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!!!

‘Ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka’

June 13, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants | 9 Comments
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So it’s been 4 days now since I got switched!  Here is a quick update on what’s been happening on the hearing front!!

The day after my switch on I had to carry on as normal so no real time to get used to the new noises.  In order to cope with that I have been wearing my hearing aid and CI at work and then when I get some time to myself just using the CI.  It seems to be working out quite well as when I wear both I suddenly go into stereo sound.  At first it wasn’t anything I could really make out but over the last few days the CI sounds have been getting just a little bit clearer and I am re-discovering sounds that I haven’t heard since I lost my hearing last year.

So what have I been hearing and knowing what the sounds are?

The list is quite long so I’ll just give you the best bits – footsteps, the kettle, the microwave, the toilet flush, water running from a tap, traffic noise, my mobile phone text alert, the land line dial tone, my cat purring and my Grandmothers carriage clock ticking!!!  That was the odd one.  I struggle to pick up louder sounds and then suddenly I can hear this ‘ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka’ noise coming through my head!!  I didn’t belive it was the clock at first and thought something maybe wrong with my CI so I made sure nothing was on in the house to make any noise and went and stood next to the clock.  Sure enough…….’ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka’!!   That ticking used to annoy the hell out of me when I could hear normally……….I love it now 🙂

What can I hear that I can’t quite understand?  This generally is anything that involves talking…….like the radio, the TV, the telephone etc.  I can hear them all now better than before but it is just noise at the moment.  I managed to ring my wife on the mobile phone and had a basic chat with her for a minute or so.  I could work out most of what she was saying but she was keeping it very simple……….’how are you?’ and  ‘what are you doing?’

I have also been plugging into my MP3 player.  Music is not as I quite remember but to go from nothing to something is great and gives me real hope that in a few months time I may be able to enjoy some tunes again!!

What’s next then?  Well, my volume on the CI has reduced so much everything seems to be a whisper at the moment.  This is normal apparently as you brain gets used to hearing again.  I have a second re-tuning appointment on Wednesday where I will get my volume turned up.  I can’t wait for that as everything should start to sound a bit clearer again.

Ha ha………as I’m sitting here typing this (I can hear me tapping the keys too!) I can hear it again!!!

‘Ticka ticka ticka ticka ticka’  🙂

More news after Wednesday.

Post operation news and count down to switch on!

May 25, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants | 5 Comments
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Well it’s been nearly two weeks since my operation and I’m about to go back to work.  Since my last post I have been healing well and the innitial dizziness has subsided.  I have to say the pain has been minimal and the worst part for me has been the increase in my tinnitus.  The best way to describe the noise I had in my head was………when I could hear………….standing on a station platform and the noise you got as the train pulled in.  Loud and unpleasant.  Thankfully now that has gone and I am back to a reduced constant washing machine on spin cycle sound that, although annoying, is far more easy to tune out.

It’s now just 2 weeks to my switch on and I have come across a great little video which describes how the CI works.  I have done lots of research on the subject so I know exactly how it works but I find it quite hard to describe it to thers sometimes.  Have a look and see what you think.

HOW A COCHLEAR IMPLANT WORKS

Not much more to say now until my switch on.  I’m off to see if I can get any fridge magnets or bottle tops to stick to my head 🙂

Deafness cure breakthrough as scientists create tiny ear hairs from stem cells

May 16, 2010 at 11:30 am | Posted in Cochlear Implants, Possible cure for nerve deafness | 4 Comments
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I found this article in the Daily Mail after I was recovering from my operation.  Rather apt I think on the day I turn Bionic this article is released holding even more hope for the deaf and hard of hearing in the not so distant future!!

‘A cure for deafness could be on the horizon after scientists created specialised ear cells in the lab.

Grown in their thousands, the delicate hairs could one day be transplanted into the inner ear, restoring hearing to millions.

The breakthrough comes after ten years of painstaking research.

It may also allow some balance disorders to be eased and aid the search for drugs to prevent people from becoming hard of hearing.

Age-related hearing loss affects half of Britons aged 60 and over and there is currently no way of holding it at bay.

Hearing aids amplify sounds but nothing can give sufferers back the hearing they once had.

In the latest research at Stanford University, California, scientists perfected turning stem cells – blank cells which can turn into other cell types – into the delicate hairs found in the inner ear. ones.

The linch-pin of hearing and balance, thousands of these hairs help convert sound vibrations into nerve impulses which are decoded by the brain.

Ageing, noise and general wear and tear make them wither away and, until now, there was no way of replacing them.

The hairs made in the lab from mice looked and acted like the real thing, the journal Cell reports.

