Tags: AB, BEA, Bionic Ear, Cochlear Implants, Hearing loss, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey, Water Resistant
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!!
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!!
Tags: Bionic Ear, CI, clear voice, Cochlear Implants, ear horn, Hearing aid, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey
Since my ‘switch on’ nearly 10 weeks ago I find myself making great progress in the old sound department but with the improvements continuing on a daily basis I am finding I’m forgetting what it was like when I was just using a hearing aid. I get asked by friends if the implant is really that good and I find myself saying………’Oh yes……….it’s 500 times better than the hearing aid’! I should add that I can only comment on my own experiences and remind you that before my CI I was totally deaf (unaidable) in my right ear and profoundly deaf in my left ear.
So………..why is the CI so much better than the HA?? For me it’s easy. All I have to do is take my CI off and put my HA in. Voila!! I can now hear sod all apart from loud tinny sounds that I have to really concentrate on to work out what it is. If I was to have a conversation now with just the HA I would have to turn my ear towards that person, screw up my eyes and really focus on the mouth of that person…………..then I would have to say………’sorry, I didn’t quite get that………..what did you say’?
I hate the sound of my HA so much now and the quality of sound that I get from it is so poor it actually messes with my CI sound!! I therefore have ditched the HA………….not quite for good……..as I am going to try to get it re-tuned next month……….but pretty much forever!!! Yay!!
I think the CI is so good that the only thing I can think of that HA’s are better than CI’s with is the batteries!! That’s it!! The CI out ranks, out performs and out thinks the HA on every other level!!
So, what am I able to do now that I couldn’t before?? The list is endless and everything I am about to mention I was not able to do or hear with the HA:-I can hear simple every day sounds like the Kettle, Microwave, Fridge beeping to tell me I’d left it open, a knock at the door, traffic noise, birds singing, a bumble bee buzzing nearby, the squeak on the kitchen door, my cats meowing and purring…………as I said, the list goes on!!! Environmental sounds are pretty much normal!! Now the harder stuff to master!! I can listen to my MP3 player and enjoy 80% of the music I play! I can listen to a Harry Potter audio book and make out 99% of the words! I can hear the TV and use the subtitles (some programmes differ) only as and aid not a requirement! I can use the mobile phone for simple conversations with familiar voices! (I still have a lot of work to do on this!) In the last week I have found that I am able ear wig on conversations in the car and join in the chat too, whilst sitting in the front and hearing what was being said in the back seat!! I have also been able to use the phone to hear and answer security questions about my bank account before having to hand the phone back to a member of the bank staff to finish the conversation for me. That was tough but satisfying at the same time. I have been able to attend a social event with loud music and have conversations with people without struggling too much!! I did have to stop one person and asked if they were from Ireland…………as I was struggling to make out her words!! At least I could tell where she was from!! All in all the CI IS 500 times better than the HA if you have profound hearing loss!! Remember, all mentioned above was impossible to achieve with just the HA!!Other pro’s are it is so much more comfortable to wear! No more horrible plastic ear pieces and no more horrible feedback and buzzing when laughing or eating!!I have the Advanced Bionics and I’m glad I have chosen this model over the others. The sound quality at the moment is equal to if not better than the MedEl or Cochlear makes (although this is a contentious subject with users of the other makes). All implants work well and whichever anyone chooses will do well for them. I prefer the AB for other reasons. The AB has a microphone that sits nicely in the ear canal and uses the natural shape of the ear to capture the sound and send it into my brain. This also means that when using a telephone you can just put it to your ear like a hearing person would rather than hover it over the mic at the top of the ear. I also like the fact that I have 4 rechargeable batteries, rather than throw aways, that last between 8 and 12 hours a day. As long as I remember to charge them and carry a spare with me!!! The AB also has a clever bit of software called ClearVoice which acts to soften harsh sounds and make everyday listening even more comfortable.
A slight word of caution………..the CI is never going to be perfect and I will always need it to help me hear….
