “There an opening here!” As I neared, I saw a gap in the gate wide enough to fit a couple people through. “How clever is that.” I said under my breath. “Is this trespassing?” my friend asked. I nodded affirmatively. As we walked over to the designated area, we occasionally glanced up to smile for the security cameras.

As we approached the mountain of leaves, I was hoping that the bulldozer didn’t come and tidy up the area but no such luck. My friend and I stood elbow to elbow scanning over the sheer size of the pile of leaves.

I whimpered.

Notice the height of the Garbage trucks to the leaves.

She sighed.

We sure as hell weren’t there for the ambiance so we got started raking the leaves. We scraped thin layers of leaves off with the hope that my keys will miraculously appear. This got old quickly because I started raking like a mad woman and it had started to rain. We discovered some sticks that we raked up but it was a long shot since I live in a town where the population is 86,000, it could have been any ones sticks in that pile. Fifteen minutes later, a crazy thought of using the magnet on my cochlear implant to draw the keys out popped in my head. I quickly dismissed that idea just as another one popped in my head, a metal detector! We mutually agreed that we were better off getting a metal detector; it would have paid for itself if it found the keys. We packed it up and went back to the truck where I was half expecting the entire police force outside with guns drawn at two women brandishing rakes. Much to our relief, no one was there.

With my friend behind the wheel, we were now en route to the local Radio Shack! On the way there, we were shooting the breeze but all of the sudden she tensed up and closed her eyes as if she was about to get hit by another car. I braced up as I quickly looked over to see a
flock of pigeons about to broadside us. They narrowly and when I mean narrowly missed us, I mean narrowly missed us. We laughed like giddy little girls at the irony of being broadsided by pigeons on the way to Radio Shack to get a metal detector to find my keys in a mountain of leaves at the township dump. This type of thing happens all the time.

I’m no stranger to Radio Shack since I worked there at one point of my life. I walked in and proceeded to walk right to the metal detector section. There was nothing there and I started acting like a mad woman who just got her period running through the store looking for tampons. A store associate finally came around to ask if he could help me. I tell him I am looking for a metal detector and his response was, “We don’t have any in stock.” My inner voice shrieks, “
are you kidding me?!” I clamped my jaw together and asked if he could find a store that does have one in stock. He tried selling me this idea that he could have one by Monday. I shook my head no and told him I needed it by tomorrow, no later. The dump was closed tomorrow and it was my only chance to find my keys before they meet their untimely demise Monday morning. He found a couple of stores within a 45-minute drive that had one in stock. We left with the list in hand and the unfortunate news that the closest store was closing in five minutes.

I wasn’t too keen on driving forty five minutes so I decided to call all the local stores; Circuit City, Best Buy, Sears, Target, Costco, Wal-Mart, Modell’s, Sports Authority and none of them carried metal detectors. I don’t get it, metal detectors were all the rave one time and now, no one carries them! We decided to head home for the night until I get a phone call from my mom telling me that Bob Kislin’s store has metal detectors in stock. We turned around and zoomed right there.

I aimlessly walked around the Bob Kislin’s store until I found the aisle harboring the metal detectors. I eagerly approached the boxes when the bright orange price sticker caught my eye– $999. I gulped and walked towards a guy behind the counter that was feverishly cleaning a Smith & Wesson. I put on my best face and giggled nervously as I said, “Is there a more affordable metal detector in stock because I am not trying to find pieces of the Titanic here? Heh-heh.” He pointed towards the floor. I thanked him as I jogged to the aisle and looked at the price sticker on the next box – $499. I walked out, went right home and sulked.

The next morning, I become an educated consumer of metal detectors while I was waiting for Radio Shack to open. I researched the brand that was sitting in store just waiting to come home to momma! Everything looked good until I got to the section that read: Maximum Detection Depth: 6”. I forecasted that it was going to be a long day if that all it could do, six measly inches.

My friend brought the metal detector since she always wanted one and we headed back to the scene. We trespassed once again. I reminded her it was only a misdemeanor. We didn’t have time to smile for the security cameras, we just went right to the mountain of leaves. We conducted some tests involving a soda can with leaves on top of it to get an idea of what the depth was. To my surprise, it was much more then six inches. :)

So here we are, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, raking and sweeping the leaves at the local dump. At one point, I thought I needed grappling hooks but we uncovered a section where the sticks looked oddly familiar. We swept over the entire area until we hit this one spot up against the concrete wall. It emitted a beep. My heart jumped. I swept again and it emitted another beep. I held my breath because there was something righteous fermenting in the garbage truck right behind us. I took the rake and gently scraped the area where it was beeping. I saw one of my white grocery store tags peek out from behind a leaf. I scrambled ten feet up this mountain and grabbed what was my keys!

I can’t believe I found the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Auditory High of Activation

Reminiscing over the past seven and half months, I realized how wet I was behind the ears as I was learning how to hear with a cochlear implant. Now still in reminiscent mode, I find it hysterical but I did not then. When this super uber technology was turned on into my dormant yet primitive ear, I realized that six trillion months of researching wouldn’t have helped in preparing me for activation.

Sure, I read all the technical details of a cochlear implant!

Sure, I read the software manual that maps my implant!

Sure, I talked to hundreds of people that went through the same thing!