Researcher Stefan Heller said: ‘We knew it was really working when we saw them in the electron microscope.

‘They looked more or less like they were taken out of the ear.’

If the same technique can be applied to human cells, within ten years it may be possible to transplant-the delicate hairs to restore hearing.

Using slivers of the patient’s skin as a source of the stem cells means that any hairs generated would be a perfect match for their body.

It also raises the tantalising possibility of creating drugs to coax the ear into growing more hair cells of its own accord.

Professor Heller said: ‘We could now test thousands of drugs in a dish. Within a decade or so, we could reap the benefits.’

Lead researcher Dr Kazuo Oshima said: ‘We’ve made hair-like cells in a Petri dish. This is an important step towards the development of future therapies.’

Dr Ralph Holme, of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, said the news was ‘really exciting’.

RNID-funded researchers at Sheffield University have turned human stem cells into hair cells but these were not as much like the real thing as the U.S. ones.’

Beam me up Scottie!!

May 4, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants | 1 Comment
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Well, I had my pre-operation appointment last week and it is all seeming that much more real now!  I’m going to finally get my Bionic Ear!!

I have been making lots of CI friends online over last few months and one of them has had her implant switched on around 5 weeks ago now.   She had the same surgeon as me at Bristol Southmead and lives very close to the hospital so we decided to meet up before my appointment to compare notes.  It was a really good and helpful meeting and for two deaf people we managed to have a great converstion without the use of any signing (which is lucky because I’m pants at that!!) or writing things down!!  She is doing really well since switch on and it was great for me to actually see how well she was doing.  It has really made me feel positive about the operation and following switch on.

With the operation looming I have been getting lots of good luck messages from people and everyone is looking forward to me hearing again.  I find myself having to say to everyone that ‘fingers crossed it will all go well……..but……….any success I have will not be immediate and it will take another 6 months or so before I get the full benefit’.  It will be like starting from scratch again and my brain will have to learn how to hear again with electronic assistance.  I am keeping my expectations at an all time low but in the same breath hoping that things will return back to some sort of normality in time!!

The positives I have are that I have good speach and good memory of sound so hopefully my brain will know how to translate the beeps.

The negatives are that the side I am having the implant done on has not heard a dicky bird for over 10 years!!  It will be extremely wierd to get noises into that side of my head!!

At the moment my wife and I are on automatic pilot as to where to sit and what side to walk on so as to help with conversation and we will now have to change sides………..sounds simple enough but when you have been positioning yourselves in a certain way for so long it will take some getting used to.

After my meeting with my CI friend I went off to the hospital for my appointment and met up again with the BBC who want to film every aspect of my CI process.  Although they had contacted the hospital about the filming and been told it was fine no one had informed the poor lady, Tina, that they would be filming!!!  The look on her face when the camera showed up was a picture 🙂

Anyway, the appointment went fine and my blood pressure and heart and lungs etc were all working fine and I was given the go ahead for the operation.  I was informed that my surgeon would be Mr Robinson ( the top honcho) and given all the information I needed for the operation.  It should take about 2 hours.

The clock is ticking and it is only 9 days now until the operation!!  Although not nervous now I know I will be on the day.  I am a bit of a control freak and I think the worst part for me is the fact I will not be able to overlook the operation and say ‘careful of my facial nerve & go on try and get the electodes in a little bit further’!!

Oh well, the BBC will be filming the operation so you should all look forward to seeing the inside of my head…………..not that there is much to see!! 🙂  I will get that joke in now before anyone else decides to!!

I will begin my planning now for my role as a real life CYBORG in the next Star Trek movie!!  Beam me up Scottie!!

The future of Cochlear Implants……..

April 15, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants | 4 Comments
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Read this aloud and your inner ear, by itself, will be carrying out at least the equivalent of a billion floating-point operations per second, about the workload of a typical game console. The inner ear together with the brain can distinguish sounds that have intensities ranging over 120 decibels, from the roar of a jet engine to the rustle of a leaf, and it can pick out one conversation from among dozens in a crowded room. It is a feat no artificial system comes close to matching.

But what’s truly amazing is the neural system’s efficiency. Consuming about 50 watts, that game console throws off enough heat to bake a cookie, whereas the inner ear uses just 14 microwatts and could run for 15 years on one AA battery. If engineers could borrow nature’s tricks, maybe they could build faster, better, and smaller devices that don’t literally burn holes in our pockets. The idea, called neuromorphic engineering, has been around for 20 years, and its first fruits are finally approaching the market.

The likely first application is bionics–the use of devices implanted into the nervous system to help the deaf, blind, paralyzed, and others. There are two reasons for this choice: the biological inspiration crosses over to the application, and the premium on energy efficiency is particularly important.

