The ever constant dueling between my two brain halves… See the summary at the very end of this post too
The sound waves produced by my hearing aid triggers the few remaining hair-cells in my left cochlea, forming sound sensations in my right brain half
I got CI-electronic impulses entering my right cochlea, thus forming the sensation of sounds in my left brain half
My hearing aid provides me with ,as yet, my “normal” sound world. The hearing aid sounds are very familiar to me, even though I know that the last innermost part (estimated less than 20%) of the hair-cells in my left cochlea does the job that’s supposed to be done by the dead 80% that has no functioning hair-cells. This is called “recruitment” (follow the link for explanation).
The CI-sounds are very high pitched, unfamiliar and as yet rather unintelligible, since the electrodes covers the part of my cochlea where the hair-cells has been all inactive for a decade or three.
I do not sense high pitched sounds like “S”, “SHH”, “T”, “K”, “P” and so on (aka fricative sounds (voiced sounds are easier, but also very difficult to distinguish; “D”, “B” or “G”)). Neither can I hear alarms from smoke-detectors wristwatches, or home invasion alarms. Most mobile phone ringing tunes and pings and beeps from various electronic devices (alarm clocks, microwaves, stoves, are also out of reach. This is due to the physical limitation of my cochlea. The innermost part simply isn’t able to pick up the vibrations that have higher frequencies. (which was supposed to be picked up by the outermost part of the cochlear if it was still functioning)
I can perceive almost all sounds now, from bird twitter to ground shaking bass, but they have very little difference. All sounds have a high pitch-quality so far. This is going to improve in the coming time. And there are so many sounds I still have to learn what is. I get them all into my cochlea, but do not understand them, or rather; my brain isn’t able to interpret them for me automatically yet.
The speech frequencies (the middle part of the cochlea) is pretty much outside the still functioning part of of my cochlea, and I’m relying greatly on various forms of supplements in order to understand speech. Those supplementary strategies and techniques (subprograms) involve lip-reading, body posture interpretation, preparation (gathering intelligence prior to, or after a conversation), greater skills in observance, more used to put myself into other peoples ways of thinking (even almost telepathic, sometimes!), knowing the context and subject of talk, and then there’s the good old fashioned “doing the guessing”.
I have to “depress” my “subprograms” in order to learn to use my brains’ capability to break down audio information. This is a frustrating experience, since it is counter to all the learned and honed skills of my subprograms. I’m sure I will learn to become good at that, given time. But now it’s plain painful. Imagine the hearing sense has a representation in normal peoples brain processing at about 35%. Mine is probably down to 15% or maybe even 10%. In other words, I have a “learnt” disadvantage in my auditive sense that I have to train on, and compensate, in order to comprehend the massive amounts of information being fed into my cochlea electronically these days.
Music is almost impossible to listen to. The harmonies and cooperation between instruments and and voices are gone. It just sounds flat and dull. Boring, lifeless and soulless.
Musical harmonies has already begun to come through. I can sense three or more voices working together in a backing choir in a rock song! I can also hear the vibrato that the lead singer puts into certain parts of a song… I’m almost certain I have never been able to hear that before…
Noise is… well, just forget about it! I can’t even be in a car without having to turn off my hearing aid. It’s just terrible. Distorted and garbled sounds. To the point of torture. On top of the fact that the noise toleration is zero, it is also perceiving more sound environments as toxic. So much, that in cooperation with my “old” right ear, I have programmed myself to avoid things I need to face now with my right-side CI ear. This issue is worth a whole separate blog post later!
Noise is next to impossible… But! Voices have a tendency to break through better, using my “higher pitch” program (especially out in a street, where the background noise is quite different from voices. Haven’t tried it in a party situation yet). I have expectations to improve in this field using just one CI, but dream of what it could be with two CI’s and proper localization possibilities (and 3D “lock on target” which is possible with two similar ears, aka stereo). Anyway, hope to exceed any pre-CI era level of my performance in noise even with only one CI.
My left ear used to be my submissive ear, but is now definitively the dominant one. I have great difficulty in perceiving speech if the CI on my right ear is turned on too loud. Frankly it kills any information coming from my left ear, which is where I get the most useful information so far. I’m still 50% audio and 50% lip reading (give or take 10%) when understanding speech.
My right ear is now at a level where I can begin to use it for speech purpose. But in order to use my CI-ear, I have to turn off my hearing aid. So at this time I am probably 80% lip reading and 20% hearing for speech purposes. Look forward to this ear becoming more than 50% hearing for speech purposes.
The left ear is the ear I want to become less dominant now. I want my dominant right ear back in business. I’m turning the sound level on my hearing aid way down most of the time… I have a feeling it’s overachieving somehow. It’s as if even the sound quality is already inferior to my right ear, my brain prefers the well know sound world with mostly bass and deep sounds available. After all, you don’t deprogram an almost 40 year old brain in less then 3 weeks, right?
I’m training my right bionic ear both individually and in cooperation with the left hearing aid ear. The individual training is the most fun, because I sense so much progress and have high hopes concerning it’s potential. The cooperation-training is exhausting and frustrating. The sounds are so different, and my brain isn’t even close to be able to use sound information from both ears at the same time. At least not as far as speech is concerned. Music, maybe, for a short time, but not speech.
A lot of bass, it sounds “true”, but misses a lot of information.
Very high pitch, sounds “glassy”, but gets most information.
I don’t want to loose this ear, after all there’s some information left, and I need all audio input I can get. But give me CI, and I won’t even think twice about it. I need and want duality and balance restored! That can only happen with this damaged ear being re-fitted with electrodes!
Finally, after 4 years of waiting, something new happened. I got my CI. It’s still scary and difficult, but I have confidence in the process and myself, that I am able to transform difficulties and challenges into victories…
It is unbelievably complicated to have both ears running at the same time when they are as different as they are now… Imagine having one eye with the world as it is, while the other eye have to see everything upside down! One normal and one upside down, at the same time! Then try to pour yourself a glass of milk, or let alone, drink it!
It’s as if a very fast, tall, and slim lightweight boxer is fighting against a very strong, sturdy and slow heavyweight boxer. They are so different, but both lethal in their own way. I have to endure this uneven fight between my two brain halves all the time, when having conversations with people and need to find balance soon. It is a very exhausting experience…