Exciting Times

July 7, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants, Speech | 5 Comments
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This time last year I was testing out the new Neptune CI Processor from Advanced Bionics.  It is a very clever device that can be made 100% waterproof.  This is a life changer and I was really lucky to be able to try it out.  Swimming with my kids again and actually being able to hear them and for them to be able to interact with me was amazing.

The local paper did an article about it and you can read it here if you are interested!!

Gray and girls in pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly I have had to give the Neptune back to the hospital.  But as with everything Advanced Bionics the future is not far away and I have some great news about their latest processor and the amazing gadgets that will come with it!!

More to follow!!

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Singing in the rain!

June 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants, Language, Speech | 1 Comment
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Well, it’s been one hell of a journey to get to where I am now on the hearing front.  I haven’t blogged for a long time as I have been busy living.  Progress in the last 12 months has not been that noticeable but then I achieved so much in my first 2 years that I’m not sure I can get any better.

I don’t need any maps as I’ve found my sweet spots and when I went back for my annual testing last week they didn’t bother testing me as I’d scored 100% on all the test bar hearing in sound without lips which was 80%.

Any way……enough bragging………lets move on to the interesting stuff.

I have been asked by my hospital to trial the new NEPTUNE from Advanced Bionics!!  Now when it comes to taking the kids swimming or going on holiday my heart has always sunk at the thought of not hearing in the water.  These days could well be over.  The NEPTUNE is the ONLY waterproof cochlear implant device that lets you swim, go under water, shower……….or whatever takes your fancy with water!!  How amazing is that!!

I have it for 3 months to trial.  I’m due in the pool next week so will update on the swimming etc then but for now it is important to review this for an every day use aswell.

It comes in this snazzy little case

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Neptune (not water proofed)

  What you do is adjust your setting to what you feel is the best for a noisy pool environment and then replace the top section that has the dials on with a water proof cover.

 

It ends up half its original size and simply clips onto goggles or swim cap or other accessories such as an arm band that the unit sits in when swimming.

 

 

The Neptune (water proofed)

 

 

You then have a water proof headpiece that you use (you can see that in the main picture above).

It sounds a bit fiddly and there is the obvious down side of not being able to adjust the volume or programmes while it’s water proofed but this is all out weighed by the fact that it enables children, parents of children and any one who wants to hear in water the ability do so.

Now, in order to review it properly as to whether it can replace the behind the ear CI I have tried wearing it during a normal day.  There is a simple answer to this for me……..NO WAY.  I would need to clip it to a tie or collar and have a long headpiece cable flapping around getting caught on things.

If I was a lady with long hair then I would be able to clip it up out of the way but even then it would make it more awkward to adjust settings etc.

 

This makes much more sense for children to use full time as they often have body worn CI’s to start with any way and to able to interact at bath time and while swimming would be so useful.

The sound quality is the usual AB quality.  Excellent.  The mic is in the headpiece and I did wonder if that would affect sound quality but I have to say it is as good if not better than my Harmony processor.  It also has this new function which allows you adjust sensitivity. It works similarly to clear voice but you can adjust it manually depending on your environment.  Very useful.

Next stop the swimming pool!!  I will update you all then…….wish me luck………it might sound awful!!

My little wind problem!!

April 30, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants, My Cochlear Implant choice, Speech | 2 Comments
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It’s almost a year since my switch on and about 7 months since my last post.

I have learnt to adapt to my CI very well but I still have problems in group or noisy situations.  One of the problems I have recently solved seems so simple I wonder if anyone else with a CI has done the same?  The problem is WIND!  It is a problem that all CI users have and it is really annoying if you are outside on a breezy or windy day having a chat and you are constantly interupted by this gush of wind which completely kills off anything you might hear at that point.

More recently I have been doing a lot of cycling to train for a charity bike ride.  I find the wind when cycling really annoying and actually can be a safety problem as traffic noise is harder to hear.

Well, not one to sit back and take it I have been doing some research and it appears there is nothing on the market for AB CI users to stop this wind problem.  I cant quite believe it and I am happy if anyone can correct me on this.  I have therefore found my own solution and I have been testing it out.  Not to be too smug……….but it works brilliantly!!