Bionic ears are a case in point. Today’s device, called a cochlear implant, consists of an implanted electrode array; a bulky, power-hungry digital-signal processor worn outside the ear; and a wireless link that conveys data and power to the implanted electrodes. In the near future, these devices will be fully implanted inside the body so that deaf people will be indistinguishable from everyone else in both appearance and, we hope, ability to hear. In the past year, a lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has completed work on a bionic-ear processor that does the job of the digital-signal processor, is small enough to be implanted, and could run on a 2-gram battery needing a wireless recharge only every two weeks [see illustration, “Mimicking the Ear“]. As the best batteries currently available can be recharged about 1000 times, this device is the first to permit 30-year operation without surgery to replace the battery.

Neuromorphic engineering and, more generally, biologically inspired electronics are still in their infancy, but practitioners have already accomplished amazing things. These include the attempt to understand biological systems, such as the retina of the human eye and the sonar systems of bats, by modeling them in microchips. Some of the lessons learned have been turned to practical purposes–for instance, applying the principles of vision in the housefly to the control of robotic motion and designing radio-frequency spectrum analyzers that mimic the architecture of the human inner ear. Some devices now measure oxygen saturation in the blood with sensors and processors inspired by the photoreceptors in our eyes; others employ pattern-recognition circuits that rely on the mix of analog and digital features found in the brain.

One of biology’s big power-saving secrets is that it relies on the physics of special-purpose structures, such as ears and eyes, to do a lot of analog computing. Ears, for example, are complex structures that by their inherent physics alone perform filtering, frequency-spectrum analysis, and signal compression–all before the signals are transmitted to the brain. Many of the initial insights into biology’s computing efficiency originated with Carver Mead, professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena–the founding father of neuromorphic engineering.

But ears, eyes, and even individual brain cells also have a digital aspect. Brain cells, or neurons, can be viewed as special-purpose analog-to-digital converters. They recognize particular patterns of voltage inputs from other neurons, integrate these signals in an analog manner, and then output a digital-like signal, a voltage spike (1) or its absence (0). Output spikes from one neuron act as inputs to the next neuron. And this simple process, amplified and repeated by billions of interconnected neurons, leads to movement, hearing, thought, and everything else under our brain’s control.

Analog devices in the ear, such as the eardrum and the cochlea, process sound. The ear then digitizes the processed sound signal by encoding it as spikes of voltage that travel down the auditory nerve to the brain, which interprets the spikes to distinguish a jazz tune from an oncoming train or a whisper. Because the ear has already done a great deal of analog computation on the sound, the information it provides the brain is more compact and far better suited than raw sound to human tasks, such as understanding what a child is whispering in a crowded movie theater. This scheme of low-power analog processing followed by digitization is one of the most important lessons biology has to teach designers of electronics.

Graham’s Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss Journey

January 27, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants | 3 Comments
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My story starts around 10 years ago (Its been so long I cant remember exactly) when I woke up one morning and I couldn’t hear out of either ear.  I had a slight cold and assumed it was wax or congestion so popped off to the chemist.  I wasn’t worried at first because I didn’t feel unwell and assumed a few drops in my ears would solve the problem.

One ear returned gradually over the day to its full capacity but the other one didn’t.

I went to my Dr’s and explained the situation and was told it was glue ear caused by my ‘slight cold’ and go away and keep pinching my nose and blow through my ears.  He assured me it would clear up eventually.  Well, I had no reason not to believe him so I went away happy in the knowledge that it would come back again.

6 months later after a few more visits to the Dr and being told the same story I pushed to see a specialist.

I had been managing with the one ear as well as possible.  It’s amazing how quickly you adjust to situations……..but more on that later!

I went for CT scans and MRI scans and was told that I had suffered nerve damage and it would never return.

Sounds a bit blunt but that is exactly what I was told.  No explanations, no cures, no help no nothing!!

Well, being only 26 years old and told that I was going to have to survive with one ear was at the time devastating.  I remember walking out of the Specialists office in tears.  I mean……….up to that point I had always assumed that my full hearing would always return.

Well, my life didn’t end there.  Yes life was different.  I couldn’t hear where sounds were coming from.  I had to position myself with everyone to my left (my good ear) in social situations so I could join in the conversations.  (For meals that generally meant sitting at the end of the table………..not so good as I always seemed to be presented with the bill at the end of the night!!). Confused

I became so well practiced in coping that when I met new friends they were always surprised to find out that I only had one good ear.

Fast forward 10 years……………….

