Sunday, May 11, 2014

Of All the Things I Love the Most...

...visiting my audiologist for an adjustment to my cochlear implant program is at the bottom of that list.

I want to have the very best "mapping", as it is called among CI recipients, but getting the perfect map is pretty hard for me to achieve. The pristine, clinical environment of the audiology office is a far cry from the real world of hearing. It's hard to explain to my audiologist exactly what I'm hearing or not hearing. And often, when she makes an adjustment, I can't tell if she's made it better or worse until I've tried it out for a few days. We are cautioned that with each new programming comes a week or two of adjustment as our brain adapts to the new map, so her best advice for me is to be patient. These are frustrating days for me. I'm not a patient person.

Since I am bimodal -- a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other -- it's important that the two devices work in tandem, balanced equally in sound and quality. My cochlear implant had begun to overpower the hearing aid, which resulted in my other ear feeling dead. It was getting really hard to hear even normal speech in quiet settings. She found that I'd had an obscure "resonance" program on my hearing aid turned on, which muted low tones and made higher tones more severe. That was part of the problem. Turning it off helped, but it didn't totally correct it. Turning its volume up another notch delivered more feedback, but restored some balance between my two ears. It's always a compromise.

My CI hearing is not so good right now. Hoping to correct some harshness and echoing I was experiencing, my new map seems to have made it worse for the time being. What sounded great in my audi's office isn't so good out here. Sounds are still quite sharp, though I'm not cringing as much. I'm having a hard time understanding speech, which had been getting better. I'm having a period of adjustment, clearly. Be patient, I tell myself.

I'm afraid that if my other ear goes deaf as suddenly as my left one did that I will be at the mercy of my cochlear implant. I explained my fear to my audi --that even though I've gotten much better, if I had to rely solely on it, I'm not sure I can hear well enough with it to get by very well, especially at work. She assured me that I would do better than I think. But I'm still apprehensive.

I know I've improved a lot in my cochlear implant hearing. Though voices and sound are not completely like my better ear, when I plug it and listen only through my CI, I can distinguish voices, pitch, and volume much better than before. And I can nail my vowels almost every time. Some consonant sounds continue to evade me -- /m/ and /n/ sound exactly the same, and I must rely on speech reading to help me know if someone says ma'am or Nan. I mistake /r/ for /l/ every time. [It reminds me of A Christmas Story when the family listens to the Chinese waiters sing "Deck the hars with boughs of horry..."] 

Click here to enjoy that scene again! (My life, haha!)

So we practiced these sounds a bit more during our programming session. "Ride," I repeated. My audiologist giggled at me. "Lied," she said. Damn.

As we ended this appointment, she told me to be patient and give this program a try for a few weeks, and let her know if it doesn't improve. I can always come back... Ah. Not that I don't love my audi, but of all the things I love the most, going back for more isn't one of them.

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