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.