Thursday, January 2, 2014

CI and the Brain

A cochlear implant miraculously delivers what it promised: sound.

But that sound is neither pleasant nor stellar. "It will get a little bit better every day," my audiologist told me. That's a good thing.

On this 4th day of activation, I can tell that I have gotten a little better. But it's still quite awful.

The tinny, robotic, digital world of cochlear implant sound is a little like listening to a bad AM transistor radio -- through the ear buds that are in the ears of someone next to you who is playing it just loud enough for you to hear the babel, but not loud enough for you to know what you are listening to. (They'll be sorry one day for ruining their ears, trust me!)

I live in a very noisy world. A world I hadn't paid much attention to before. The sensitivity of the CI to pick up even the slightest sound is impressive. I hear everything. Literally. The hum of the refrigerator fan, the low whoosh of the heater, the clicking of my dog's toenails on the hardwood floor in the next room, the rhythmic ticking of my mantel clock, the swishing of my arms against my shirt, even the constant cadence of my breath. They are loud, and they are incessant while my CI is on.  Yet, I'm still startled when my husband and daughter approach me from behind. I'm hoping the latter part gets better sooner than later.

Speech is the thing that's difficult, and music is impossible right now.  I am beginning to tell the difference in men's and women's voices, and if I listen very intently, I can hear minute differences in timbre. Men's voices have a slightly less robotic quality, but the words are more muffled. I strain to hear and understand what is being said to me in person, but the TV is more comprehensible, mostly because of the closed captioning -- something I am enormously grateful for! I turned the volume of my CI to 10, which has helped, but I have decided I will need to ask my audi to turn up the volume when I see her next week for my second programming.

I have faith that it will get better. I will dutifully wear my CI and tend to my daily rehab exercises and carry the hope that someday -- it'll all be okay. But I have a feeling it's going to take a whole lot of practice to program this old girl's brain. And it will take patience. I'll need a lot of that, for sure.

I am told that my brain will make sense of it all -- slowly transforming my robots into humans again, and it will learn to filter some of the environmental sounds. I am in awe at it's amazing capacity for learning and adapting. It is nothing short of remarkable. 
Maybe we will take over the world.

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