April 2009……….We had my Sister and my Niece staying with us and due to lack of space my niece, Victoria, was to sleep on a bed on our bedroom floor.  I had a slight cold so decided to take some decongestant just in case a snored and woke her up.  Well, I woke up the next morning and couldn’t hear anything.  Total panic………….Oh no, what do I do?  Because of my history with my hearing loss before I had always been told to get straight over to A&E and get seen as soon as possible…………….so that’s what I did.  After being seen by assessor and having had great trouble communicating with him he went off to speak to the ENT consultant on duty.  The assessor came back and told me that the ENT consultant didn’t need to see me and that it was just congestion and to go home and wait till it improved!!  I was amazed!!  Even with my history of hearing loss the ENT consultant wouldn’t even see me to tell me themselves.  What ever I said wouldn’t change their mind and so I left feeling, well words couldn’t describe how I felt!!  I went home and got my sister to phone my Dr’s who saw me very quickly.  And you know what they did?  They called ENT and told them about me and I was promptly sent straight over back to were I had just been!!  Amazing!!  4 hrs wasted!!

Luckily, by the time I was seen I could feel my hearing starting to improve.  I had the day at hospital doing hearing tests etc and by the time I got home my hearing had returned to normal.  What a relief!  Maybe I shouldn’t have panicked so much I thought.  Maybe the original consultant was right.  Maybe.

July 2009……….I came down with a virus.  Not sure if it was swine flu but the symptoms matched so had a course of Tamiflu.  This did absolutely nothing.  After about two weeks I eventually started to feel better.  It was a Saturday night and I went to bed as normal.  I woke up with a cough in the middle of the night.  Assuming that was just the last of my virus getting out of me I got up to go downstairs.  (Our house is very noisy and I didn’t want to wake our youngest up, as she still wasn’t sleeping right through the night).  Anyway………as I was going down stairs I realised that I had lost a bit of hearing in my good ear.  Assuming it was a bit of congestion like I had been led to believe back in April 2009 I took a decongestant and went off to sleep on the sofa.  3 hours later I woke up and couldn’t hear anything!!  Now as this had happened earlier in the year to me and it returned over a period of 12 hours or so I didn’t panic.  I spent the day with the family waiting for my hearing to return but by 6pm that evening nothing had improved and I decided to go straight to hospital.

They put me straight on steroids, anti-virals and oxygen and kept me in hospital for a week doing all sorts of hearing tests and blood tests and more blood tests and more blood tests.  According to the Dr’s although I was feeling better from the virus I was still actually quite ill.  My BP was up, my resting heart rate was over 100bpm and my temperature was up around 39.

After a week in hospital it was becoming increasing clear to me that my hearing was not likely to return and I was going to live the rest of my life as a deafened adult.

My family’s life and mine had suddenly been turned upside down in an instant.  I had been given a hearing aid to boost what little hearing I had left but that only allowed me to hear voices close up and I could only understand what was being said if they talked slowly to me and I could see the lips too.

How was I going to cope?

How was my wife going to cope, especially with two young children to cope with?

How will I cope with never being able to hear my children’s voices?

How would it affect my marriage?

How would it affect my social life and friendships?

How was I going to continue my business when my main requirement was good communication skills?

How will I cope at home and work without being able to talk over the phone?

So many questions…………..and at the same time trying to cope with the emotion of actually being totally deaf!

I have no skills usually associated with deafness but I am learning slowly.

My lip reading with the little noise I get from my hearing aid has improved quite quickly and my hearing therapist believes that I have probably been lip reading a bit without knowing to help when I lost the hearing in just one ear.

My favourite programme at the moment is CBB’s Something Special.  Brilliant.  It teaches children and now me and my wife simple signing.  Now we can tell each other if we saw a Tiger or a Giraffe Open-mouthed

It took me a few weeks to come to terms with my deafness and I was getting used to the hearing aid and the noises that it produced when…………..roll on Monday 19th October 2009………I woke up and put my hearing aid in and I couldn’t hear anything other than a buzz when my wife spoke.  Was my hearing aid broken?  It didn’t seem to be.  This time I gave it 2 hrs to improve and promptly went over to hospital AGAIN!  Straight on to the steroids and anti-virals.  I don’t feel unwell and it has become rather tiresome all this dashing around to try and save what little hearing I do have left.

I had another hearing test and it showed another drop in hearing quality!!  As if it could get any worse!!  I have been sent home with a more powerful hearing aid and I am now trying to readjust to my hearing being even worse and more and more relying on lip reading alone.

I feel that this week could be a tough one…………more to follow.

Today is the 21st October 2009 and I am now off for a coffee!!!

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