Thursday, January 26, 2006

My Hearing Aid Doesn't Sound Right

I've been wearing my hearing aid in my unimplanted ear along with my CI. You will recall that I "saved" my good ear and implanted my worst ear. The last few days I have noticed that the sound quality in my hearing aid side is not as good as it has been in the past. Sometimes I cannot even tell if the hearing aid is on or if the batteries are dead. I'll even wear if for a few days before realizing that the batteries are dead and that I've been relying on my CI. The only way I can tell is if I turn off my CI and try to listen with the hearing aid. Even then, it doesn't sound right because of the poor quality of sound (I cannot believe that I was able to hear with it all these years but the brain does adapt.) There is no way I will be able to "get by" if something happend to my CI side. The only explanation I can think of why this is happening is because my brain can no longer make sense of (or will no longer pay attention to) the distortion it hears through the hearing aid side compared to the clarity that it is receiving from the CI side. I have read about this happening to other CI users who have this experience after several months of activation. This isn't always the case with those who wear a hearing aid in their nonimplanted ear, but it does happen. I know of another gal in California who still wears her hearing aid with her CI and she has been implanted for over three years and is doing fine with both. My formerly "bad" ear is becoming stronger with the CI and my formerly "good" ear is becoming weaker with the hearing aid. I am beginning to understand speech better with my CI alone compared to the CI and HA together. I called Brad and Steve the other night with just my CI and I heard them just fine.

I've decided that I really don't need to wear my hearing aid so I leave it off when I am at home. I still put it on when I am around other people because it seems to pick up the lower frequencies better than the CI. It is nice not to have to wear it all the time. The nice thing about my CI is that I don't have to worry about feedback or deal with an ear mold!

The other day I swam for an hour in the pool after work. It has been over two months since I've gone swimming for exercise and of course I cannot wear my CI or HA in the water. For the first time, I noticed how deafening the silence was as I swam my laps. In the past, it was not that dramatic to go from hearing just a little bit to nothing when I took my aids off. Now it is like night and day when I go from a mild hearing loss to NOTHING! I am reminded of how deaf I am when I don't hear anything at all. (But I sleep good at night!) It's a little scary because I don't think I would like it if something happened to my CI side. We take things for granted and I love being able to hear just the normal sounds of life and music every single day.

God is so good. I am so grateful that we have Him to thank and praise for all the wonderful blessings that we have in this beautiful world. "God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you are ready for anything and everything." 2 Corinthians 9:8 (The Message)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Why Haven't I Called You?

I have not embraced the phone like I thought I would. I am only talking to the people that I am most comfortable with. Every week I try to call someone someone in my family or a friend that I haven't called before. The next person on my list is a dear friend in Wisconsin - I just know she is waiting for my call even though we haven't been in contact for a long time. I also want to call Bonnie in Virginia, Shelley in Florida, Barb in Wisconsin (another friend in WI), just to name a few. In addition, I would like to try calling my new online CI friend, Suzie, in BC when she is ready. She was recently implanted and activated this past week and is still going through an adjustment period. We talk online and exchange emails and would like to try talking on the phone sometime, too, for practice. We'll have our IM's up, too, just in case we cannot understand what the other is saying. Using the phone is the most difficult thing to do for cochlear implant users, especially if we haven't used it that much. If I can just find a way to get past the fear of failure and reduce my stress level on the phone with sweaty palms and heart palpitations, I'll be fine. I just need practice. I'll call Steve if I want to try hearing on a certain program, etc. When people call me, I cannot answer right away because I have to hook up my cables or it takes me too long to find the "sweet spot" on my processor. But, I will get better, I promise, and make more phone calls. When I do, just keep it short and simple! I need time to process short and simple phrases and sentences. Also, loud is not always better. It just distorts the sound. Just talk to me in your normal speaking voice. Sometimes Brad has to spell a word for me if I'm having trouble but I get it eventually! It also helps if I know what the topic is.

Today is Jason's 25th birthday. It seems like it was just yesterday when we brought him home from the hospital. Where does the time go? I will call him later today!

I am still noticing new sounds and make a little progress every day. Yesterday I was listening to a song that I did not know in the car but I was able to catch some of the lyrics. That is progress for me because I've never been able to do that. I've always had to know the lyrics FIRST and then listen to the song. Some people adapt very quickly to their CI and do very well right away. Others like me adapt at a slower rate. It is not a "one size fits all" situation and everyone is different. It just depends on the auditory nerve and how much auditory memory a person has. Learning to hear with a CI is like learning a new language. I just have to trust God that he will keep a "window" open for me. Rome was not built in a day!

I'll close this entry with a quote from Dale Evans Rogers (Roy Roger's wife):
"God is bigger than any disability. Love Him, appreciate His blessings, and trust Him for the rest of the journey. He puts the rainbow at the end of the hardest trail."

My journey this far is living proof that God always keeps His promises. He is so good!

