All we hear is radio ga ga

Imagine you are listening to the world through earbuds. One side sounds great, as normal as you know. The other side sounds like a radio station coming in poorly and distantly. The sound seems far away, voices are distorted and don’t really make much sense, but yet you know what they’re saying because of the other side. Everything has a tinny high pitch to it. That’s pretty much my hearing right now.

It’s fine. It’s about where it should be given that I am not even a week post-activation. I am hearing things through the implant that I haven’t heard in 15 years: crickets, buttons on appliances, animal claws while they walk on wood floors. Which is awesome. These are things I’m hearing through the implant only, since even with the hearing aid, the hearing on my left side is not good enough to hear them. So it’s really cool and amazing in that regard.

It’s the other stuff that’s annoying. These stories of people not adapting to their implant and not wanting to wear it? I get it. It’s frustrating and, in terms of understanding speech, actually WORSE than what I was hearing before. We were out with some of our friends Friday night and it was definitely more difficult than usual. These two channels of sound not blending make it extremely hard to figure out what’s being said unless I concentrate really hard. Even then I don’t get most of it.

I spent the last two days with a pretty bad migraine, so I only wore it a couple of hours each day, when I wasn’t sick or sleeping. Today I’ve jumped right back in and wore it without my hearing aid for a couple of hours this morning, and listened to my audiobook (and followed along) with just it. I also picked up a new audiobook/e-book – something I haven’t read before from an author I like. This one narrated by a woman, so that will be interesting. Men’s voices have always been so much easier, and I’m finding that true with the CI as well – probably again because I’m just not used to hearing the higher frequencies and my brain just doesn’t know what to do with them yet.

I am finding some sounds annoying with my hearing aid right now as well, but they are the usual new hearing aid sounds – keyboard clacking, paper rustling, plastic bags crinkling. I love all these words to describe different sounds. So I’ll have to have that adjusted a touch as well.

One of the things I loved about my prior hearing aid (a Siemens Nitro+) was a little device called the MiniTek – worked as a remote control for volume and controlling my programs, but also a bluetooth streaming device. I could pair it with my phone and use it for phone calls and music. And I used the music all the time. I picked up the comparable device for Advanced Bionics CIs and Phonak HAs – the ComPilot (where do they come up with these names?). I don’t love it. It works fine, but I definitely like the size and technology of the MiniTek better, so I hope this is something that Phonak upgrades soon. In fact, it is the major reason why I chose Siemens over Phonak when I bought my last hearing aid.

Anyway, I digress. I have been using the ComPilot for streaming the audiobook, and have tried out podcast called The Moment (an episode with people I know – Brian Koppleman and Debbie Gibson, him with a very clear radio style voice, her with a voice I knew prior to my hearing loss). This way, I can take out the hearing aid and hearing entirely via the CI – not even any of my natural hearing in my left will interfere. I’m starting to get some speech even when I’m not following along with the book, but not enough.  I can’t wait to start listening to this podcast where the guest is someone whose voice I don’t already know.

My first “mapping” session is Friday, Sept 9. A mapping is where the audiologist will actually program the CI to my specifications. She’ll take my feedback (and what I’ve written here) and adjust and tune the electrodes based on that. It’s a long process – I’ll be going back for two more mapping sessions in September after this first one, and more after that if I need them. Then at 6 months, and then yearly after that.

I’m told that this first mapping is when it will probably click – I’ll understand speech a lot better and the two channels I’m hearing will start to blend into one sound. I think that might be the biggest annoyance right now. I really don’t know how to describe it other than I am hearing two very different very distinct channels with the same amount of volume in each. One earbud is playing one thing and the other is playing the same thing but it sounds completely different. How does your brain reconcile that? It doesn’t.

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