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The Mapping That Wasn’t

Posted Nov 21 2008 3:07pm

When I first got my cochlear implants activated at the end of August, I was seeing my audiologist once a week for a mapping.  A mapping is basically an adjustment of the software program in each of my implants.  In the beginning, I was mainly getting more volume at each mapping.  My brain was still getting used to interpreting all this new data being thrown its way, and the more used to it I became, the more volume I could handle.

After a couple of weeks my volume needs stabilized, and then I started getting different software programs to try out.  There are different ways to fire the electrodes in my implants, and each way makes things sound different.  I needed to decide which software programs worked best for me.  Since my cochlear implant sound processors (what I wear on my ears) have three program slots, I can have three different programs available to me.  I tried programs that cut out background noise in the car, background noise at parties or restaurants, and programs meant to work with the Direct Connect, which is a special earhook that I can use to connect to battery-powered devices like MP3 players.

After I went for weekly visits for 6 weeks in a row, I got a break from mappings.  This past Thursday was my first mapping in 6 weeks, and it was my official 3 month mapping (3 months since I was activated).

We got to the office, I checked in and sat down.  I heard footsteps and looked up, thinking it might be my audiologist coming to call us back.  Well, it was my original audiologist, Kathy, who had left on maternity leave before my activation date.  It was so good to see her!  She waved and I got up to talk to her and catch her up.  She really is nice and was so supportive when I went for my CI evaluations.  She said she’d heard I was doing great and I confirmed that I just absolutely loved my CIs.  I told her I was hearing better with them than I did with my hearing aids (before I lost all of my hearing, of course).

I also mentioned that Paige can tell when one of my batteries has gone dead.  Sometimes the battery will die when I’m in the middle of something, so I don’t immediately go and change to a new battery.  Once when I was talking to Paige she got a quizzical look on her face and said, “Is one of your CIs not working?”  I said, “Yeah, my battery died…how can you tell?!”  She said my voice gets much lower and it sounds like I have a really bad cold.  Even Dave confirmed it – it’s an instantaneous change in the way I talk if one (or both) of the CIs is off.

Anyway, I went to sit back down after I was done talking to Kathy and one of the other patients in the waiting room stood up and approached me.  He said, “Excuse me…I heard you talking…do you have an implant?”  This is the first time ever that I have been asked about my CIs so I was excited!  I told him yes, and he said he was really scared because he’d been losing the hearing in one ear and an implant had been suggested to him, but he had never met anybody with one.  Right after we started talking my audiologist called me back, so we only had another minute or so to talk.  It really seemed like he was hearing me well so either he was extremely good at lipreading or his other ear was okay.  I wasn’t totally sure he meant a cochlear implant or if it was maybe another type of implant, since he mentioned having many surgeries on the ear and they weren’t helping.  But in the short space of time that I had, I was able to tell him that I absolutely loved my CIs and didn’t regret getting them even for a second.  I’m not sure what his whole story was but it was still nice to get to spread the word about CIs!

Once we got back to the mapping room and I told Krystine that things had been going really well, no volume issues or anything, she decided not to change anything at this appointment.  I was a little surprised but not disappointed, since I haven’t felt like I needed more volume or that things have been sounding weird or flat or anything like that.  So this visit ended up just being a hearing test, basically.  You know how much I love those!  Ugh!!

It started with the tones, the usual “press the button when you hear the tone” kind of thing.  I started in with the holding my breath again, and really had to force myself to breathe and to calm down.  I don’t know what my problem is but these hearing tests just stress me out so much.  A lot of times I think I hear a tone but I don’t press the button until I hear it a second time, because I want to be sure I’m really hearing it.  I never know if that screws the results up or not.

Again, some of the higher pitched tones would just activate the sound compression in my CI.  So I didn’t hear them … I could just tell the sound was shutting down temporarily.  That happened just once or twice…I’m not sure if they just stop testing me in those frequencies when that starts happening or if it’s not happening with as many of the high pitched tones as it used to.

These tests take FOREVER because they test me first with both CIs, then one ear, then the other.  Then they moved on to the sentences.  For the first time they tested each ear individually.  Last time they had me keep both CIs on and they tested me in quiet and again in noise.  So I listened to a recording of a man saying sentences.  It was pretty soft and at first I thought “Oh no, I’m not going to get any of them!”  But the sentences in quiet, with both CIs on, went pretty well.  Then they did the sentences in quiet, each ear by itself.  That was drastically worse, and I pretty much expected that because it’s what happens when I try to hear on the phone.  I’m only using one ear on the phone and I can catch a word every now and then, but not enough to feel comfortable actually having a conversation.  With the sentences it was the same way…I could catch a word or two.  My left ear did much better than my right ear in the individual tests.

When they did the sentences in noise it was horrible…I could barely catch anything.  Not even enough to make a guess – I just sat there, not saying anything most of the time.  I did do a lot better with both CIs on though…I’m not sure I caught any of the sentences in noise with just one ear at a time.  So for me, anyway, having two CIs makes a huge, huge difference in my comprehension!

When the hell of the hearing test was over, I thought the results would be worse than last time (six weeks ago).  However, after Krystine did the comparison it turned out that I went from 96% sentence comprehension in quiet to 98%, and in noise it went from 53% to 58%.  What a surprise!  (That’s with both CIs, by the way — she didn’t mention the results with one CI at a time.)

She didn’t mention my audiogram with the tones at all and I didn’t ask, so I have no idea how I’m doing with that.  I’ll have to make sure to ask her when I go back for my 6 month appointment in February.

And that was pretty much it!  I had forgotten to bring my backup processors with me to my last appointment, so they had an old program on them.  I brought them this time though, so she put my current program on them and I was good to go.  I don’t go back again now until February 6, next year!  (Obviously though, if I have any problems I can make an earlier appointment for a mapping.)

So this wasn’t really a mapping at all…just a hearing test, basically.  I keep trying to put a positive spin on the hearing tests (“At least I can hear something now, versus the tests where I just sat there because I heard nothing!”) but man, I still hate them.  I guess I always will!  :P

      
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