It’s called a ‘windjammer’ and is a little sponge microphone cover that you see people on TV using on their lapel or tie microphones.  I contacted a local manufacturer and asked for their advice.  After sending the a picture of my CI they were able to recommend their smallest ‘windjammer’ for me to try.  It cost me about £10 for 5 of them and they work brilliantly!!

Now this solution will only work with Advanced Bionics CI’s as they are the only ones with a mic in the ear.  You also have to be 100% in the ear mic or you will still get some wind noise from the aux mic on the top of the unit.

Problem solved!!! 🙂

Roll on the summer and BBQ’s and more wind!!!

Testing testing 123

October 1, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants, My Cochlear Implant choice, Speech | 10 Comments
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Life has been incredibly hectic since my last post and I have been testing my CI t0 it’s max………in more ways than one!!

Progress has been more steady over the last month and I am noticing that others are noticing the improvements more than me!  More often than not people are pointing out that I have heard something they have said without me seeing their face.  Bonus!!  The fact I am not noticing the improvements just goes to show how normal life as a Cyborg is becoming.

My hardest place with my CI is work.  Gym equipment, music and chatter all at once is very hard and even in this environment I am being told how well I am hearing people.  Environmental noises have been normal for a while now but the battle is still speech.  Naturally this is the area I want to improve most on and slowly but surely I seem to be winning the battle.

I went on holiday to cornwall a few weeks ago and was really pleased to hear how well I coped on the beach with the ocean, chitter chatter of people, excited screaming kids and those pesky, thieving seagulls!!  Not only are they pinching ice creams they are now running off with people’s shoes!!  I half wondered if they might fly off with my CI if I left it unattended at any point!! 🙂

The ocean was as I remembered!  Fantastic!!  The holiday itself was rather a learning curve for me on the CI front!  Advanced Bionics kindly provide us with a little bag for our accessories such as spare batteries and microphones.  I use it for my spare battery and my HA just in case I need a back up if the CI were to fail.  Well one day I managed to lose my little bag along with its contents so suddenly I was one battery down and without my HA backup.  No big loss really but a pain none the less.  I hadn’t bought any spare microphones as I didn’t really think about what would happen if one breaks.

Then disaster!!  I was playing in a stream with my daughter Lucy when a wasp buzzed round my head and as I swatted it away I managed to swat my CI off my head and straight into the water!!  I swiftly fished it out so it had only been there a matter of seconds but still there was real panic of it failing as well as now not having the back up of my HA.  I dried it off and tried it back on and it didn’t work!!!  Holiday now turning into a disaster!!  Luckily I had remembered to bring the dry box provided by AB and after popping it in there for a few hours it started working again!!  RELIEF!! 🙂

The AB CI is warranted against water damage so I wasn’t concerned as such about the CI, I was more concerned about ruining the holiday.  I have become so reliant on it that facing even 24 hours without it was not something I wanted to comprehend!  I was even thinking a 250 mile trip to Bristol may be on the cards to get an emergency replacement!!

Water reistance well and truly tested!!!

Since coming back from holiday I have been practicing more and more on the phone and I’m pleased to say that I am making some great progress.  I can talk to my wife quite easily now and it is so nice just to be able to pick up the phone and chat!  All this practice culminated in me making a phone call to my Dad on his Birthday and we were able to chat away for over 10 minutes talking about his trip to the Eden project.  During the whole conversation I only had to ask him once to repeat something!!  I tell you I was floating on air for the next few days after that!!

The phone calls really got me wanting to make even more progress and during my chats on Facebook with other CI users I came to realise that maybe my settings weren’t helping me as much as I realised.  The AB CI has two microphones to use.  One is the T-mic that sits nicely in the ear and the other is the internal Aux mic which is on top of the unit and more like an HA mic.  I had assumed that I was using 100% T-Mic but when I looked into it further I was actually using a 50% mix of both.  This isn’t a real problem but if I wanted to make the most of my sound and use of the phone and music through headphones I was going to want to be using 100% T-mic.

