Saturday, March 16, 2013

Day four:

On the fourth day today of this new program. And I still like it. There is an ongoing discussion in several different circles about the fact that I don't have ClearVoice on my processor now. I have it on fairly good authority that it can't be run with as few electrodes as I have functioning. And I'm okay with that. I have issues with ClearVoice that have, in the past, kept it from being my primary program. I seem to have a low frequency issue; generally speaking, low frequencies are the most uncomfortable for me. I did okay with F120, only having real issues on bad weather days. However, if I put it on ClearVoice, it posed an interesting problem; in noise, when it was functioning as it was supposed to, it worked great, but if I forgot to turn it back off in quiet and someone spoke up, it would be jarring and overwhelmingly loud.

This strategy actually sounds a lot like ClearVoice; it seems to lower the noise level in general and brings voices out much more clearly. I still have issues with low frequencies; if someone suddenly speaks up, it's a little bit loud. I hear background noises, but they aren't too loud. If I were making changes in this program, I'd lower the low frequencies a bit and raise the IDR. IDR is "Input Dynamic Range". You can read more about it here but basically, IDR is the range of sounds we can hear with the implant. If you have a narrow IDR, you will hear a smaller range of sounds. If you have a wider IDR, you will hear more sounds. In my experience, if I hear more of the little sounds, the bigger sounds don't jump out quite so startlingly.

However, I'm not jumping too quickly to conclusions, because I know for a fact that I don't process sounds like every other ci-borg. One thing that I have learned from personal experience; people that have Meniere's don't follow the same hearing rules that other people with implants seem to be able to. Before I was implanted, I was under the impression that once programmed, my hearing would remain stable. That has never been the case. Some days I hear great, and other days, everything is distorted. On the distorted days, low frequencies are particularly annoying. Those bad hearing days usually, but not always, coincide with "fuzzy brain" days, those days where I wake up and walk into the walls and everything is just a little off. Today is definitely one of those days. People with Meniere's seem to be human barometers; on a low pressure day, many of us notice balance and hearing issues immediately. In fact, we can wake up, stand up and head for the coffeepot, and know within seconds that the pressure is low. Spring and fall seem to bring an abundance of those low pressure days, causing more bad hearing days. So I can't really count any jarring sounds right now; they come with the territory of what is normal for me. A whole other blog post on that later :)

On the whole, however, even with bad hearing days, sounds are still much more comfortable than they have ever been. One topic of conversation that frequently comes up in cochlear implant circles is the fact that it's good practice to turn the processor down in volume before putting it on. Otherwise you can count on being blown away by the harshness. It isn't an issue with everyone, but it always has been with me. Even in relatively quiet situations, I turn the processor down so that the initial flood of sound doesn't jangle my nerves too much. I discovered entirely by accident yesterday that that does not seem to be an issue right now. I put the processor back on after a battery change and forgot to turn it down. I was surprised when the jarring rush of sound that I was expecting didn't come. I tested it this morning with the hairdryer. One of the most electrifying experiences of my life came when I blew dry my hair one morning and set the hairdryer down on the washing machine, not realizing that I had not turned it off. Upon putting my processor on a few seconds later, the sound was so unsettling that it nearly knocked the wind out of me. This morning, on a "bad hearing" day, I decided to conduct a little experiment, so I turned the hairdryer on, laid it on the washing machine, and put the processor normal volume. The initial sound was a little loud, but nowhere NEAR what it would have been prior to Wednesday. It would have startled me if I had heard it randomly, but it wouldn't have stopped my heart like it nearly did before.

Last night at dinner one of my daughter's friends walked out and slammed the door behind her. I heard the sound and knew she had slammed it but it didn't grate on my nerves like it normally does. It was loud enough that my husband commented on it. I told him, "wow, that didn't bother me like it normally does!" to which he retorted, "well, it bothered me!" My daughter also slammed a drawer around that same time and it registered as loud, but not as "painful".

My primary observation on this project is that without lowering the volume on the overall program (in fact, we RAISED the overall volume at the mapping), merely switching off those seven electrodes has had the result of a. bringing voices out more clearly, and b. reducing overall harshness and loudness. I can keep the processor on for MUCH longer with less stress.

As I stated in my initial post, I hear well in quiet situations, so increased hearing in quiet wouldn't impress me. What I was looking for was improved sound quality and/or better hearing in noise.

I can't speak to whether or not my comprehension is better or worse: it's about the same in quiet (it's always been good in quiet situations) and I haven't had a chance to test it out much in noise.

However, this has already surpassed my expectations in the sound quality department. If you asked me today, based on sound quality alone, if I wanted to keep this program or go back to what I had before, I'd take this one in a minute. Hands down.

I didn't ever consider for a minute that this would result in a smoother, more comfortable sound. I didn't realize that was an option. That is a HUGE plus in my book!

I didn't hear well in church Wednesday night, so I am looking forward to being in similar situations over the next few weeks, i.e. big rooms with lots of noise, to see if that will be an issue now that my brain has had time to adjust to the sounds. I do insist on hearing well in church, and I was able to do that relatively well before, so if that doesn't improve, hopefully that can be solved with a few frequency tweaks. I expect that over the next few weeks the sound will continue to evolve and I really don't expect it to be an issue by the time I go back in three weeks. The brain really does adapt marvelously.

Fourth day impression: This is good stuff :)

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