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!! 🙂

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The big ‘Switch On’ !

June 10, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Posted in BBC See Hear, Cochlear Implants, My Cochlear Implant choice | 13 Comments
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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!!! 🙂

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 🙂

Quick operation update………..

May 15, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Posted in Cochlear Implants | 18 Comments
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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.

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