I contacted my CI centre and requested an appointment to have a twiddle with my settings and at the same time see if I could get a replacement battery.  I was given an appointment the following week which is very quick.  Thankyou Southmead, Bristol!!  To cut a long story short I went along and had my CI re-programmed and left feeling like something wasn’t quite right.  Only when I got home and tried the phone did I realise that I had now been given 100% AUX!!  Not happy!!  I got my wife to phone and request another appointment to sort it out and they saw me the same day!!  Well I flew down the motorway (70mph all the way I promise) and went in to find out what had happened.  It seems that the programme was correct but the upload from PC to my CI was not working properly.  When we changed the setting to actually say 100% AUX it then changed my CI to 100% T-mic!!  Odd but I don’t care.  I’ve got the settings I want and the difference is noticeable straight away!!

Music perception is now much better and my wife sounds much clearer on the phone too.  A lot of practice with the new settings to go but I can really feel that more and more progress is yet to come!!

Roll on the next holiday in 2 weeks when I will be testing the CI abroad for the first time!!  I’m hoping to queue jump the scanners!!  Lets hope they don’t fry my brain!! 🙂

New cochlear implant offers all round hearing to deaf at half the cost

September 2, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants, Speech | 2 Comments
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A deaf women has become the first in the country to be given “stereo” hearing from just one cochlear implant.

 

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent, DAILY TELEGRAPH
Published: 6:00PM BST 27 Aug 2010

The new electronic device could revolutionise treatment for the very hard of hearing as it costs half as much as previous techniques.

In the past the only way for deaf adults to have all round hearing was to be given two cochlear implants but because they cost £25,000 each the NHS has decided that it is too expensive.

 Usually adults only have one implant fitted in one ear which leads to problems in noisy situations or locating the origins of sound.

Now the new operation carried out at the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre (SOECIC) means that bilateral hearing is possible from just one implant.

The new procedure works because the system connects the implant to both ears and collects sound from two external microphones.

“We are very excited because it is a way of getting the effect of two implants for the price of one, ” said Dr Helen Cullington, a clinical scientist at Southampton University who helped carry out the operation.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that can help both adults and children who have a severe to profound hearing loss because through disease or genetics their cochlear is damaged.

It has two parts: an internal receiver and wire, technically called as electrode array, and an external microphone combined with a speech processor that together looks like a hearing aid.

The microphone converts sound into electrical pulses, which are then filtered and amplified by the speech processor and transmitted through the skin to the internal receiver which passes them along to the cochlear via the electrode arrays.

In the new system, there are two wires – one to each ear – and two microphones on each side of the head which feed the speech processor.

The new system means that both ears can be stimulated from just one internal receiver.

Julie Brinton, joint head of the centre, said: “Some adults and children have already received two implants, with one in each ear.

“The difference with the device being used today is that, although information is delivered to each ear, there is only one implant.”

Although around 40 of these devices have been implanted in patients in Europe, this is the first of its kind in the UK, the centre said.

The four-hour operation was carried out at Southampton General Hospital by Mike Pringle, Consultant Otolaryngologist based at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.

Mr Pringle said: “This is different to other types of implant as it is one implant going into both ears.

“It’s not unusual for children to have two implants, one in each ear, but adults usually just have one.

“This type of device has an internal receiver/stimulator with two wires. One will go directly into one inner ear and the other will go over the top of the head, under the scalp, to reach the other inner ear.

“There will be a microphone on each ear collecting sounds from both sides.

“The advantage is that it allows adults to have bilateral hearing. Having two ears working makes it easier to hear in noisy backgrounds and also helps with localisation, or hearing where sounds are coming from.

“Also, because there is only one processor and one internal receiver this makes this device significantly cheaper than two separate implants.”

The recipient of the implant, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been deaf all her life and used hearing aids until now.

Early tests showed the system was working but it will be four weeks before they can be sure.

Dr Cullington said: “Following the surgery she will need to wait for four to six weeks before the device is tuned and she can begin to have auditory rehabilitation to encourage her listening with the new sensation she will experience.”

I’m going down to…………la la land!!