Is a Cochlear Implant really that good? You bet your life it is!!
Tags: Cochlear Implants, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey, Hearing tests, La la land, Mapping, Speech
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!!! 🙂
Tags: BBC See Hear, Bionic Ear, CI, CI operation, Cochlear Implants, Cyborg, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey, switch on, tinnitus
Today is my first full day as a fully fledged Cyborg. It has been a long hard journey to get to this point today and I wish I could say that it is all smelling of roses right now………but I can’t……….not yet anyway!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very positive about the whole Cochlear Implant journey but today it feels like my hearing has taken a step backwards in some respects as well as a step forward in others. For someone who has had normal hearing for most of my life it has been hard to keep my expectations in check. No matter how hard you tell yourself not to expect much, you can’t help but have that secret hope buried deep down that suddenly everything will be normal again. I’ve told so many people exactly that, that maybe I forgot somewhere down the line to tell myself!!
For those of you who don’t know, this is what happens at ‘switch on’.
Firstly you are attached with your external unit. In my case I have the Advanced Bionics. You sit there and are asked to listen for some beeps and to tell them to stop turning it up once the volume seems loud but comfortable. They did this for all the 16 electrodes in my head. I was pleased to say that I could hear them all. Although it was the strangest sounding noise I have ever experienced. I can only describe it as ‘controlled tinny robotic sounding tinnitus’. Not horrible tinnitus but right inside the head where tinnitus seems to lurk none the less.
Then, once the levels have been set, the audiologist switches you on. Sound immediately flowed into my right hand side in a very mechanical way. Exactly what I had expected or what I thought I’d expected because this is something that, no matter how you describe it or read about it, you just cannot understand until it actually happens to you. Someone I was talking to today compared it to child-birth!! Before all you ladies start sending me evil messages it was only a comparison in the fact that you can never know what child-birth is like until you actually experience it for yourself!! I for one will stick to the CI switch on thank you very much!!! 🙂
So. What can I hear now? Well, on activation I very quickly began to pick out voices. Not very clearly and nothing I could really understand but voices none the less. Everyone did and still does sound like they have been sucking on helium balloons before they speak!!!
Voices are definitely the hardest to work out. I can however hear random things like…..me typing this……..and the kettle and microwave. I could hear the radio in the car a little and managed to work out a song that was playing. You’re the one that I want……ooh……oooh……oooooh!! 🙂 Yes it was dodgy local radio but I haven’t been able to control the radio for a while!! I’m looking forward to getting talksport back on soon!!!
I am strangely finding that I can pick out music better than expected. I came straight home with my box of gadgets you get with the Implant and went straight for the MP3 player. Plugged straight in and managed to make out Pink Floyd and Red Hot Chilli Peppers!! That was only after 2 hours activation!! I haven’t had the chance to try it again yet today but I’ve been told not to rush it as I don’t want to overload the old brain.
I have been back to work today and found I need to use my Hearing aid in the other ear to improve my communication. Again, I have been told to try to use my CI with and without the HA so I am sat back at home now with just the CI. I must admit though it is tempting to use both as suddenly I find I’m hearing in stereo for the first time in over 10 years!!! I like that a lot!!! Even though it is still mainly noise I’m hearing………at least it’s in stereo!! 🙂
Did I start this post sounding a bit negative?? Now I’ve just read what I have typed I realise that actually it has been a really positive switch on!! See what writing a blog does for you!! I am already finding that I want more volume but will have to wait until next Wednesday when I go back for a re-tuning session. Patience Graham!!
Oh…….yeah……..I can hear the dial tone on the telephone!! I rang my wife on it and could clearly hear that she said something…………no idea what………..but hey………..that was only after 4 hours switch on!! See this is getting better by the minute!!