A New Map

This past Tuesday I went back to Bill to have some adjustments made on my processor. He had increased my C levels (Comfort levels) five steps earlier this month on one of my programs to see if I could handle it. I spent most of my time on that program for two weeks and found the others ones getting too "soft". So, I went back to have the C levels increased on ALL of them. I had also asked him earlier if I could just have a program with no options or filters and he kept saying that it could not be done. So, at this last appointment (after doing some research) I asked him again (nicely) if there was a way that he could choose "None" on his drop down menu in the computer program. He said he would try it but couldn't promise me anything. So, he tried it and it worked! He was just as surprised as I was and I absolutely LOVE this OPEN program with no options on it. There are probably a lot of little tricks on the Freedom and the software that we are not aware of yet so this is a learning process for both of us. We both learned something new.

This new and open program seems to work the best for me for most of the situations that I am in. I feel like I have the best of both worlds now because I still have the flexibility of the different programs when I need them. I still use BEAM in loud situations and Whisper when I need to hear soft voices. ADRO is mainly for music and I don't use it that much. But, my OPEN program gives me exactly what I need. I seem to I hear better with it. Bill also mapped me again so I don't need to go back for six months unless sounds start getting softer again. Right now I am sitting in a very quiet house and I can hear a clock ticking downstairs. I still like the sounds of silence and don't always put my "ears" on right away, either. An extra bonus: my batteries seem to be lasting four days instead of 2 1/2 days. They just quit while I was writing this and the last time I changed them was on Tuesday evening at Walmart.

Speaking of clocks, I have to share my "winter birds" with you. Right now the birds are not singing because they've gone elsewhere for the winter. I miss them, even though I only heard them for a brief period of time. Steve's mother gave me a bird clock for Christmas and I hear different birds chirping and singing every hour! Steve says they sound like the real birds, too. Also, for Christmas, a coworker surprised me with a small present. I told Jessi she didn't have to get me anything but she said that when she saw it, she just HAD to get it. It is a stuffed bird (Carolina Wren) that chirps when you squeeze it! I named him Emmanuel (God With Us) and it fits him perfectly. So, when I need to hear a bird, I just squeeze Emmanuel or listen to my bird clock. Thank you Mom and Jessi!

My hearing with my CI has changed my whole outlook on life and I feel truly blessed. I've never had normal hearing but now communication is so much easier and relaxing for me. I can now experience the free "give and take" with others in a conversation and don't have to depend on lipreading as much. Not being able to hear a conversation or funny joke has always been so isolating. It's nice to be able to laugh at a joke or comment without faking it. It is still a little bit more difficult in a group environment but is getting better. I can catch words being said before I find the person who is talking but not complete sentences. I practice calling "Time and Temperature" every morning and can almost understand the whole message now. I still feel like I need "just a little bit more" but I am happy with what I've got! I feel like I've been given the gift of magic (I used to wish that I had a magic "nose" to get anything I wanted every time I watched the tv show, "Bewitched!")

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Funny CI Moment

I thought I would share a CI moment that I had yesterday. When I started my car this morning, I heard this AWFUL grinding noise off and on every thirty seconds or so. I thought maybe it was my new tape deck accessory that I was using to listen to my iPod with in my car stereo so I turned it off. Turned off the heater, too. Started to back out of the garage and heard it again. I thought "Oh, great. Steve is out of town and Marissa has already left for school and there is no one here to help me." I also thought that I ran over the cat again (she used up one of her nine lives last time I did that) and that she was crying on my wheel or was in my engine trying to stay warm (been there, done that, too). So I stopped to check and didn't see or hear anything. As I left the driveway, I heard it AGAIN! Great. So, stopped the car (left it running) and walked to the back wheels to see if I could find out where the noise was coming from. Right then I saw my window wiper scrape against the dry back window intermittently. That is where the noise came from! It had been raining when I got home the night before but was dry yesterday morning. My coworkers just laughed at me when I told them. Before my CI I would have driven halfway to work before I realized that had I left the wipers on!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Read to Me/Talk to Me

Lately my favorite request is "Read to Me" or "Talk to Me." It is great therapy for me in the real world. My speech therapist says that a normal hearing person needs to hear a word or phrase 1000 times (yes, one thousand times) before the brain can "imprint" it and remember it. A deaf or hard of hearing person needs to hear it THREE TIMES as much before it is stored into memory. That is why auditory therapy is so important for me. My ability to understand without reading lips is just getting better and better all the time. Marissa, Steve, and Brad have all read some Mercer Mayer (kids books) to me. It seems strange to have stories read to me that I used to read to the kids when they were little but I have to take baby steps. I'm also talking on the phone a little bit more and can talk to Kim, my coworker, in the next cubicle. I can understand Steve while I am knitting in my chair or cooking in the kitchen. Each day I am gaining more confidence in my ability to hear and understand. My CI has also improved the quality of my speech. Everyone tells me that I seem happier these days and am more relaxed. I feel it, too. . . . .every day is Christmas for me!