July 8, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants, Language, Speech | 9 Comments
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Yesterday (Wed 7th July 2010) was my 4 week mapping, hearing and speech test appointment.  This is my second visit since being switched on and I was looking forward to finding out how much I had improved since my last tests were done with just a Hearing Aid.

I knew already that I was achieving quite a lot with the CI but it is nice to see for yourself on paper and in numbers what your actual improvements are. 

How do I know that I was already doing well??  For starters I have been practicing with both the HA and without and as soon as I took it out I noticed very little difference in the sound quality I was getting in the CI.  If I did it the other war round and took the CI off just leaving the HA it was a massive difference!!  I can’t actually believe I have been struggling on with just the HA for so long.  No wonder I was alway tired!!  That leads on to the next point.  I no longer feel absolutely knackered all the time from concentrating so hard on what anyone is saying.  The CI is an amazing bit of kit.  It’s never going to be perfect……….but it’s a hell of a lot better than what I had.

What else has improved?  Well, even before my 1 week appointment I was noticing sounds becoming normal.  This has been taken on further now in the respect of sounds no longer sound robotic.  As close as to what I can remember sounds are pretty much spot on.  Some are still just noise (like road traffic), but not many.  Also everyone I know or meet sound like themselves again and not like the robots off the smash adverts (from the 80’s!! for you younger readers!!).  My girls are sounding like themselves too and not high-pitched cartoon characters on helium!!  Yay!!

For the last 2 weeks the TV has started to come through clearer.  If it is quiet I can now watch some programmes and not have to read the subtitles!!  I still need them on just in case I miss something but if it’s coming through now after such a short space of time then hopefully it will just keep on getting better.  The radio however is not as good.  Voices on there sound very tinny and high-pitched.  Music is coming through much clearer now and I am finding that my ‘old school’ dance albums are the easiest to listen to as the beat is so strong.  I recently discovered an old Cream Anthems album and stuck it on in the car and suddenly started hearing the title to this post quite clearly.  “I’m going down to………….la la land”!  Great tune!! 🙂  I must have seemed like a right boy racer blasting out the music.  I could feel the speaker vibrating against my leg so it must have been booming!! 🙂

My 4 week appointment started off with the mapping session.  This consisted of re-tuning my CI and turning the volume up on each electrode to new levels and playing around with the settings to get my best sound quality.  After these sessions everything sounds more distorted for a few days but I know this will settle down again after the weekend.

It was a bit mean, my audiologist told me, but they were going to do my speech recognition tests after my re-tuning.  I agreed it was a bit mean but got on with it anyway.  This test involves sitting in front of a monitor and watching a rather mundane man talk in sentences about anything from hobbies to the weather.  He sounds very droll and does not enunciate his words well at all!!

The first test (sound and picture) was with my HA & CI………..score……..98%  🙂

The second test (sound and picture) was just with my CI………score…….99%  🙂

The third test (just sound with subject prompts) with just CI………score……..95% 🙂

The fourth test (just sound, no subject prompts) with just CI………score……..92% 🙂

Just to make it clear the improvement made………..I only scored 7% on that fourth test before I had the CI!!!  🙂

Then I had lip-reading with no sound!!  This shows how bad I am at lip reading…………score…….23% 😦

Next test………all these tests………….. was a hearing test with the CI.  I was amazed at this result! Check out the picture below.  The lowest line is what I measured in my right ear before operation.  The high line is what I measure now with the CI!!  That is not far off normal hearing!!  Wahay!!  Not to get to carried away…………this is measured with just beeps.  It’s a lot different hearing beeps than hearing voices so I still have a long way to go. (Quick reality check there!).

My next appointment now is not for another 5 months although I can book in for any other sessions if I feel I need to.  It’s now just a question of doing my re-hab exercises (listening to music and Harry Potter audio books!) and just getting on with it!!! 🙂

Switch on update – day 15!

June 24, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants, Language, My Cochlear Implant choice, Speech | 5 Comments
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Well the 2 weeks since my switch on have flown by.  I’ve been so busy with work and social stuff with friends and family that I haven’t had too much time to really think about my CI progress.

