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Snap, Crackle, Pop

Posted Nov 21 2008 3:08pm

Yesterday I heard something I’ve never heard before.  I actually never knew there was a sound associated with this activity at all.  It’s not like a mosquito or fly buzzing…both things that I know make noise but I’ve never actually heard.  This is something I just always assumed was silent.

It was…bubbles popping.  Every now and then Dave will pull out the bottle of bubbles and blow bubbles for the cats.  Some of them just like to watch the bubbles floating down, some like to pounce on them, some are actually afraid.  I was sitting on the bed, putting my CI’s on and watching the room fill with bubbles.  I realized I was hearing a soft snapping sound.  I looked around, trying to place it, and happened to be looking right at a bubble as it popped in mid-air.  Snap!  I watched a few more to be sure I was connecting the sound and the activity correctly…and yes, I was really hearing the bubbles popping!  I always thought it was just a soundless thing.  Even with hearing aids I never knew bubbles made noise when they popped.

This week has been the first week with no mapping since my CI’s were activated on August 20th.  My last weekly visit was on Sept. 25.  I thought I would just be getting my one month post-activation hearing tests, basically.  Instead, Krystine set all the thresholds for the lowest sounds I could hear (previously I had been giving her the loudest sound levels that were comfortable).  That really took a while because I had to be sure I was really hearing the sound and not just imagining it…it was very, very faint.

The Fidelity 120 program is a keeper – I’ve had no problems with my left processor turning completely off like it was doing before.  I can still tell that the CI’s are dampening the high-pitched sounds but she must have adjusted something when I mentioned it to her, because it doesn’t do it nearly as much as it used to.

One thing I noticed is that if I try to critique sound when I have just one CI on, it’s always the same comments no matter what changes she makes:  the left CI usually sounds a little echo-y and kind of low pitched (voices sound more like Darth Vader).  The right CI sounds more high pitched and sharp, with voices having a touch of the chipmunk or helium sound.  Once I have both CI’s on at the same time, everything equalizes and sounds normal.  I really can’t say enough good things about being bilateral!  It is just a completely different sound with two CI’s on versus one or the other.

After all the tweaking of the software and once we had all the volume levels set, I went in for another hearing test.  This time I was able to hear some of the high pitched sounds but the CI’s did dampen down for some of them.  I could tell right away what was happening so I just let them know which pitches were activating the sound compression on my CI’s.  Krystine didn’t mention how I did for the tone portion of the test so I assume my results were consistent with the past two tests.

Next they did the sentences, where there’s a man’s voice coming through the speakers and you repeat the sentences he’s saying.  This was the test I got 44% on the week before.  This time I got 97% correct!  So it was either the newest mapping or the fact that I was used to the Fidelity 120 program after using it for a week…or maybe a little of both.  Either way, we were happy with the results!  They also tested me with noise added, which was much more difficult.  I only got 55% correct for that part.  But on a positive note, that’s better than I did with my hearing aids (before I lost all of my hearing) so even that test showed some improvement!

Now I’m on my own until November 6, when I have my 3 month post-activation mapping.  So far things have been just fine.  I still find myself turning the volume down at the start of the day…I can’t just put the CI’s on at the normal volume level or it’s too overwhelming.  Usually by dinnertime I’m up to the normal level and I rarely go past that setting unless we’re watching TV.  Sometimes I’ll turn the volume up a little bit then.

I did get my new program for the Direct Connect.  I have a regular program in the P1 setting which is 100% T-Mic (Fidelity 120-P).  The P2 program is for loud settings, to compress background noise, so I use it in the car, at the mall, in restaurants, etc.  And now my P3 setting is for the Direct Connect.  This is 50% regular mic and 50% T-Mic, so that when I use the Direct Connect to listen to my MP3 player, I can still hear some environmental sounds.  So if Paige or Dave talks to me, I can hear them.  I really, really like this setting – it’s the best of both worlds!

Listening to music with the Direct Connect is pretty cool.  At first the volume was just way too much…I actually had the MP3 player on volume level 1.  If I turned it up, everything just sounded like noise.  But I experimented and found that if I increased the volume in small increments, it just took a minute or so for the noise to turn back into music and to sound good again.  I was able to get up to volume level 7 this way.  (I actually don’t know how loud the MP3 player goes – I can’t find the manual right now.)

The telephone is still incomprehensible.  But television sounds a lot better.  That buzzy edge to the sound is gone, and even some of the music is starting to sound good.

So now I guess I need to get with modern technology.  I threw some Depeche Mode onto the MP3 player really quickly, but I don’t know anything about this little device.  I figured I would start with music I already know, but my kids are eager for me to hear the bands they like too.  Eric was teasing me – when I told him that on louder volumes, the music just sounds like noise, he told me he would send me some music….then he laughed and said, “I could send you noise bands, like Merzbow!”  (Their music is supposed to just sound like noise, I guess!)  We agreed that yes, that would be mean, so I made him promise not to do that.  Instead he sent me some songs by the Decemberists, which he swears I will like.

And always, I just keep coming back to how mind-blowing this is.  I’m talking about discovering new bands…and technically I’m deaf.  I’m deaf and I can hear my cat purring as she sits next to me.  Unbelievable!!

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