Well, I got fussed at this weekend for not posting more often, so here’s a bit of an update! 😉
Things have slowed down considerably. During the first 2 weeks post-activation, it seemed like everyday I was experiencing something new or had more and more progress. I actually got nervous and e-mailed an audiologist who also has Med-El implants about a week ago to ask questions about what I am experiencing and able to do, expectations, etc. Thankfully she feels like I am right on target and gave me some suggestions about playing around with the settings to see what works for me.
After my last mapping appointment, I received program settings for anytime, loud/restaurant type settings, far away/presentations, and an overall loud program. I must say that I really don’t notice a lot of difference between each setting, so that may need to be tweaked at my next mapping appointment. (That was another factor that made me nervous. My next mapping appointment is actually later than they typically schedule the 4th appointment, basically so I can save time, gas and money and have my next follow-up appointment with my surgeon on the same day.) I have yet to really try playing with the microphone sensitivity in my classroom, but I have had the chance to experience some other settings. I’ll just number them below.
1. Hearing aid only. This is not a setting, but I have had some times when I’ve worn my left hearing aid only. Wow. The difference between sound quality and speech understanding is AMAZING. While I did struggle quite a bit with one aid after the surgery, I think that my brain has just adjusted to the CI so much that now to be only with my hearing aid is pretty much impossible, at least as far as speech discrimination goes! I was in the middle of an IEP meeting and had an interpreter, so I was ok, but my CI battery died and I didn’t have a charged battery to use. I went from understanding some speech and using the interpreter to fill in the blanks (I had been wearing both my aid and my CI) to not understanding any speech at all. Crazy!!
2. Implant only. I still must have visual cues/lip reading cues to really understand everything I hear, but I now can understand speech and know when I’m hearing speech and when I’m not. When I was first activated, you may remember me saying that I couldn’t even tell when I was hearing a voice!! So this is definitely progress! I have gone out to dinner with a friend who doesn’t sign and we’ve also gone on a shopping trip and I haven’t had to turn on my hearing aid at all. When I’m home at night or on the weekends, I try not to turn on my hearing aid at all. Voices and sounds are also much more natural sounding, though not completely.
3. Hearing aid and implant. This is preferred for me right now. I have noticed that if the volume on my hearing aid is considerably lower than the implant volume, then I dislike the sound and it’s almost disorienting, even though I can handle the same volume and sound without the hearing aid. For example, this morning, I had the radio on and my hearing aid self-adjusted to the volume of the radio and got quieter. I had to both turn down the radio volume and turn up my hearing aid volume to get to a happy point. But I am starting to understand a little bit more without visual cues when I have both the implant and the aid on.
I went to a workshop that was hosted by TSD (Tennessee School for the Deaf) this weekend and wore only my implant during the sessions. I did use an interpreter at all the sessions, but I was still able to take note of what I was hearing and how it sounded to me. People who spoke from the “audience” were unintelligible and sometimes not heard at all. The presenters were all female and 1 had a deeper voice than the others. I found it interesting that the presenter with the deeper voice was MUCH harder to understand and I don’t think I really understood anything she said. The others had higher pitched voices and were a little easier to understand words spoken here and there. This was, of course, without lipreading cues, because I was looking at an interpreter. I just would “check out” for a minute here and there and try to not pay attention to the interpreter (without being obvious, I hope!) and I tried to listen to the speaker, just to see if I could understand anything that was being said. I was happy that I was able to understand a few words here and there! At one point in time, my coworker was asking questions of one of the presenters and while I was waiting for her, I decided to try to eavesdrop on their conversation, just to see how much I could understand. I couldn’t get full sentences, but I did get words! I got back home that evening and I was texting with my dad. I left the phone on vibrate on the bathroom counter and went into my bedroom to change clothes. I was only a few yards away, but while I was in my bedroom, I heard a noise that sounded like my phone going off. I didn’t really think it had, since I have struggled to hear it vibrate while in the same room, but sure enough, it had gone off! That was exciting, to have heard a sound that quiet from another room! I also can understand some voicemail messages that I receive. I have worn both the implant and hearing and just the implant in a restaurant setting and the difference in sound is pretty different in that situation. The implant definitely is easier to listen with than the hearing aid. Background noise is always an issue, but it was less severe with just the implant.
Overall, I’m not sorry that I choose to have the surgery done. I admit that when changes starting slowing down and I didn’t see the progress happening as fast, I did get frustrated and nervous. I’ve come to terms with that now, after talking with others who have implants, and I feel more patient about what’s to come. I’m thankful that my residual hearing was saved, because when I go to the gym, I’m able to wear my earbuds and still hear the music on my iPod without any amplification. It doesn’t really bother me that I don’t always understand the lyrics because I’m so used to that already. At this point in time, I don’t know that I will implant the other ear. I do have residual hearing in that ear and with the implant AND hearing aid, music is more enjoyable right now. I know that with time, music will begin to sound better. But right now, I’m ok with what I have. I will say that if I had nothing in the other ear, or a much more severe hearing loss, I definitely would be looking into implanting it. There is a big difference between unilateral and bilateral hearing and I definitely prefer bilateral hearing!
One funny story I will share: I was at work and a student came in without their listening aids (I won’t specify any more than that, to help preserve identities!). My coworker was not thrilled with this (nor was I, but, sadly, sometimes it just becomes expected and all you can do is do what you can while they are there).Anyway! I was looking down and working on something and my coworker was talking. Suddenly, I heard, “Sending their kids to school without pants!” I looked up and said, “WHAT?!?!?! Someone sent their kids to school without pants?!?!” Turns out I completely missed the first part of her sentence where she said, “Sending your kid to school without their [listening aids] is like sending them to school without their pants.” LOL! I’m very relieved that no one was sent to school without pants, but I do wish they would all come with whatever listening aids they have! Until next time!