The initial switch on was a bit of a disappointment as you may have already read.  But in hindsight it wasn’t as bad as I thought and to be able to make out some music on my MP3 player after only 4 hours is pretty amazing.  After only 2 days though the volume on my CI had dropped so much that I was really struggling with it on its own as everything I was hearing seemed like a robotic whisper.  So I kept using my HA in my other ear and that seemed to boost the volume on both sides by giving me a stereo effect.  I definitely was enjoying that.  First time to hear something out of both sides of my head in over 10 years!! 🙂

The external unit itself is very comfortable on my ear but I was having a problem with the cable sticking out and getting it caught on clothing as well as offering something tempting for my girls to grab hold of!!  I have over come this problem by wrapping the cable around my external unit which shortens the cable perfectly to attach the magnet.  No more sticking out cable!! Yay!!

Before                                                                                                                                                              After

I went back for re-tuning and a volume increase after 7 days and boy did I need it.  This time my volume was increased a huge amount and my IDR was put up from 60 to 80. (Which apparently after only 7 days is pretty good).  I also got them to take off my loop setting and go with normal on setting 1, clearvoice medium and high on settings 2 & 3.  The loop setting was pointless as my recognition of speech was still so poor it was a waste of a setting.

After my re-tuning I found the next few days a real struggle.  Everything was so much louder and distorted that it was not fun.  Gradually though after 2 to 4 days the sound has become much more comfortable and dare I say…….NORMAL!!  Yay.  I still find speech really tough but people are sounding less robotic and more how I remember them. My little girls however are still like little robots……but sounding like very cute little robots………most of the time anyway!!

I have been using my CI more and more without my HA since my re-tuning and it has been fine most of the time.  Sounds are becoming normal.  I find when I have my HA on too I get two different sounds entering my head too.  Quite amusing I think at the moment.  A text message on my phone comes through in two different tones!!  It could be confusing I suppose but I’m riding along with it and enjoying it most of the time.

Social situations are still very tough and this is what I miss so much.  The world cup is on and we are having BBQ’s round at friends houses for the games and I miss joining in the banter with my mates & slagging off the commentators because they don’t know what they are talking about.  Having said that though my mates are being really good with me and not getting bothered when I say pardon or sorry, I didn’t get that!!  (Until they get drunk that is and still think it helps to get closer to my ear for me to hear them rather than letting me see their faces!!  No names mentioned Stu 🙂 )

I mentioned sounds are becoming more normal now.  Well, I have to say they are generally.  I still can’t make out the radio or the TV but other than that I reckon it’s nearly all there.  I noticed a squeak on one of our doors the other day and asked my wife when that had started.  ‘Months ago’ was the reply.  That’s nice……..squeaky doors again!! Yay.  Other sounds are the birds chirping, the owl in the evening twit twooing, indicators in the car, aeroplanes and helicopters overhead, branches rustling in the wind, cat meowing and purring………the list goes on!!  In fact, when I take the CI off now and just wear the HA the sound I hear is so poor it just shows how good the CI is.  I’m still frustrated by speech but I have to keep reminding myself it’s only been 2 weeks!!!

A quick mention of my tinnitus.  It’s still there 😦 but hardly noticeable when I’m wearing the CI.  As soon as I take the CI off it’s there straight away with that lovely washing machine sound!!  Ah well, at least it’s gone most of the time.  Maybe that will calm down in time too??!!

To sum it up………my hearing is loads better, I’m frustrated by speech and social situations, my girls are still robots although other people are sounding more like themselves again, environmental sounds are pretty normal now, music on my MP3 is about 70% now (compared with zero before!) and I’m going back to the hospital in 2 weeks to get re-tuned and tested again.