I thought I had an idea of what was to come but – woo-wee my brain had other plans. I was downright disappointed when the audiologist flipped the switch. I had an archive of every single email, forum message, conversation, IM messages that was relative to activation stored in my noggin and none of it made sense. Right off the bat, I couldn’t believe how loud I sounded but realistically I was talking as soft as a mouse. Everything that I wanted to hear – I couldn’t, like cars or a helicopter so close that I could count the rivets. On the other end of the frequency spectrum, what I never heard was coming through in monumental volumes, blinkers, forks against the plate and paper! I quickly found how paper, a material made from pulp dictated my life for the next month. It was interesting that I was super sensitive to the silliest sounds. I could not understand the distinction between a twang and a pop or a hiss and a tick but I was hearing – something. Something was better then hearing nothing at all but I was enjoying the magic carpet ride of digitalized auditory stimulation.

When I went back for my second mapping, I decided that I wanted to pump up the volume! After many warning, my audiologist reluctantly obliged to my wishes. She wanted me to take it easy in the beginning. I had this whole philosophy laid out to justify why I wanted that volume cranked up, I had some hearing time to make up for since I just spent the past six months and 26 days deaf as a doorknob. It was pointless trying to talk some sense into me. If you remember the teacher from Charlie Brown with her incessant droning of, “Wah wah wah”, this is what my audiologist sounded like to me, literally and figuratively. Now I love her but it was just the fact that it was my ear. She pumped up the volume, fiddled with some settings and shipped me off on my merry little way to experience a wider range of sounds. Once again, I became super sensitive to sounds I didn’t hear the week before but everything was loud. It tickled me immensely that everything was amplified with depth and richness. Nothing sounded like my hearing aid used to but I was hanging sixteen on the super galactic auditory wave in an ocean of noise!

By the time I got back to my third mapping, I was really hungry for sound. I am sure my audiologist thought my magnet was on a little tight but I wanted her to crank it up. I wanted to hear everything and I wanted it amplified in amazing volumes! Since I read the manual that maps my processor, I read this little definition of what an IDR:

Input Dynamic Range (IDR) defines the amount of acoustic input that is mapped into the patient’s electrical dynamic range. IDR determines the intensity range (width) captured by the processor for input signals. The HiResolution Bionic Ear System has the capability to capture a very wide IDR of up to 80 dB. The default setting is 60 dB.

In laymen terms, it means that if you have a low IDR the window of sound around you is smaller and it compresses loud sounds more. If you have a higher IDR, the window of sound is a little big bigger and it won’t compress loud sounds as much as a lower IDR will. Anyway, all I saw was the word wide and the fact that it didn’t have anything to do with the width of my rear end, I wanted it. My audiologist warned me again but obliged to my incredibly inexperienced suggestion. As long as I knew that I had all the auditory input available downloaded into my processor, I was happy as a clam. The super hearing wave started to lose its gusto this mapping. Noises that were once so prominent started to fade into the background similar to how a hearing person tunes out sounds. This time, it wasn’t that booming loud sound that I loved so much before. As time went on, it was almost as though the collaboration of sounds started to equalize in my head. My brain was catching up with the new way of hearing. It reorganized the neural pathways to make sense that a click of the keyboard had an extra frequency, women have an extra resonance of high frequencies to their voice and that leaves tinker as they rustle in the wind. This was about the time I was coming down off the auditory high and start teaching my brain how to recognize speech and sounds.

My overly hasty goal of hearing everything that the world was capable of culminating led me to experience foreign sounds and sensations. I am a long-term hearing aid user and I have become accustomed having 80dB of sound being pumped into my ear for twenty some odd years. It is safe to say that I associate my hearing with amplification and nothing else. My wise wisdom for today: throw out that theory out the window when it comes to hearing with a CI – raising the volume on a cochlear implant is not the same thing as hearing aid. It is like comparing apples to oranges, Nordstrom’s to Wal-Mart and a BMW to a Ford Taurus. Some people that are conservative with how loud the volume is but not me, I was a greedy little audiophile and I paid for it.

Well, the auditory high turned into an auditory nightmare and I have no one to blame but I. I developed a multitude of minor issues such as eye twitching, sensitivity to high frequency sounds, white noise, static, and distortion. I’m usually the last to admit my shortcomings but I should have listened to my audiologist right from the start. I walked into my last mapping with my tail between my legs and I let her do whatever she wanted. I was desperate for some clarity. She changed the IDR from 80 back down to 60, which erased the white noise and allowed clarity to come through. The lesson I learned, more is not always better. In comparison between the two IDR’s, I am not missing anything but I am gaining clarity and comprehension. The eye twitching was eliminated by changing speech strategies from HiRes-P to HiRe-S and widen the pulse width significantly. Twitch free for me! Men’s voices were resolved with some gains in the lower spectrum. Finally yet most importantly, she lowered the volume. :)

So after all that I have experienced, I would think it is safe to say I have learned my lesson. After months of auditory rehab, some fine-tuning and finally giving in and letting my audiologist take control – I am very happy with the outcome. This map has been the best map so far. My hearing has gotten better then last month and last month, it was better then the previous month. Just think, if I listened to her in the first place I would not be sitting here sharing this
with you. :)

My advice to all you newly activated implantee’s – Throw away what you think you know and listen to what you haven’t heard.