Right. I’m waffling now so I’m gonna sign off with the best part of all. I can hear my little robotic girls!! They will sound more normal in time but hey ho………one step at a time!!! 🙂
Tags: BBC iplayer, BBC See Hear, Bionic Ear, CI operation, Cochlear Implants, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey, tinnitus
Well, I’m back from Hotel Southmead in Bristol feeling pretty good at the moment.
I went in to hospital on the Wednesday afternoon as my operation was scheduled for 8.30am the following morning. It was a farely restless night as you can imagine but the morning came round quite quickly and I was visited by my surgeons registrar to go through the formalities before the op. Whilst we were talking, all the lights went out in the hospital and then straight back on again. He joked with me about it not being a good sign and it appeared he was right. A builder in the area had managed to cut through a major electric cable and forced the hospital on to its emergency generator!! Great. Although it would have been safe to carry on with the op the policy is, and quite rightly so, that all operations would be put on hold until the main power was back up and running. Well after another 4 hours of waiting I finally got taken down to theatre and before I could say anything other than ‘ make sure you do my right ear!!’ I was waking up in recovery wondering if they had actually done anything. Then I felt my head and realised that it was all over. Nice!
The whole thing was filmed by the BBC and took about 3 hours. My surgeon was very happy with the results and I was informed the next morning that the they had managed to insert the electrodes the whole way into my cochlear, that all the electrodes were working and my inner ear was already being stimulated ready for sound on my switch on, in about 4 weeks time.
How do I feel now? Well, the pain is fine. Nothing a few pain killers wont cure. My neck and jaw are a bit stiff but considering I have had a whole drilled into my skull I’m pretty amazed at the lack of pain. Not that I want anymore!!! I’m not complaining!!
The worst thing, apart from the tights they make you wear, has been the tinnitus, which is way worse and sounds like a train rumbling through my head. My balance has been a little dodgy but that is improving after every little sleep I have. Just need to remember to move slowly!!
I have been told that I do not need to go back again until my actual switch on appointment so now it’s a question of sitting back and recovering and waiting for that switch on appointment to come through the post.
Tags: BBC iplayer, BBC See Hear, Bionic Ear, CI operation, Cochlear Implants, Cyborg, Deafened adult, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey, Mr Robinson, Star Trek
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!!
Tags: CI operation, Cochlear Implants, Deafened adult, fully implanted cochlear implants, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey, SSHL, Sudden deafness, The future
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.
Tags: BBC iplayer, BBC See Hear, Hearing loss, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey, Speech, SSHL, Sudden sensorineural hearing loss
Well tomorrow is my final appointment with the Hospital before I (hopefully) get the go ahead for an operation to turn me in to Lee Majors!! I think that’s how to spell his name!! Any way………the Bionic Man to those who don’t know 🙂
Apparently the BBC have been following my Blog on the sly and a few weeks ago contacted me to see if I would be happy for them to feature my hearing loss story on their See Hear programme. I was a bit shocked initially. I mean, my blog isn’t really that good compared to so many others I have come across and I don’t have much time to update it as often as I want to either. Anyway, I agreed thinking it would just be a small bit about my blog and I wouldn’t have that much input!! Ha ha, silly me!!
So far we have filmed at my gym, at my house and tomorrow they are coming to the hospital to film me after my appointment. I am not looking forward to seeing me on the TV but as I have roped my girls in to it too it should be quite amusing!!
On a more serious not, if there had been a programme about 6 months ago that I could have seen that showed someone going through a similar time as me I would have found it very helpful. So hopefully someone will find it useful and it may help them realise things do get easier and there is light at the end of the tunnel!!
On a less serious note……..I wonder how much I should charge the BBC??
Oh……..if you want a giggle at me and the family then check out the TV programme on BBC 2 10th March. Dont know what time it will be on but you can check it all out on their own blog nearer the show date here http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/seehear/
Tags: CT scan, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey, MRI scan, Speech, SSHL
Tags: banks, Hearing loss & Cochlear Implant journey, Texting, typetalk, video phoning