I’ve had my doubts about the CI but I’m definitely pleased I got it done!!  Roll on the next few weeks of improvement!! 🙂

Speech, Language & Psychology test

February 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Speech | Leave a comment
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Since my last post I have had my last few tests before the dreaded final decision appointment.  The day started badly when we got held up in a traffic jam on the M5 and ended up being an hour late for my appointment.  I was so late that they said I had missed my first part and had to go straight in to see the psychologist who wanted to assess my state of mind!!  Well having been help up for over an hour you can imagine my state of mind was not the best.  Still, I went in and chatted for about 40 mins and she quickly came to the conclusion that I wasn’t depressed!! 🙂  I could have told her that 🙂

Any way…….seeing as my speech is still very good she went to see if the speech therapist could squeeze me in as the feeling was that this part of the appointment would not take that long.  Thankfully they did (squeeze me in) and I was taken in to a quiet room and asked to repeat some sentences and single words without being able to lip read.  I actually did quite well on the sentences and she explained that my brain was very good at picking up a couple of words and then guessing the rest!!!  Clever brain!!  Are you reading all my old school teachers!! 😉

So, the day ended ok in the end and and I am now all nervous about my next appointment on the 12th Feb (next week!) where I will be told finally if I get the CI and which side to operate on.  I am worried that they are going to turn round and say I dont need the operation for some reason………so fingers crossed and update you soon 🙂

Deaf enough for a Cochlear Implant

February 3, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Posted in Speech | 1 Comment
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Its now been 4 months since I lost the hearing in my left ear ( I lost the hearing in my right ear 10 years ago).

After being put forward to see the Cochlear Implant team in Bristol I was initially considered to be ‘not deaf enough’ to meet the criteria that is required for implantation.  Literally 2 weeks after that first appointment at Bristol Southmead Hospital my hearing dropped again and I was called back to Southmead for a ‘retest and review’.

That appointment was last week and it appears that I now meet that criteria.  The criteria that I am talking about are set out as a guideline by NICE (The National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence).  If you want to read the guidelines then click HERE for the NICE guidelines.

At the appointment it seems that I had only failed on one part originally………..the hearing test.  This time I passed with flying colours so to speak and went on to meet my specialist, Mr Robinson.  He was very nice and discussed with me my hearing loss history and whether or not he felt an implant would improve my quality of life.  I felt he was quite curious with my hearing loss because it was so unusual for someone to get a sudden loss in one ear and unheard of for both ears.  Most cases seem to be a gradual loss over a number of years………….not hours as in my case.

I also felt that he was quite sympathetic towards my own personal situation where I have two children under the age of 2, am only 36 years myself so  plenty of life left in me (hopefully!!) and the fact that I am self employed and rely on good communication skills as a major factor in my business.

Next on the agenda for me are scans on my ears to make sure my cochlear’s are in good enough condition to take an implant.  That should be in the next 4 to 5 weeks (Great………..around Christmas time  Party)

Once those are done it will be decision time on which ear to implant and when to do it.  I will then join a long list of people waiting for an operation and am expecting nothing to happen until May / June 2010 if I’m lucky.

In the mean time I have decisions to make on which make of Implant to choose from!!

There are 3 I can choose between :-

MED-EL

COCHLEAR

Advanced Bionics

These three products seem to all be great………….but I will have to do some major research before I make my final decision!!

More updates in a few weeks after I’ve had my scans etc

 

Hearing loss update……..

February 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Speech | 1 Comment
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Its been over a week now since my hearing dropped further and its amazing how much can happen in so few days!!

Apart from trying to work, I have had a few visits to my specialist (who never turns out to be my specialist) as well as my audiologist for more hearing tests and re-tuning of my hearing aid.
 
It appears that my profound hearing loss is now even more profound than before.
This news along with the news that I don’t meet the criteria for a cochlear implant was a bit of a shock to take.
I can, apparently, hear to well for a CI Sarcastic
 
I have added an example of a profound hearing loss audigram so you can see how low my hearing has got.
Basically……up until August 2009 my hearing was near the top of the graph.  Now as you can see it is pretty much as low as it can go.
This isn’t my exact test result but it is pretty close.  (Ignore the red line………)
 
 
This audiogram shows a profound hearing loss
 
 
I have been called back for a ‘retest and review’ with the CI team in Bristol for the 20th November 2009.
We will see then if I am deaf enough to move forward towards possibly hearing again and getting a bionic ear!!
 
The journey continues!!Smile
 

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