Thursday, April 30, 2009

HLAA Convention - June 18-21st

Hearing Loss Association of America is holding its annual convention AND celebrating its 30th birthday in Nashville, Tennessee at the monolithic Gaylord Hotel on June 18th to the 21st. You can check out the convention registration package and rates here. Hurry though, the rooms at the hotel are at 98% capacity and registration ends on May 24th. So, break out your happy finger and click on this link for convention details.

The keynote speaker for this year is Vint Cerf, Ph.D., vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, and widely known as known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet." Anyone who had a hand in developing the Internet is alright in my book. He is hard of hearing and his wife is a recipient of a cochlear implant. I can't wait to hear Cerf's up!

I just so happen to have the workshop schedule here. If you take a gander, you see that Tina Childress and I will be giving a workshop called "Wireless Technology Made Simple", on Thursday, June 18th at 2:30. I'm so excited because I love bringing out the inner geek in people especially when it comes to helping them hear better with technology. :)


I am going to be representing Advanced Bionics on Bilateral Cochlear Implant panel that my buddy Wayne Roorda is hosting on Saturday, June 20th at 10:00. This panel will be made up of recipients of all brands. I encourage that if you have any questions or concerns regarding bilateral cochlear implantation and you are attending the convention, shoot an email to with your questions.

At the same time, my very best bilateral bionic belle, Jennifer and coincidentally Nashville's local HLAA Chapter President will be giving a presentation on Social Networking for Young Adults. She is just the person to give that presentation because she emanates social butterfly! On another note, please help Jennifer reach her goal for the Chattanooga Walk4Hearing on May 16th.


I will be volunteering at the Advanced Bionic booth just waiting for people to pick my geeky brain about cochlear implants and the Harmony processor.


I am HLAA's 2009 convention blogger!

I got some pretty big ears to fill here...

Your Hearing, Your Life - Free Seminar in Melville, NY

I'm attending this free Seminar on May 11th, 7-9pm at the Melville Marriott Hotel in Melville, NY on candidacy and advancing technology in the treatment of hearing loss. Sponsored by Advanced Bionics.

Featuring Speakers from North Shore Medical Group, Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

  • Eric Smouha, M.D., ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR Otolaryngology
  • Karen Siegel, Audiologist
  • Christie Haug, Clinical Specialist Advanced Bionics
  • Katie Peter, Regional BEA Manager, Advanced Bionics

Space is Limited! To register for this free event please contact:

Linda Luallen at
866.844.HEAR (4327)
TTY 800.678.3575

If you are unable to attend our event and would like information
about cochlear implants, contact The Bionic Ear Association at or call 1.866.844.HEAR (4327).

May 11, 2009 • 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Melville Marriott Hotel
1350 Old Walt Whitman Road • Melville, NY 11747

Sunday, April 12, 2009

First Bilateral Mapping...

This week has proven not be superfluous but surprisingly productive towards the end. The first couple of days, I would be sprawled out on my recliner, cupping my chin in my hand and staring into space wondering why in the HELL everything was plinking. People plinked. My dog plinked. She was plinking all over the house. I was ready to take her plinking fuzzy butt and have her deplinked. The leaves plinked. The wind plinked. My breathing plinked. Paper plinked. Staplers plinked. It was a plinkerific mess for the first couple of days.

As each new day dawned, the chipmunks have gone into hibernation and the robotic voice synthesizer has come out to play. The plinking began to lessen leading the way to the subtle phonetic nuances to enter the foreground. Of course, this wasn't entirely clear to me until I picked up the phone and heard a series of numbers correctly. First, I thought that I got them wrong but I listened with my old ear which proved me wrong. I was hearing nothing but plinking, and unknowingly I was understanding more than I thought. I took me several weeks to understand numbers with the old implant. The last time I could understand anything on my right ear on the telephone was February 22, 2007.

Naturally, my optimism levels rose. I decided to tests my brain out to see what else it was hiding from me. I had the LING sounds read to me, and I guessed all but one correctly - EEE. In the beginning I thought there was no way I could start auditory rehab with everything beeping, boinging and plinking but with my newfound discovery, I threw myself into it. My first "lesson" is Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I downloaded the audiobook on my ipod and plugged myself in via the Direct Connect cord. I could tell that it was a woman narrating the book, but in real life I had difficulty discriminating between a male and a female. I was not expecting much - a phoneme or two, but much to my surprise I was sporadically picking up broken sentences. I was throughly confused when I closed my eyes to understand real live speech, I felt as though I wasn't picking up diddly squat. But, when I had myself plugged into the Ipod I was picking up strings of words. I've deduced that my brain is playing tricks on me.

This whole week I had the chance to adjust to HiRes - P. In the beginning, it offered me less plinking than HiRes - S. So, I stuck with P all week but on my way to my first mapping this morning, I put the ear buds from my Ipod into my ear to listen to Twilight and noticed that I was picking up a lot more road noise than I liked. I decided to cycle through the programs to see whether the other two could filter out the road noise. I was pleasantly surprised that when I used HiRes-S at how well it filtered the road noise. I was even more surprised at how well I was understanding - far superior to what HiRes-P was giving me. At the last moment, I decided on HiRes-S as my speech strategy.

As I was waiting in the waiting room, I sat a good 20 to 25 feet at a distance from this secretary who was brandishing a very shrilling piece of machinery - a stapler! I was dying listening to every time she felt the absolute need to fasten some papers together which happened to be every ten-seconds. Then my audiologist came and rescued me. First, she performed what is called a NRI test which measures the nerve response to electrical stimulation. I didn't have to do anything but sit there and look out the window watching clouds roll in. This gave us an indication of where the volume should be and it was right in the ballpark.