Yesterday was a good day. I called Dawn, my best friend, twice and was able to understand and carry a conversation with her! I still like to keep it short and simple. Also, I spent all day in a seminar for work. Usually I get very nervous and stressed in a class or seminar because I don't want to miss anything and cannot take notes and listen at the same time. Well, I was able to understand the speaker with ease, took notes and even heard her say words and phrases (but not complete sentences) without lipreading! It was great! I'm realizing that lipreading is becoming more effortless for me and that I don't need it all the time. Also, I am asking people to repeat things less often. The seminar (Accounts Payables) was wonderful, too, and I learned alot. I cannot wait to get back to work to share what I learned with my supervisor and president of the credit union.

I also had another CI moment this week. To make a long story short, I had to talk with eBay on the phone. Someone had "hacked" into my eBay account and was selling a 2005 Harley Davidson motorcycle! I was getting emails from eBay members asking me questions about a motorcycle and I just ignored them, thinking it was spam. Also, eBay sent me several notices about "unusual" activity on my account and I ignored those as well, thinking it was a phishing scam. Well, it wasn't and eBay froze my account and cancelled the Harley Davidson listing! I had to go through several steps to confirm and reactivate my account and had to do part of it on the phone. eBay had to call me to verify my identity and phone number on my account. So, I was able to hear them with my T-Link. I was a little nervous but I did it! I told eBay that I will never own, buy, or sell a motorcycle nor do I have any interest in one and appreciated them taking appropriate action on my account.

This morning I called Brad and talked to him for about eight minutes. I had trouble with one word, "therapy" and after he spelled it for me I got it. He went back to Virginia last week and I miss him already.

Today my aunt Nelda is coming from Nashville to visit for the weekend. I cannot wait to see her and spend time with her! We have always been very close. She is about 11 years older than me and is like a big sister to me. We plan to go to Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains today. Maybe I will hear some new sounds!

I will close this with a quote from Mother Teresa: "We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature--trees, flowers, grass--grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls." - Mother Teresa

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Sounds of Music

Music is getting better all the time but is not perfect. But it is still a wonderful experience for me. I'm finding that I like "orchestra" type music better than "band" type music. The sounds of simple instruments are very pleasing to me like the piano, flute, clarinet (woodwind), and stringed instruments. Some brass instruments are okay if they are played by themselves. If there are too many instruments playing at once (like in church), it sounds like they are competing with one another (like cats and dogs fighting)! My processor cannot figure out which sounds to minimize and which sounds to bring forth (voices). So, it is better with single instruments and/or soloists. I can hear the melody as well as individual instruments if they are being played together or by themselves.

I love my iPod and listen to it regularly. My old familiar songs are most recognizable to me. I love my T-Link because it gives me a direct link and the sound quality is so clear and crisp.

My next step is to learn to sing and carry a tune. I would like to take some voice lessons from someone and be more confident in my ability to sing with others. But for now, I sing in the car or when I'm alone!

I'm still searching for that perfect "map." I went back to my audiologist right after the New Year and he increased my C level (comfort level) five steps on one program. I'm going back to him this coming week to have him increase the rest of the programs because now they seem too soft.

Last week was a week of funerals. Steve, Marissa and I went to four funerals in three days. I went to two of them - one for a friend (Debbie) who lost her battle to colon cancer and the other for Dawn's mother, who lost her battle to pancreatic cancer. At Debbie's funeral I could hear people around me sniffing and crying quietly. The soloist was beautiful. Dawn's mother was an interpreter for the deaf for many years and planned her own funeral before she passed away. I noticed that this service was "hearing impaired friendly" and the whole service was very nice and was easy to follow and understand. The speakers and music were not overwhelming for me at all. There was a trumpet solo and a clarinet solo, some congregation singing, and a poetry reading. I used my microphone attachment and laid it on the seat next to me and it allowed me to focus on the service.

Music is a part of life and I'm so thankful that I can hear it.

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."- Berthold Auerbach

Monday, January 02, 2006

Letter from Trudy

Here is an excerpt from an email from my Aunt Trudy. She is my mother's younger sister and lived with my parents for a short time when I was little. (I will move this to my "Book Chapters" at a later date.) Stephen is her son, my cousin, and Dave is my Uncle Dave, my mother's brother.

"Laurie, I'm so happy for you that your ear transplant is working so well. I know your book (as your website) will be an inspiration to all who read it. Stephen re-formated my computer several weeks ago so I was glad to get the blog address from Dave today so I could catch up on things. I love reading about each new experience - and all the things you and your family are doing. I know your mom would be absolutely thrilled!!! She told me once how sad she felt that you could not hear the wonderful sounds that you now experience and describe so well. It is truly a miracle. I have many memories of your early school days since I lived with you my first year at OSU. Your mom sat at the kitchen table with you every night with a scrapbook she compiled of pictures of everything imaginable to teach you the names of everything as you learned to read her lips. (did she save it?) You were very bright - but also could be ornery, - weren't you the one who locked the basement door when she was downstairs doing laundry? But you worked so hard to learn the names of colors, numbers, animals, objects - anything she could find pictures of, to help you understand the world you could not hear. You were usually as eager to learn as she was determined to teach. You were both unstoppable!! Love, Trudy"

My note: I called my father yesterday and asked him if he still had the scrapbook that Trudy talked about. He said that my sister Kathy would have it if it was still around. Kathy gave all those things to me so I need to look and see if I have it!