Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Activation of my Cochlear Implant

February 2nd was the big day for me as I was headed up to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to get my Cochlear Implant activated and I was very anxious to get it done.  My awesome wife and I got up very early in the AM...5 AM to be precise. Since my folks live closer to Baltimore than we do, we stayed overnight at my folks house so we didn't have to get up even earlier to fight the traffic on Route 7 in the AM. To boot, we wanted to avoid the heavy traffic if the ice did develop that day. Luckily, we didn't encounter any ice at all...just simple wet roads so we were relieved!

We arrived at Johns Hopkins about an hour before the 8 AM appointment with my audiologist, Steve.  Once Steve called me into his office from the lobby, I woke up from my short nap (hey, I was tired as I am not really a morning person at all!!! ...ask my wife...she knows very well)...As I walked into his office, I was surprised to see a huge box on the table along with a backpack that the company had threw in...

After sitting down, Steve goes on to ask me how the surgery went and whether I have any complaints so far. While everything was happening, my wife began recording/filming with me with her "flip video" gadget. After telling him that my tinnitus had calmed down and that I still had a small issue with the bumps at the incision site, he mentioned that it was all normal and that it would all work itself out over either a matter of months or short of a year. He then got down to business and opened the box that contained the processor, accessories (yes, accessories), and other parts that goes with the processor. If you want to know more what it looks like, you can check this out... .  Once he pulled it out, I was in awe of it as it was so close yet so far as he wasn't ready to hook it up to me until after he had explained all the features, magnet, nuances, yadda...yadda about it.  I even asked him where the remote for the thing was even BEFORE the processor was placed on me. 

Prior to the processor being placed upon me, I noticed that the processor was a lot like my hearing aid except it was much slimmer and the entire bottom half was a removable rechargeable battery although there is a disposable battery unit as well. Since the rechargeable unit was not ready to be used, I had to settle for the disposable one for now.

He hooked up the processor to the computer to begin programming the processor. He then asked me to put it on...I fumbled with it quite a bit not ever using it before. So Steve helped put it on my right ear and clipped the coil to the back of my head with the coil magnet. Once I got cormfortable with it, Steve put me through the motions of activating the implant. 

As he began his "mapping" of my implant, he pulled out a plastic sheet of paper that had a listing of numbers from 1 to 10 with the highest at the top and lowest at the bottom. He asked me to indicate to him whether the sound that he was going to replicate via the processor was too loud or too soft or just right. When he replicated the first "sound" to me, it was too much for me. I pointed out that it was too loud for me...I wasn't really "hearing" the sound but it was more like my brain was "feeling" it. No, it was more like my brain was being "pounded" by the sounds and I was NOT realizing that it was my brain that is "hearing" the sounds but not knowing what to do with the sounds since my auditory nerve in my right ear had not heard sounds in 35 some years....

The audiologist further played several sounds and after telling him what the optimal sound for me was...put in four programs into my processor. The first program was the beginning one for me that had the optimal sounds with the other three programs having increased volume levels and so on.  He informed me that once my brain gets "used" to the sound levels, I should elevate the program level to number two and then try again the next day on the other levels. When I told him that the "pounding" may be a bit too much for me, he said that I could take off the coil for a little while to give my brain a rest from this "pounding" within my brain. That was a relief to me as he wanted me to keep my left ear hearing aid off unless I need to use it for my office meetings.

When he asked me what it sounded like, I said that I could barely hear anything. I mean my brain was "feeling" sounds but they were not clear and it didn't sound anything like what I could hear with my hearing aid. My left ear was very clear and loud enough (comfortably so).  I hated to have to give up my left ear for my right ear but they made it clear that my brain needs to "re-learn" the sounds all over again as my right ear auditory nerve, like I said before, hasn't been used in 30-some years. He remarked that it wasn't fair to compare the hearing aid to the cochlear implant because the implant sound is supposed to be different than the sound from the implant. He did mention that I needed to keep my expectations low otherwise I would be very disappointed all the time. He felt that comparing apples to oranges wasn't fair here.  He did also say that it may take up to a year or two to really get to the level of my left ear but it all depends on my brain and my willingness to work on it. I'm definitely determined to work hard on it so I can get the full benefit from it...but its gonna take SERIOUS amouts of patience with it.

While driving home from JHU with my wife, I was complaining quite a bit about the "quality" of the sound that I was hearing. I kept telling her that I wasn't able to hear the sounds as I could with the hearing aid on my left ear. She kept telling me that it would take a lot of time and multiple mapping sessions to get the sound right.

Basically, she (and, subsequently, many friends) have told me that I have to have patience and that it will take a long time for the brain to adjust to the new sounds and that the implant does have a different sound than the hearing aids do....

So for the next few days, I sometimes had to take off my coil/processor to give my brain a rest from the constant "pounding" that the sounds were giving me as it was giving me physical pain and at times I felt nauseous from the constant battering.  Oh joy! I guess there is a new meaning to the phrase "No Pain-No Gain", right?  But thank god that I could at least turn it off periodically.

Stay Tuned for Part 4....Part 4 deals with the second mapping and the results gained from it.... So go fire up that popcorn popper and grab that drink of your choice and get ready for Part 4 soon...the story continues.....

1 comment:

  1. Did you give up? Are you still there? What happened after this first week?