My main issue was the robotic voices and certain high pitched tones such as staplers, dishes, and squeaky doors, paper and numerous others were causing me to brace for the auditory attack. It doesn't hurt, but it just makes me acutely alert that they are there! So what my audiologist did was raised the volume and added some gains in the high and the lows frequencies. As I expected, we could not map out the robotic voices but we got them tamed. My brain will acclimate in the coming months. This took just a half hour, I was out the door and on my way home. Once I got home, I crashed...

Since it has been a few days, I can make an honest assessment of the mapping. My voice sounds like Darth Vader which is really testing my ability to have a conversation without laughing. I can tell the difference between a man and a woman's voice. I noticed that while I am reading along with the audiobook, the frequency that I am picking up sentences is increasing. Yesterday, I was driving with a friend in the passenger seat and I could understand him without reading his lips even when night descended. Since my first implant was on my left ear, there was always a degree of difficulty with hearing people in the passenger seat but that has become easier.

For me, this bilateral process is like waiting for a flower to bloom. I know the seed has been planted. I'm watering the seed by wearing it by itself as much as I can. I'm fertilizing it with auditory rehab. I'm providing the necessary light by venturing out into different environments. For I know that this cannot be rushed and all I can do is wait. I'm just thankful that I don't need a green thumb for this. :)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Bilateral Activation

My new ear was activated yesterday and the results were very promising. When my audiologist plugged me into the computer, I could have sworn I heard something – a surge of electricity but at that point my audiologist didn’t even touch the volume control. As my audiologist gradually turned up the volume, I watched her lips emit an artificially high-pitched voice. When the volume reached a tolerable level, I actually HEARD but I didn’t understand her talk where with my first ear; I wasn’t blessed hearing any type of vernacular. Naturally, my response was giddy since she talked like a chipmunk. :) It was difficult to keep a straight face while trying to effectively describe what I was hearing.

Once we fiddled around with the new ear, they decided to throw the old one back on to see whether I have a sense of balance auditory wise. I immediately had to turn the volume down on the old one. I could tell that I was hearing in stereo because the auditory input in each ear was dramatically different. My old ear was well, my old ear. My new ear was beeps, bongs, whistles. After a few minutes, my old ear decided to become the dominant ear. Once it did that, it somewhat canceled out some of the beeps, bongs and whistles.

No one took pity on the deaf girl because they started ripping paper, banging on the table and tapping their nails. The entire activation took less than an hour. My audiologist didn’t have to explain anything to me since I am a seasoned pro with the implant business. :) Since I went through this process already, I was very conservative volume wise. With my first ear, it was my initial instinct to amp up the volume because that is how you hear with a hearing aid. This time around, since I know what I know now, I know that you can’t rush it. Your brain will tell you what it wants, when it wants it. I was fitted with a Hi-Res Paired program with Fidelity 120, Hi-Res Sequential program with Fidelity 120 and a Hi-Res Paired noise program with Fidelity 120. I get to cycle through each one for several hours to see which one I prefer. My audiologist strongly suggested that I leave my old one off as much as possible to give my new ear some time to play catch up. Joy. :)

After activation, I walked out of the hospital with my slot firmly in position for Hi-Res Paired program with Fidelity 120 and unknowingly walked into the world according to Super Mario brothers. All sorts of beeps, buzzing, and bongs just pulsing away in my head. It sounds all futuristic but emanates the past of the arcade games from the 80’s.

Just driving home was a trip having the wonderfully iconic BOING of Super Mario powering up as I drove over every bump on the road. The only thing that really stood out is when I yawned a good healthy yawn – it sounded like a very horny orca performing their mating call. Feel free to YouTube that. I had noticed that I was unable to hear my blackberry chirp or croak when someone sent me a message. A few hours later, I could hear it. When I first got home, I couldn’t hear my dog’s toenails click clack against the floor. A few hours later, I could. I must have walked her up and down my 15 foot hallway about twenty times to hear it. I’m sure she thought I had gotten lost in my own house. :) I can tell when someone really has a good laugh. That is probably the only thing that I can pick out right now. BUT, I did pick up that there were some drums playing on the television.

I learned a little something about bilateral mappings – it wears you out. I mean my mappings for just one were a bit tiring but two – Oy! I’m not a napper by any means because I’ll sleep when I’m dead. But I buckled under pressure and took a twenty minute snooze.

This morning I decided to give Hi-Res Sequential program with Fidelity 120 a whirl – at work. I am sitting here with my hair down cleverly disguising two cochlear implants - the new one attached and the old one with the coil hanging just in case I need to use the telephone. it looks like a very ugly earring. Instead of listening to the world dictated by Super Mario Brothers, I am on the Galactic Republic listening to the auroral radio chatter of R2D2. When someone talks, it is as if R2D2 has a hyperactivity disorder – different beeps, bloops, and whistles randomly and furiously. And I am supposed to figure those out. :) I am listening to rain and it sounds like when Sonic the Hedgehog is collecting a whole mess of rings. When I walk down the hallway with my heels, I feel as I am walking with the weight of an elephant because it is very loud.

All in all, I am thrusting myself into the noisy world starting from scratch – hearing everything for the first time – again. I forgot how much I loved this process. :) Everything that I am hearing, coincides with a sound immediately. That pleases me. The toughest part about this for me is leaving my old ear off but I will remain diligent. My next mapping is next Friday on April 10th and that is when the real fun begins. For now, R2D2 and I are going to be buddies for the next week.